The next time you attend a holiday party or networking event, remember Ebenezer Scrooge.
Or at least think of the Christmas spirits who visited him on Christmas Eve — Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
You may feel that you have no such need, that you already keep Christmas as well as anybody and already give to charities and those in need.
The Christmas spirits may agree and even thank you for your past giving, yet they will invite you to take a closer look and remember how many people helped you get where you are professionally and inquire how often you give back to your connections and open your network to new people.
The ghost of Christmas Past will take you back to school and remind you of all the teachers who played a formative role in educating and moulding you. You will visit all your old classrooms, starting with kindergarten, and then grammar school and middle school.
You will linger in the classroom of the high school teacher who inspired you the most and your eyes will widen as you watch your old coach walk past. You might smile with delight when you see your favourite college professor in the distance, and you’ll acknowledge her letter of recommendation that helped you get into grad school or secure an internship.
The classrooms will shift into offices as you see all of your past bosses parade by. You will initially glimpse the first boss you ever had, the person who hired you after college.
Then, the manager who was extremely hard on you, but who forced you to take a look at yourself and become a better employee. And, finally, the boss who took you under his wing, the best boss you ever had. Your mentor.
Christmas Present will begin by guiding you through your current office. You’ll tour all the departments: Human Resources, Accounting, IT, Marketing, and the C-suite. The spirit will stop every time you pass the cubicle of a younger employee, and you might be ashamed to acknowledge how many of your junior coworkers you don’t know by name.
You will start to say hello to someone who started just last week in Benefits, when the scene will shift, and you’ll find yourself at a business networking happy hour. You’ll note the many young event attendees who you typically walk right past at similar functions, knowing their business cards will bring you no leads or referrals.
The last stop with Christmas Present will be a career event at one of the universities in town. You recall being asked to attend a past event to spend some time talking to students about careers in your profession. You may have even meant to go.
You’ll expect Christmas Future to look more frightening but he’ll look like an ordinary middle manager. He’ll lead you to a windowless conference room decorated for an office party. You’ll see a handful of attendees milling around a cake.
Outside the room, you’ll watch as one person after another stops at the entrance to the room, looks inside, and then backs out and keeps walking. If you think about it, you’ll realise that many of the people filing past are employees you worked with through the years.
Mostly, they are younger workers you never took the time to get to know or nurture, even when they were assigned to one of your project teams. You will turn back to face the room and see that someone has loaded a presentation. It will say “Happy Retirement,” and you’ll count the people in the room. You won’t get to 10.
We can’t all give back in the same ways. Some of us have limited means and can only give so much money to charity. Others may have ample discretionary time and be able to donate their time and volunteer.
But all of us can be more accommodating with our colleagues and in our networks. We can more freely connect on LinkedIn and interact on Twitter, especially with young people interested in learning and growing. We can answer emails and provide advice.
We can even meet for the occasional coffee or lunch. Think about how Ebenezer Scrooge (after his redemption) would respond if you emailed him a question, invited him to connect on LinkedIn, or asked for his help getting introduced to someone.
Give back. Help out. Mentor. Remember how you got where you are.