Kindness 101: Ten tips to help graduates reach career success by developing a kindness habit 

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In the professional world, showing authentic kindness sets you apart and fuels career success. But it’s the one thing missing from most graduates’ five-year plans. Susan Mangiero offers tips to help new graduates develop a “kindness habit” to excel in their careers and personal lives.


          Graduation season is almost here and that means that future graduates in all fields—from bachelors to doctorate students—are anxiously polishing their résumés and brushing up on their networking and interviewing skills. One thing they’re probably not thinking about is kindness. But according to Susan Mangiero, kindness is the one real-world skill that may matter most to their career success.

          “Being a kind and compassionate person who can listen, connect, and empathize is what really matters in the modern work world,” says Mangiero, author of The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations for Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears (Happy Day Press, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-997-50232-9, $14.95, http://www.hugsandjoy.com). “This has always been true in business, but in an increasingly global economy, emotional intelligence—dominated by kindness—is more important than ever.”

          The kindness equals success principle applies to all career paths—even those in conventionally “un-nurturing” industries. Mangiero is well qualified to speak to this subject. She made her mark in financial services and now consults to companies in that hard-charging industry on their relationship-building skills. (We don’t typically think of finance professionals as needing to be more nurturing, but they really do need to hone this skill to build trusting client relationships—especially when trust is low and anxiety about the future is high.)

          Mangiero’s message to grads is clear: In the post-graduation “real world,” kindness will take you far. It may even be your differentiator as you seek to make the connections and impressions that will hopefully lead to a great job.

          But here’s the tricky part: You can’t “turn on” kindness at will, and you certainly can’t fake it. To develop your nurturing muscles—the ones that will make you relatable in a world yearning for connection—you need to make being kind a part of your daily life, starting now.

          Here are Mangiero’s ten best tips for making genuine kindness a habit both at work and beyond.

First, practice being kind to yourself. If you don’t know how to nurture yourself, it’s hard to nurture others. Mangiero says practicing self-care is the best way to learn kindness and establish that you deserve kindness too. She suggests you do something kind for yourself (enjoy a cup of tea, take a short break, etc.) every day. And periodically get a massage, treat yourself to some nice clothes, or enjoy a hot bath and a good book.

“Finally, stop being so hard on yourself—forgiving yourself is an important component of kindness,” notes Mangiero. “Whether you fail to impress on a job interview, underperform on an evaluation, or otherwise disappoint yourself, ease up on the punishing self-talk.”

“Finally, stop being so hard on yourself—forgiving yourself is an important component of kindness,” notes Mangiero. “Whether you fail to impress on a job interview, underperform on an evaluation, or otherwise disappoint yourself, ease up on the punishing self-talk.”

Make time to play or commit time to a new hobby to balance out the hard, thankless work you might be doing. It’s a tough world out there for new grads, which means you may not step into a fulfilling dream job right away. Maybe you have to wait tables or work long hours at a retail job before you get your break. But don’t let your life be all work and no play. Whether you enjoy hiking, art, community theatre, or club sports, make time for it.

“When your life is all about work, it’s impossible to stay balanced,” she says. “Trust me, you can’t do your best when you don’t find ways to bring joy into your life. Playfulness is vital for the creative energy you need to excel professionally and personally. And it’s all part of being kind to yourself.”

Volunteer for a good cause. Finding a way to help others gets you in touch with your humanity and keeps you humble and kind. (It also keeps your own struggles as a newly minted graduate in perspective.) Every city has multiple opportunities to volunteer, so find a cause that resonates with you. Your employer may sponsor activities that you can do with your colleagues. Whether you’re tutoring underprivileged kids, working with the elderly, walking shelter dogs, or collecting food for the homeless, you’ll be working on your connection and kindness skills. As a bonus, volunteering looks great on a résumé.

Stay in touch with your friends and family. Don’t get so wrapped up in the rat race that you forget about your tribe, warns Mangiero. Stay close to your parents and siblings and make time for your friends. Visit your folks regularly and meet your friends for coffee or dinner to catch up. If your job has taken you far away, schedule regular video chats to keep in touch.

“You have to nurture these established relationships to get the most from them, the same way you would nurture new relationships,” says Mangiero.

Celebrate the “wow!” in the lives of friends and coworkers. Nurturing others means showing that you care when good things happen in their lives and resisting the urge to be jealous! Take a moment to applaud and praise others’ accomplishments instead of breezing right past them.

“Congratulate your colleague on her promotion even if you’re working a thankless entry-level job,” says Mangiero. “You’ll show your maturity, and, besides, one day you’ll appreciate it when someone makes a big deal out of your accomplishments. The same goes for your friends. Be genuinely happy for their good news, be it a pregnancy or getting the rights to a new patent. And let it show.”

Practice your manners. Small niceties like hello, please, and thank you; holding doors for people; and asking how others are doing really do matter. In the hard-charging corporate world, however, manners can take a back seat when deals and deadlines are involved. Keep your work in perspective and remember that rude behavior makes a stronger impression than kindness, but not in a good way! Remember to be courteous to individuals in different jobs and at different levels, not just the boss.

Go out of your way to make shy, left-out, or misunderstood people feel comfortable. In life and at work, there’s going to be an in-crowd and those who don’t quite belong—just like in school.

“Make it your duty to be kind and welcoming to those who may feel excluded from the group,” says Mangiero. “Outsiders hurt when they are obviously not accepted, and it even happens in the workplace. So be sure to reach out and be friendly to those who need a little help socially. You will be doing what’s right, setting a good example, and maybe even making a new friend.”

Send thank-you notes (the pen-and-paper kind). It is good etiquette to send a thank-you note following interviews—and you’ll likely be interviewing plenty in the near future. Not only that, but you have a lifetime of opportunities ahead of you to say “thanks” when somebody does something nice for you. So get into the habit of writing old-fashioned thank-you notes now, instead of firing off an email or sending a text.

“In the professional world, a non-virtual thank-you note sets you apart from the competition,” says Mangiero. “Send a thank-you note even when you are rejected for a job, because you never know when the company may need someone again—or know of a colleague who is hiring—and remember your politeness.”

Listen more than you talk. No matter how successful you become, remember that you really don’t know it all (and that’s okay!). Be open to the wisdom of others. Mangiero points out that learning is a lifetime process and that listening to those in the know can freshen our perspectives and expand our horizons.

“When I commit to really hearing what others say, I learn a lot and feel so much more connected to them,” she says. “Others appreciate the courtesy of being given a chance to express themselves. It’s a way of showing respect and empathy when we are willing to lend an ear to our colleagues and our loved ones. In business, it’s also a way of distinguishing ourselves from the competitors who don’t embrace the importance of letting someone else talk. In a hurried world, the lost art of careful listening is a good skill to develop.”

“When I commit to really hearing what others say, I learn a lot and feel so much more connected to them,” she says. “Others appreciate the courtesy of being given a chance to express themselves. It’s a way of showing respect and empathy when we are willing to lend an ear to our colleagues and our loved ones. In business, it’s also a way of distinguishing ourselves from the competitors who don’t embrace the importance of letting someone else talk. In a hurried world, the lost art of careful listening is a good skill to develop.”

Be a shoulder to cry on. When someone in your life is hurting and needs comfort (or someone to vent to) be willing to engage and support them. Yes, it can be uncomfortable and inconvenient to deal with another person’s troubles on top of your own, but true kindness often requires this kind of sacrifice.

“Don’t disconnect when a friend or work associate is upset and wants to talk about it with you,” says Mangiero. “Really taking the time to be present will make them feel heard and supported—which is crucial to building trust. If you ‘there-there’ them and walk away, you may close the door to a deeper relationship.”

          “Genuine kindness is a state of being,” concludes Mangiero. “It’s not something you do just to get what you want in the moment. Kindness counts everywhere, and you’ll find that you are happier and more successful when you make it a part of your work and personal life. As you begin your professional journey, commit to being kind to everyone you encounter along the way, and you will reap the many rewards that come from caring for and connecting with others.”

-Submitted by Dr. Susan Mangiero