While your own effort of course goes into climbing the corporate ladder, once you're at the top, you'll almost inevitably look back and see that other people kept you from sliding and pulled you up. At that point, it's your turn to pay it forward and share whatever knowledge or resources you have to support the leaders who will come after you. But what if you're not sure how to do it?
Tony Ayaz might be able to help. Currently the CEO of Gemini Data, Ayaz is a member of the founding team for Founder.org. Inspired by the startup stories of businesses like Google and Facebook, the organization is unique in that it targets students at universities who have moonshot ideas. Their program, which lasts 12 months, guides participants through eight different dimensions of building a company--idea, team, product, business planning, market development, customer development and operations and fundraising. It also helps them connect to investors. The entire model depends on experts who want to mentor.
The biggest reasons to give back
Ayaz points out that sharing knowledge makes economic sense and creates and supports a bigger ecosystem new startups can grow and flourish in. But he says there's an even more important reason to pay it forward.
"Paying it forward is key because, as we're quickly learning in Silicon Valley, not one company can solve all of our global challenges. There are so many things we still need to repair and so many different ways to approach doing it. Sharing knowledge not only gives back to the community, but to the world."
How to return the favor for the biggest results
Ayaz offers three tips to pay it forward effectively.
1. Ask yourself what you're passionate about. Giving back in a way that's meaningful to you will be much more impactful for both you and your recipient. And when you're working on concepts you really have a fire for, you'll stay energized through the mentoring, development or funding process and help your partner stay inspired to work.
2. Focus on the industry expertise and knowledge you've built up over the years. New entrepreneurs don't want generic advice. They want the keen insights and wisdom that comes only from having experienced in your field. They want to understand what's led great leaders to operate as they do, the reason they accept specific philosophies. Identify the career information you wouldn't have learned from a textbook or class and give them that, speaking with the conviction and authority only your past can bring.
3. Don't let big problems scare you. Most young entrepreneurs understand that the problems they face and want to solve are huge. But they've been raised to believe both that they can conquer and that there's a precise, specific answer to just about any problem. They simply need you to help them find the smaller steps and methods that are going to work. Be willing to learn from them, to see issues you might not have considered, and then use your expertise to take their concepts to the next level and make a real difference in the world.
To Ayaz's advice, I would add two final pieces: First, if you're giving back in a financial way, fully research the individual or organization you're donating to--most are legitimate, but not all are. There should be a track record of good results, or at least a well-thought out business plan with verifiable points. Second, be realistic. You're busy and probably tired. You've got other responsibilities to juggle. If you can't give 10 hours a week of time or your budget just isn't going to sponsor 20 new investments, be honest with yourself about that. Strive to make only promises you know you can keep, and make sure everyone knows the goals and roles they have to play.