Don’t misunderstand the title of this blog. It’s not about sexual preference. It’s about networking. Every morning, when I take my walk, I observe groups of teenagers waiting at street corners for their school buses. Two things are common to these groups. The kids are not talking to each other, and the majority of them have their ears plugged with MP3 players. They choose to live in total isolation despite the fact that these are the same kids who mingle with each other every day.
Now, why is this? Because in the American culture—in contrast with other cultures—one is not to approach another person until the two have been introduced to each other by a third party. This cultural habit is practiced by adults, and therefore their kids perpetuate it. In many cases, even after being introduced to someone, the kids lack the confidence or skills to communicate, connect, and possibly be of mutual benefit. Plainly put, to network with each other.
For people in transition, such behavior amounts to a tactical hindrance to their advancement toward getting a job. It’s commonly known that 60 to 80 percent of job seekers get their next jobs via networking. However, if lack of communication is practiced from childhood and if communications skills never get developed or encouraged to improve on later on in life—especially in times of need such as being in transition and letting the world know about your availability—that’s of course a major obstacle.
More and more people nowadays are letting me know they have landed. This is a very encouraging sign, indicating that companies have started hiring again. I always ask what led to the job offer, and invariably, the answer proves two things: first, that the lead came through networking, and second, that the person had prepared extensively for the interview. After all, winning in a tough competition takes not only skills but lots of practice. Have you ever thought how many hours an Olympian practices before the competition?
I don’t pay too much attention to local news via a newspaper or television, but I constantly listen to NPR and the BBC and read The Economist and The Week. What these media sources have in common is that they report on international issues. My focus is usually on the Big Picture and not so much on the details–and especially not on local details. I’m bored with reading about changes in local traffic patterns and about local fires, burglaries, rapes, murders, traffic accidents, and the like. Typically, such news is negative and depressing. Who needs it, yet international news–while it, too, has depressing elements such as news of natural disasters and famines–for me it also provides a measure of comparison.
In my capacity as a career coach, I’m one-on-one with people who are not in their best dispositions. Or I’m with groups in transition that I support, and there too I see at times elements of negativity. However, the Big Picture view gives me–and, I hope, others as well–a way of looking at things with a sense of fairness and objectivity. Let’s face it: in America in general we simply don’t have it as bad as those experiencing, say, famine in Africa or the recent earthquake in Haiti, to name just two things. I fully understand that for those who are unemployed, the rate of unemployment that the news reports is at 10 percent is, rather, 100 percent for them. But here again, the Big Picture is that this period of economic downturn shall pass too and is only a bump in the road. Good days are ahead of us, but unfortunately, those without work and income must face the now issues and the local issues and not the global issues.
I cannot forget a particular time of my own that I was in transition. I used to go to job search networking meetings, and that made me feel better because often, I met there people who had it much worse than I did. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison, but it was the truth. If people in transition can view their situations as temporary and make themselves able to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, their moods and dispositions would change and improve instantly. Their energy would return. and a positive upward spiral would propel them into their next job. Amen.