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What would life be like without friends and family to share in our accomplishments, build us up after setbacks and root us on as we seek to grow? Most of us would agree; not very rewarding. Sharing our lives with others makes life rich and worthwhile. These principles which guide our personal lives are also applicable in our professional life. Having a community to share triumphs and tribulations, ideas and inspiration, and all the experiences in-between, can make any journey more joyful and satisfying.
When we think about an effective job search we almost always go to networking. Unfortunately, networking conjures up negative connotations for many people. What if you changed and effective job search strategy from “networking” to “community building”. We build community when we relate our challenges and successes with those who we share a common thread. This thread can be anything from blood relative to yoga buddy to business partner. The list of categories which bind us is as endless as our imaginations. Our communities help us with insurmountable odds and daunting challenges.
Why should it come as a surprise, then, that during one of our most stressful endeavors; a job search, community building can also be a game changer. From basic questions like “Should I send a handwritten follow-up note?” to making connections that may lead you directly to your dream job, individuals everywhere are beginning to wake up to the old African adage “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” Whether it be Facebook Groups, Linkedin Groups, Twitter or any variety of other platforms, the days of going it alone during a job search can be viewed from where it belongs: the rearview mirror.
What are key elements one can expect out of a community building centered career search?
For most of us motivation, particularly when it comes to difficult undertakings, is an issue. Motivation is the reason we have for taking action in a particular way. The success of programs from Alcoholics Anonymous to Weight Watchers comes from shared experiences, both good and bad. These shared experiences help provide motivation for individuals to behave in a more healthy, positive and constructive way.
The successful job search can benefit from these same strengths and insights. Sharing an interview that went well or an overwhelming sense of feeling stuck can open up opportunities for interconnectedness and give others an opening to relate, encourage or share expertise. This feedback can serve as fodder to further an individual’s motivation. There is power in the giving and receiving when it comes to matters of motivation.
Effective networking has been shown to involve authentic, empowering relationships. Cultivating relationships in good times ensures that those relationships will be there in the challenging times as well. What could be more of a rollercoaster ride than a job search? Opportunities for the highs, lows, and everything in between, abound. Imagine having no one to share a good, or perhaps even more importantly, a bad interview with.
Perhaps you strike up a relationship with someone who currently holds a position you are interested in exploring. You can ask this person for fifteen minutes of their time and conduct an informational interview. (This is an interview designed to inform an individual about a particular job, company or industry). Maybe you would like another set of eyes on your resume. A person in a community of job seekers could be the ideal participant for your feedback. People are in need of a human connection, especially during challenging times.
Brainstorming ideas are also among the highlights for a well-built community. The benefits of brainstorming are vast and varied. Tossing around topics like how to dress for a virtual interview or negotiating for a higher salary can be stimulating and bountiful. Innovation and humor can be powerful allies and rewards for engaging in the open exchange of ideas.
Brainstorming builds participation, commitment, loyalty, and interest. It stimulates and unlocks people’s creative talents. Brainstorming also builds self-esteem because people are being asked for their involvement and their input. When brainstorming occurs, you encourage communication and cooperation and this helps relationships form and flourish. Another important payoff is that you will come up with lots of good ideas and they may change the course of your job search.
Then there is the anti-depressant effect of connecting with others. At times more potent than a medication, the act of reaching out and connecting can release positive hormones, like endorphins, in the brain that act as a natural mood lifter. There is, after all, more to life than goal directed networking.
People are social creatures. We need one another in the good and not so good times. This has never been more self-evident than the times we are currently living through. The global pandemic has magnified and highlighted these needs. When we rely on each other we find we can manage situations and aspirations at a higher level than when we rely on ourselves alone.
Self-esteem and Confidence
Sharing expertise, feedback and advice, in and of themselves, can be empowering. The old adage it is better to give than to receive comes into play. It builds self-esteem and confidence to be useful. We know those are important factors when it comes to a job search, and in life, generally speaking. Confidence is key when presenting oneself and one’s ideas for critical evaluation. Which is basically what a job interview amounts to. Likewise, it’s a two-way street and you should also be critically assessing them as well.
Confidence and self-esteem give one the where-with-all to feel secure in evaluating and being evaluated. There is even evidence that invoking a superman-like pose before you interact with others buoys self-confidence and performance. Instructors at confidence building courses report that people with healthy self-confidence are generally happier and more satisfied with their lives than people who lack self-confidence. Self-confident people can positively influence others more easily with their ideas and direction which is monumentally important when interviewing for a desired position.
As you can see, there are reasons a plenty to invest in community building when you are searching for a new position. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) cites that a person will change their jobs, on average, every five years (www.thebalancecareers.com/how-often-do-people-change-jobs-2060467). This statistic includes promotions and lateral moves so the number of times, exactly, is open to debate but few people spend forty years at a company and retire in our modern era. Upgrading employment has become an ongoing process rather than once or twice in a lifetime event. This fact, alone, makes the case for developing and staying active in a community of professionals with the like-minded goals of job searching. Add to that, the reality of the global pandemic, and all the residing employment chaos associated with it, and you have a fresh take on the importance of nimbleness and connection in our current job market. In many ways the song McCartney and Lennon once wrote “With a little help from my friends” could not be truer today that when it was originally penned all those years ago. Developing connections and sharing your journey with others via community building brings that beautiful tribute to life.