During our first meeting, “Tom” sat across from me looking sad and dejected. Everything about his demeanour indicated a lack of confidence. Once I had his trust, he told me that he’d been avoiding his friends and family for the previous six months, because he was ashamed of being unemployed. As an ex-footballer who was used to a high level of success and camaraderie, he was struggling to cope.
Most of the people I’ve worked with over the past 20 years – whether as an HR professional, recruiter or career coach – share Tom’s views, irrespective of whether they are CEOs, athletes, or recently qualified university graduates. More often than not, they are worried about what their friends will think of them, convinced that they are worthless, and prefer keeping to themselves while looking for a job. Even though this is understandable, this behavior is actually counterproductive on two levels:
- Social support helps you to cope when the going gets tough; and
- The social contacts you have, particularly those “weak ties” with people you don’t know very well, can offer a unique perspective and resources that are invaluable when looking for a job.
So what can you do to make sure that you have the right support team in place?
Take a look at your circle of friends, family members, and acquaintances. Identify the people you can count on to help you.
- Who will always be there for you no matter what happens – picking you up when you’re down and cheering you on?
- Who knows you well and can be counted on to give an unbiased opinion of your skills and achievements?
- Who will challenge you to fulfil your potential, ensuring that you are the best you can be?
- Who can you confide in and be vulnerable with when you need to talk about your fears, doubts, and insecurities?
- Who can offer you support and guidance in identifying your next professional challenge?
- Who can introduce you to people with different backgrounds to expand your network?
If the support network you’ve identified through this process doesn’t feel right, start assessing who else you might be able to contact for assistance. Rather than trying to cope on your own, building good relationships and getting support can help you to overcome challenging circumstances and tough times. Seeking employment is no exception here.
Coming full-circle, at the end of our session, Tom understood the importance of social connections and realized that trying to do it all on his own wasn’t going to work. He identified a support network and was able to get the assistance and advice that he desperately needed. Now, he’s happily employed in customer service.