Whenever you take the elevator up, please send it down to pick someone else
By Olufemi Adegoke
A very good friend of mine once told me of an experience she had while traveling in Europe. She was staying in an old apartment building with a small but functional elevator. When she arrived, she took the elevator to her apartment on the fourth floor. Her host instructed her that whenever she took the elevator up to the fourth floor, she should press the button to send it back down to pick someone else.
This seemingly insignificant story reminded me of a story in my own past, where someone sent an elevator back down to pick me. When I was rounding up my Master’s program, I was searching for a job. My classmate at the time was in the final stages of his recruitment process with a leading organization in our field. He heard of another opening at the same organization and recommended me to the hiring team. A few months later, I began my new job at that organization. It’s no exaggeration to say that my classmate’s intervention changed the trajectory of my life, and I remain eternally grateful to him for sending his elevator back down to pick me up.
It is near impossible for anyone to attain success without support from other well-meaning individuals. All the biographies and memoirs of successful people suggest that they would not have been able to achieve their respective noble feats or successes without someone sending the elevator to pick them up. It’s important to note that when I speak of support, I don’t refer to financial support exclusively — this can mean mentorship, referral, connection, or any of a thousand ways to help someone else.
As someone who has benefitted a lot from the support of others who have sent down elevators to pick me, I would like to share with you some things I have learned about catching the elevator up:
Be in the building
The first step to catching an elevator is to be in the building with that elevator. You also need to be in close proximity to the elevator. In day-to-day terms, this means you should be clear to others about what you want and where you want to go. For example, my classmate may not have recommended me for a job if I had not already told him I was searching for employment, and the kind of openings I was considering. Another way to be in the building is to be reliable. Show others that if given the right support, you will be set in the right path of success.
Be ready to enter
Once the elevator has been sent down, the doors will only remain open for a moment. You need to be prepared to take the opportunity when it arrives. This means you should be prepared with whatever you need for the opportunity you seek. Your access card could be your qualifications, your educational background, relevant work experience, skills, network, etc. Please note, most elevators will not move without the appropriate access credentials. It is important to acquire the appropriate access credentials before the elevator arrives.
Send the elevator back down to pick someone else — and make it a habit
When you have achieved your goals and reached your destination, do not forget your responsibility of ensuring you support others by sending the same elevator that took you up to go down to pick someone else, even as you continue working towards going even higher and achieving more goals. There are many ways you can send the elevator down to pick someone else. You can do this by offering career advice and guidance to those in your professional field, by financially investing in a business, by being on the board of an organization and offering strategic insights. There are many ways to send the elevator down.
If all these fail, use the stairs.
Nobody who seeks to go extra mile should take for granted that an elevator is coming for them. Not all buildings are served by a functional elevator. Even where an elevator is functional, the person ahead of you may have forgotten to send the elevator back down. You must be ready to use the stairs to the next available floor when you cannot access the elevator — be prepared to increase your qualifications and use the stairway when the elevator is not available. One additional reason why you might need to use the stairs rather than the elevator is because there is a longer line of people waiting to use the elevator than what you will find in a stairway. This can be buttressed by one of my favorite quotes “Go the extra mile. It is never crowded there”.
In whatever situation we find ourselves, we will always aspire for greater success hence always trying to work our way up. We should not forget our responsibility of ensuring that we are supporting others up by turning to the same elevators that took us up, and sending them down to pick someone else.