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The Power of the Selfless Unemployed

At a recent speaking engagement, I received a lesson far more profound than the one I was giving.
By Shaunti Feldhahn

June 2011

A few days ago I spoke to a group called C3G that exists to help job-seekers in the Atlanta area network and support one another.  I do a lot of corporate events, but this one was different: C3G is a faith-based group that meets weekly at North Point Community Church, one of the largest churches in the country.

I was unprepared to be so emotionally affected by what I saw.  As 7:30 Monday morning rolled around, a steady stream of people rolled in.  Dozens and then eventually hundreds of men and women began to pour in the doors, greeting each other with back slaps, handshakes, and hugs, and sitting together at round tables.

I looked around.  There were many more men than women. Many more.  In the end, of about 250 out-of-work people in the room only 50 were women.  I saw in front of me the reality that in this recession, men have been hit far harder.  There were also many more men over age 55 than any other age group.  These were men at the top of their powers, experienced, so much to offer—and yet often the quickest to be cut loose.

The visionary behind this group, Peter, welcomed the newcomers and explained C3G’s premise: rather than coming to look for a job, come to the group to see who you can serve.  Each person in the room has a rolodex a mile long, he said.  Listen to each other, find out what your fellow job seekers have to offer and what they are looking for, and there’s got to be someone in the room whom you can help.  I have to admit: I loved the premise, but I was a bit skeptical of whether it was really possible.

That was before the introductions.  Peter asked all first-timers to line up and give a 30-second elevator speech about who they were, where they had come from, and what they were looking for.  About 40 people flooded forward; project managers, engineers, nonprofit leaders, automotive industry specialists, telecom wizards, and of course the many, many salespeople including the guy who cheerfully said he enjoyed talking people into things they didn’t know they needed.  And as each spoke I looked around: Most of the others in the room were carefully jotting down each person’s name and background.  Hands shot up around the room to interrupt those who were sharing: “Come see me once we’re done … I know someone who is looking for a telecom project manager … a specialist in your field … a chemical engineer like you … Get me your business card right away … I want to introduce you to someone.”

Those people left the stage with new hope on their faces, all due to the actions of a total stranger—an out-of-work person just like them.  And I could see the hope grow as others provided updates—Joe got a great job, Sarah was named COO of such-and-such a company—and as “alumni” announced that they now had work … and jobs to offer to others.

When it was time, I spoke briefly to the whole group, and then in detail to a breakout session of the women about The Male Factor, my book about men in the workplace.

But in the end, I realized I was there to get a lesson far more profound than the one I was giving: the power of selflessness among those who would seemingly have the most legitimate reason to be self-focused.  The power of generosity among those who would otherwise have the most reason to hold tightly to their most precious commodity—their contacts.  The power of helping someone simply for the sake of serving them, knowing it was very unlikely they’d be able to help you in return.  This was selfless faith in action.  And like so many paradoxes of faith, it worked.

Copyright © 2011 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

This article originally appeared on MomLife Today, FamilyLife's blog for moms.

Meet the Author: Shaunti Feldhahn

Shaunti Feldhahn began her career as an analyst on Wall Street and today is a bestselling author, speaker, and nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist.  Her recent bestsellers have sold more than two  million copies and have been translated into 20 different languages.  The books in her popular “Only” series, including For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men, and For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women, For Parents Only and For Young Women Only (both of which were co-authored with youth speaker Lisa Rice), and For Young Men Only (co-authored with husband Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice, husband to Lisa Rice) have led to great life-change—and plenty of fascinating conversation—for men, women, parents and teens around the country. She has also authored two true-to-life spiritual thrillers. 

One reason Shaunti’s books, talks and columns have hit such a nerve is that she applies her background as an analyst in a whole new way.  She holds a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s in government and economics from The College of William & Mary.   Prior to becoming an author, she worked in the financial arena on Capitol Hill and later on Wall Street, analyzing the Japanese financial crisis for the highest level decision makers of the Federal Reserve System.  She now applies that same skill set to investigating eye-opening truths that many of us tend to miss.  (For example, what women don’t ‘get’ about men!) 

As a popular national speaker and broadcaster, Shaunti travels extensively and has shared her findings with millions of people through conferences, television, the internet, and radio. She has appeared on such diverse media outlets as Fox News, PBS, TNT, Soap Talk, The Alan Colmes Show, Focus on the Family, and FamilyLife Today.

Shaunti and her husband Jeff, with whom she coauthored For Men Only, are active leaders in their Atlanta-area church and, as parents of young children, enjoy every minute of living at warp speed.  They have become quite good at juggling soccer games, karate lessons, Jeff’s business (software company World2one), and family speaking trips with the whole traveling circus in tow.   As their favorite shirts put it, “Life is good.”



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