There was a very silly movie that came out many years ago with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts called “The Mexican.” The most memorable scene if you recall the advertising for the movie has Julia Roberts standing on a balcony throwing Brad’s clothes at him and screaming “It’s always about you!”
For many people who are job searching, they seem to take the same approach. In the world of give and take, you give and they take.
Let me be clear. I was unemployed for almost two full years and I understand the stress that job search causes on you and on your family. Being unemployed is probably worse than having root canal. Never having had a root canal, I suppose I can’t compare, but I have heard stories.
The definition of networking is that it is a process by which you can create meaningful business contacts and relationships to further your career and enhance your professional life. Not much room in this definition for it to be a one sided affair. Sounds more like you have to give and take.
For those of you familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I would probably place those most recently thrown into job search against their will at the bottom of the pyramid. Until our physiological and safety needs are met, it is hard for many of us to do for others.
The FENG approach to networking in our august body is designed to take some of the stress out of asking for favors, which as you know our predominately male organization finds hard to do. We do this by accepting the fact that we can draw down as many favors as we need, safe in the knowledge that we don’t have to pay them back to the specific people who granted them. Rather we are only obligated to return the favor to any other member of our circle of friends who asks.
In the beginning of your efforts to become a master networker, I do not expect you to be all that helpful to others who might come your way. You are stressed about this new activity and it is probably best that you don’t spread that tension to others and get them stressed. If you are having a bad day or a bad week, this is one time I would ask you not to share. That said, once you “get a grip on yourself,” you will find that helping others will further reduce your stress levels and make you more effective in your search. It isn’t time out of your search, it is actually time devoted to your search, while at the same time you are teaching some “newbie” the life saving techniques you have yourself learned at great expense.
The story goes that John Harrison, the man who invented the first accurate chronometer for use in determining longitude at sea, was required by the British Admiralty Board to completely take apart this complicated device in front of the panel and explain the function of each and every wheel and spring. It was, of course, a royal pain in the neck to do this, but in order to win the prize of about $12,000,000 in today’s currency, it was required. You would be correct in thinking that the great John Harrison viewed this task as time that he could better have spent inventing. But, as he soon discovered, by needing to slowly disassemble his new watch and explain the inner workings to a bunch of “newbies,” he realized how he could make it better.
In much the same way, those of you who take time “out of your search” to explain the process to someone else, or to help them with their resume or 90-second announcement will actually be helping yourself every bit as much as the person receiving the favor of your time. Hard to believe, but true. Not only that, but you will feel good about yourself and that alone will give you more energy for your own job search battle.
It is one of many discoveries I have made in my life. The more I help others, the more I help myself. Every day provides new surprises on this magical process of networking. And, I am still learning.
So the next time someone calls and asks for help, visualize Julia Roberts standing on that balcony screaming at Brad Pitt.