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The ripples of a random act of kindness

by Joseph Murphy

It was 1985 but seems like just yesterday. I was in Cleveland, working at a Fortune 300 company in a training and development role. I was introduced to Michael Ziegenhagen during my first month on the job. A fellow Milwaukee native, he was also new to the city. We became fast friends and carpooled to work from across town together for the next three years.

It was about this time Michael was thinking about his next career move and began looking at job ads in the Wall Street Journal. (Print ads. Remember those?) He would tell me about various opportunities as we navigated our 20-plus-mile commute. We discussed the pros and cons of each job he was considering. He valued my perspective and serving as a sounding board for his prospective career change.

One morning Michael reached into his pocket and pulled out a job ad he had clipped from the WSJ and handed it to me, saying, “I read this and immediately thought about you. That’s you, Joe. That’s your job!”

I read the ad. I applied. And I got the job. (Well ahead of Michael's own next move!)

Michael's seemingly small action of passing along a job ad that would propel me in a new direction is not even the best part of this story. Because this new job was my path to Brian Stern. Just three years after starting this new job, Brian and I set out with two others to start a company together. Four business cards and 30 years later, Brian and I are still working together, leading a thriving company. I haven’t had to consider a single job ad since.

And it all began with a random act of kindness. My friend Michael thought about me and opened the door to what would turn into not just a new job but, ultimately, a successful business venture and a long friendship.

Random acts of kindness take on all forms: letting a weary mother with impatient children go ahead of you in line, opening a door for someone with their hands full, bringing flowers to the office, paying for the order of the person next to you in line at the coffee shop. Yesterday, I nailed a $20 bill with a thank-you note and request to be safe to each of three dead trees in my yard as an offering to the crew members coming to cut them down. My wife said the crew was astonished. They did a great job, too.

Each of those examples is memorable and worthy of repeating, though the effects may be short-lived.

Or are they?

What may seem to you to be a random act of kindness can transform a career—a life. A simple gesture can bloom into a long-term, life-changing gift.

So today, during Random Acts of Kindness Week, stop and think about how you might open the door to a new career for someone. Make a referral, provide some career coaching, suggest a job opportunity to someone you know.

Consider how the ripples of your small actions can have big meaning for someone else.

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