Three ways to be generous at work and further your career

‘Tis the season for giving! Have you thought about how being generous at work can help your career? In this post, we explore three things you can do for others that help you grow and strengthen your network.

by Eleanor C. Whitney

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and while you may be in the midst of figuring out the best side dish to make with your turkey or Tofurkey, now is the perfect time to explore how a spirit of generosity can help your career.

Photo credit: Funchye, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Common wisdom in the career-advice field recommends that when you start a new job you should volunteer for tasks that others might be hesitant to take on and go the extra mile to show your capacity for commitment, hard work and acting as a team player. While this is certainly sound advice, generosity goes beyond simply volunteering for tasks at opportune moments.

When you act with generosity you are consistently open with your skills, ideas and knowledge. When you are generous you don’t just give of yourself, but acknowledge the contributions and needs of others. The result is a network of people who are also willing to help you.

Here are a few ideas of how you can bring a spirit of generosity to your career:

  • Create a resource or service that is useful to the people you serve

In my current position I co-run the Fiscal Sponsorship at the New York Foundation for the Arts. Artists are required to submit a budget for their project when they apply to our program. My colleagues and I noticed that artists often made the same budget mistakes and some neglected to submit budgets at all. In response we organized a free project budget basics workshop that we presented to a packed house and offered online as a free podcast. As a result, artists can build their skills free of charge and we receive stronger, complete applications.

  • Share information that helps others take the next step

In his book The Thank You Economy Gary Vaynerchuk explains that businesses and professionals need to adapt to the openness, feedback and communication the Internet offers by becoming more communicative and caring with their stakeholders.  Keep this in mind as you communicate daily with your clients and colleagues. When they reach out to you with a question or need, even if you can’t offer exactly what they are asking for, give them the information they need to take the next step, whether that’s directing them to someone who can help them or a suggesting a resource where they can find what they are looking for.  Send them a link, a person’s contact information, or an article. They will remember and thank you for it.

  • Take time to understand your colleagues’ needs, goals and concerns

When I worked a large museum in New York City, I took time to understand the schedules and job-related concerns of colleagues in other departments. Because I established a reputation of respecting my colleagues’ processes and listening to their needs I found that people would go the extra mile for me. For example, I knew that the editorial department worked on a strict schedule that was determined by the availability of the graphic design department and print shop.  If I requested last minute changes to publication text from the editors it meant they would have to reach out to the designers and I would potentially slow down the whole publication and printing schedule. When I acknowledged that what I was asking for required extra effort on their part, explained why my request was important to the museum overall, and acknowledged their help, I found they were happy to help me.

Generosity is a kind of currency that you build slowly. When you are generous you establish your reputation as a key facilitator, team member and leader. That recognition can lead to new and deeper connections and opportunities and will translate into a feeling of good will towards you. Good will is the strongest quality you can offer.

Eleanor C. Whitney is a writer, arts administrator and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. She currently is a Program Officer at the New York Foundation for the Arts and is the author of the forthcoming book Grow: How to Take Your Do It Yourself Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job, which will be released in the spring of 2013 on Cantankerous Titles

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Comments (3)


  1. Beth Worthy writes:
    November 20, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Thanks for your post!!
    Being generous towards work always required by the employees as generosity is important and valued. If you took a poll of critical skills most important to business success, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a list that didn’t include vision, leadership, drive, ambition, or intellect.


  2. What We're Reading - Engaged Health Solutions writes:
    November 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    [...] a big week for G words: gratitude, giving, generosity. We liked this post about the connection between acting with generosity at work and succeeding in your [...]


  3. Kind of like the teaching profession… | 289CID writes:
    December 12, 2012 at 10:58 am

    [...] we try  enhance our career for the benefit of students, not ourselves. That’s why I don’t understand why the odd [...]


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