As the going gets tougher and the time passes, we are increasingly aware of the workings of the network; the way that some contacts surpass the call of duty while others simply don't come through. Over a sandwich just today, John and I went through our roll call of who's been in touch, who's had good ideas, and with whom we have the most active quid pro quo - "you help me, I'll help you".
The New York Times Career Couch column (6/6/09) called "Helping the Job Seeker without Hurting Yourself" was a direct message to me about the other end of the phone. It is easy to get lost in where we are, our process, the full-time occupation which is getting a job. All the emails, the phone calls, the invitations we send out to our network is a relentless act of true determination. Yet the phone, which rings so discriminatingly in our house these days, is in the hands of someone with her own set of concerns.
Check it out: the Career Couch leads with a drawing of Corporate Joe at his desk, surrounded by water, shark fins and floundering, waving arms. Harsh reality: that's us, the ones drowning, sinking at Joe's feet. Desperation. Ugly as the drawing depicts us, the truth is this: Corporate Joe is likely as desperate as we are. S/he's the one who's still at the desk with more work, fewer colleagues, and often, lower pay. The New Now isn't just jobs taken away; it's what's left, the culture of fear. I remember consoling words from a friend last winter: "John lost his job? Well, if he's this far along and hasn't experienced this event, it's only a matter of time." Only a matter of time.
When life hits the skids like this, it's good to have friends. But what can we expect from them? It's not a fun Catch 22 to be a friend in the New Now. Career Couch says it right: "Those who are looking for work rely heavily on their networks for leads, and often believe that because you have a job, you must know of other jobs." We're at a life-changing moment. Once you've been here, I swear you'll think differently, even if you land in exactly the work scenario you left. Career Couch gives rather heartless advice to Corporate Joe, not to wear himself out counseling and coaching; not to give away too much "political capital"-- Hold it back, Joe, you never know when you'll need that nugget of a lead you're holding on to, wait for the prime candidate -- and even so, in an ever so capitalist way after all the caution, Couch says "it’s a good policy to help if you can, because you never know when the tables will turn." Still heartless, but... Karma.
Why do folks help each other, why is one contact so much richer than another? Is it really that we don't realise the power of the network? A dear friend, one of the most productive women I know, finds herself at a complete loss when friends find themselves without their employment identity. Why is it so hard to know how/when/if you should help?
If I can be a zealot about anything, it is this. We are only as good as the sum of our parts. Wrack your brain, people, what would you like to hear? How would you want to be helped? When you're in the New Now, you know for certain that it will take a many-minded-mission to regain solid ground. Indeed, it is my firm belief that the entire economy will take this kind of mission, every one of us needs to put our new headsets on and think - create - change - support - enable, in order to bring us to rights. The New York Times Career Couch may speak to you if you're Corporate Joe, but from this perspective I remind you of the mantra your Company X will never repeat - Karma... Karma... Karma.... Practice Karma.