There are times in your life when you need a little support. I’m not referring only to those times when you are out of work and need to find a job, fast (like many of us in today’s economy). I’m talking about those times when you need a second, unbiased opinion about something. Those times when you’d like to know how other people in the industry are reacting to the latest industry news. Even those times when you find yourself stranded for the night in an unfamiliar city and need someone to call who can explain the subway system, recommend a good place to get something to eat, or point you in the direction of a decent local chiropractor for the back injury you sustained while toting suitcases around.
When most of us think of support networks, we may think of women who need a network of friends and relatives who can fill in as emergency child care providers or commiserate over lost loves. We may even think of people who are in support groups, such as AA, who need to find a group of people who understand the unique challenges of trying to beat an addiction. The truth is, though, that everyone of us needs support to meet the challenges of everyday life.
Here are four reasons, aside from your future employment status, why you might want to devote some time to cultivating and maintaining a strong network…
Your network can be an information resource. You might think that I’m talking about being able to turn to your network when you need a vendor recommendation, or when you are trying to learn more about trends in your industry. While all that is true, I am referring to the fact that your work network can be a valuable information resource even when it comes to personal issues. If someone in your network is a huge sports fan, for example, you might reach out to that person to ask if he or she knows where you can find football game seats at the last minute. Or maybe you are developing arthritis in your knees and you hear that someone in your network has the same problem and is very happy with his or her doctor. Or you might be planning a vacation in a city where you know that you have contacts in your network. Sometimes a quick phone call can be much more informative, and, frankly, more emotionally satisfying, than trying to do the same research with a Google search.
Your network can provide you with a different perspective. Ever get tired of pushing “the party line” for your company or industry? Of course you appreciate your work and the products or services that your company provides. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when you want to hear, or express, a more critical point of view on some issue. At times, talking to someone who is not an immediate colleague can provide you with a breath of fresh air and can even allow you to see the humor in some stressful situations.
Your network can provide support you when you need it. What I really mean is that your network can help to bail you out when you get into trouble or when you find yourself in an unexpected situation. Sometimes you have to make a quick decision, but you’re not sure what the best choice is under the circumstances. You could survey a few people in your network to find out what they would do in a similar situation. You can also ask your network to help you find a reliable freelancer to outsource a project to quickly, or ask your network to reach out to their own networks for support for a particular project or issue. This, of course, can be useful outside of work as well. I have heard of people encouraging their networks to contribute to a particular charitable cause, turning to their networks to warn them about an email phishing scam, or even asking their local networks to be on the lookout for a missing child.
Your network can help you to feel affirmed and valued for the work that you do. Who doesn’t like a little appreciation? But we don’t always feel appreciated at work and sometimes our colleagues are so caught up in their own schedules and to do lists that they don’t necessarily notice the great job that is being done by others. You may get support from your family, but it’s always more valuable when someone in the same industry appreciates what your doing as well. Talking to your colleagues and staying in touch with a network outside your particular company can, quite simply, help you to feel good about the work that you are doing. They can help give you the sense that you are not alone in your work and that there are other people out there who are struggling with the same issues that you are. Knowing that you have a network full of people out there who feel this way can be very affirming.
In a way, your network of work contacts is like your family away from home. It takes time to keep in touch with your work contacts, just as it takes time to keep in touch with your family and friends. However, the pay off for your time will increases your quality of life in immeasurable ways.
Guest Bio: Brendan Cruickshank (Vice President of Client Services) – Brendan is a veteran of the online job search and recruiting industry, having spent the past 8 years in senior client services roles with major sites like Juju.com and JobsInTheMoney.com. He is quoted regularly as an expert in employment and jobs trends in major media outlets like the Washington Post, US News & World Report, and Forbes and has spoken at recruiting industry events such as Onrec and Kennedy Information’s Corporate Recruiting Conference.