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Preparing Your Network for the Changes of a Job Search

Prepare your family and friends for the challenge of change . . . 

You’ve heard the expression:  “It takes a village.”  This old and familiar expression applies to many things in life, and your job search is no exception.

Who’s in your village? 
When it comes to thinking about the village of people who will be involved in your job search, most people's thoughts first turn to your professional network.  This village consists of professional contacts and colleagues, employers, recruiters, hiring managers, and  “movers and shakers” in their field.  It is a group whose support you will seek out.  These are most definitely people whom you will want to involve in and focus their attention on your search.

"I'm going to look for a new job.  That'll change some things. Let's talk about it!"
But there is a second group of people who will also be involved in your job search, far more intimately than your professional network.  This second “village” is a more familiar network, a group you tend to interact with daily.  This group is the “village” comprised of family and friends that surround you !  It is a group that can make or break your search.  Unless you take the time and make the effort to involve them in a positive and productive way  --  initially by preparing them for coming changes that by way of affecting you may also affect them too  --  this group can impede or stop your search altogether. 

Don’t make this mistake
This familiar network is a powerful group that many job seekers fail to take into account when they embark upon their search, and that’s a mistake.  Your familiar network is a group that wields a lot of influence over you, whether you realize it or not.  It has expectations of and hopes for you, and makes known its satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the decisions you make.  So don’t overlook your familiar network.

On the positive side, your familiar network can be a great source of support.  They typically want “the best” for you.  But this group can also have a negative effect upon you and your search.  They often hold high and sometimes differing expectations for you than you hold for yourself.  And this can be a source of trouble and conflict down the road, unless you (1) unearth both sets of expectations (yours and theirs) up front as well as (2) prepare them for the changes that lie ahead.

Change ain’t easy
Change is difficult.  Few people wake up in the morning and say “Gee, I hope there’s a lot change today.”  We humans just aren’t wired that way!  And it explains a lot of things.  It's why:
  • People tend to stay in environments that are familiar even though a change could improve their situation greatly.  
  • People tend, unless driven by other circumstances, to stay in a job that is unsatisfying, even harmful, but familiar.  
  • When employees are forced to leave a familiar job due to downsizing, relocation, or termination, they suddenly start remembering it fondly, even though a week earlier they were talking about how much they hated it.
  • People cling to that which they know, even if it is not best for them or makes them  miserable, when a change could result in a much better daily existence.
The challenge of change 
When you made the decision to look for a new position, or in the case of a company downsizing it was made for you, you took on the challenge of change.  And, change ain’t easy . . . even under the best of conditions. 

Change involves loss of the familiar and fear of the unknown, and that’s scary for many people.  Furthermore, since you are not an island, when YOU experience change, it has a cascading effect that extends to both your professional and your familiar networks. 

Your professional network will feel its effect as you seek them out for networking and assistance.  They feel the effect, but from a distance and certainly not on a daily basis unless you are dealing with a trusted confidante whom you may rely on frequently for assistance. 

WIIFM
However, when you opt for change to a new and better position, it leaves your familiar network
uncertain of (1) what your life is going to look like in the short- and long-term, (2) what will be asked of them during your search, and (3) ultimately how achieving your goal is going to affect their lives. 

Keep in mind that family members often derive some or even most of their status and security from your job and professional status; close friends may also do so but generally to a lesser degree.  When faced with your news of change, they may be wondering:
  • About income.  Will we be able to afford our current lifestyle?  Will we have to downsize our lifestyle because you lost your job?
  • Will we have to move?  Sell our house?
  • Will we be able to eat out?
  • Will we be able to take our summer vacation?
  • Will the kids still be able to go to the same school?  Will they kids be able to continue at their private school?  What about college?
  • What will I tell my friends?
  • Before you lost, or decided to change your job, I was the spouse/partner/child/best friend, etc. of a VP/plant manager/lawyer/doctor/etc.  Who am I now?
Sound farfetched?  It’s not.  Not at all.  Think about it.  What we do for a living, and what we do with our days, weeks, and years in making that living, are not only critically important to us and to our self-esteem, but also to those close to us who often derive a portion of their self-esteem from what we do professionally. 

American business culture:  Our Jobs "R" Us
Well, maybe not equal to but certainly a large part of how we think about ourselves.  Think for a moment about the initial conversation of most casual meetings or networking conversations.  Most folks follow up “Hi, nice to meet you” with a question about “So, what do you do (for a living)?” 

A great deal of our esteem comes from being able to talk about our work with pride.  And, that extends, whether you realize it or not, to your familiar network.  Think about it.  A lot of our identify, particularly in our American business culture, is tied up in the work we do.  We spend 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day there.  It goes way beyond a paycheck.   And it does for our familiar network too!

Dealing with the change
Whether you like it or not, looking for a job is going to change the way you live your life.  It is certainly going to affect you in several ways, including the big three resources listed below:
  1. Time
  2. Energy
  3. Money
Changes in the amount of time that you spend away from family and friends, and the energy it takes to prepare for interviews and networking meetings or to go to an association meeting instead of your child’s Little League game or your friend’s party, etc. are all part of the trade-offs you’ll be making as you pursue your goal.  Money that was earmarked for a family vacation or new TV may now be set aside for a rainy day fund or used, in part, for job search expenses. 

So, changes are coming down the pike whether you, or they, like it or not!  To get your search off to a good start, and make it go smoother and less frustrating for both of you, prepare your familiar village for these coming changes.  Here’s how:

Step 1:  Take some time to think.
Take some time for yourself.  Once you’ve made the decision to change jobs, take some time up front to think through your situation.  Do a little analysis to gain clarity about (1) what you liked about your previous (or current if still employed) job, (2) what you disliked, and in an ideal world, (3) how you would like to incorporate your skills, background, and experience into a job you think you would really like to do.  This might be a time to enlist the support of a trusted confidante from your professional network simply to help you think things through.  Here, your confidante's role is going to be largely that of listener and questioner.

Step 2:  Prepare to tell the family and close friends.
How you tell family and close friends about your decision to seek a new job will impact your search.  It will affect whether they are positive and supportive, or negative and fearful.  Notice that this is Step 2, not Step 1.  What you say, and how you say it, is going to greatly influence if they are on board or not.  So don’t skip Step 1.  Take time to think and then to prepare what you want to say.  And do it early on – shortly after you’ve made the decision is best. 

Step 3:  Hold the discussion:  What do you say? 
 Hold the discussion.  Share your thoughts about the direction you want to take in your job search, or share your goal if you are already clear about the goal of your search.  Solicit input.  Gather the group's thoughts and listen, really listen, without interrupting.  Then discuss them.
  1. They may think of some things you have not, and have some real, original contributions that help you lay the groundwork for a successful job search.
  2. Equally, if not even more importantly, really hearing them, without interrupting or objecting, will help them to feel heard and help you gain their buy-in for achievement of your goal.
Step 4:  What else do you say? 
Now that they feel heard, talk about what you know is going to change in the short-term.  Fear diminishes as people’s knowledge of what to expect increases.  So, while you don’t know and can’t predict where your search will take you, you know and can predict the short-term changes you’ll be making as you get organized.  Discuss with your familiar network the action steps you’ll be taking to get organized, as discussed in the article:  Job Search Management - Getting Organized  (Talk over the Action Steps 1 -7 identified in this article.)  Solicit input; your family and friends may have some more good ideas!

Step 5:  Keep them posted.
Think your done?
    Think again.
This initial discussion of preparing your familiar network for the changes ahead is just that, a first of many such discussions you should hold with them.  Assure your familiar village that you will make it a priority to keep them updated of your progress and problems.  And do it!  In so doing, you convey with your actions as well as your words that they are a part of the process, you value their input, and that they are a priority.  It’s a win-win!

Getting support for your job search project early on is going to make your job search a whole lot easier, a whole lot less lonely, and a whole lot more successful.  This investment of time early on will pay off down the road.  It will lead to quicker realization of your goal, and help you deal with other obstacles and challenges that cross your job searching path.

Other challenges: Obstacles to plan for
What other obstacles can you expect?  Well, job searches can take time.  This is particularly true when searching:
    1.    For higher level positions
    2.    For positions that require very unique skill sets for which there is a small pool of opportunities
    3.    Geographic areas that offer limited opportunities for work in your field.
    
Additionally, a myriad of other factors can affect your search, such as the economy, changes in your industry, the level of effort you put into your job search, the time you spend, etc.  So no one can tell you how long it is going to take.  As time moves on, your search may be faced with new obstacles that pop up, for instance:
  • What do you do? . . . Let’s say you began your search in late winter or early spring.  Things are going well, but you haven’t landed a job you really want.  All of a sudden, it’s summer and the family wants to go on its usual summer vacation.  What do you do?
  • What do you do? . . .Or, in a slightly different scenario, you decided the best holiday present you could give yourself, and your family, would be a new job in the new year.  So, in September you decided to launch a job search.  Things are going well, but activity is slowing down as the holidays approach.  You haven’t landed a job when all of a sudden it’s near the end of the year and the beginning of the holiday season.  Do you just postpone your search until January 2?
Time away from your search . . .Not a good idea!
What do you do? . . .  As a long-time career transition coach, who has seen plenty of job seekers grapple with these questions, my advice is this:
Taking time away from your search, or stopping it entirely 
for a couple  months or even a few weeks, is NOT a good idea.  
Keep searching  –  even if job search events and activities slow down during certain times of the year.  My best advice is to delay taking that week’s vacation or holiday two-week trip until you have completed your search.  If you do, you will enjoy the time away a whole lot more, your family will too, and you won’t have lost traction and possible opportunities by taking time away from your search.

Obstacle 1:  Vacations.  Managing the obstacle of the traditional vacation
Whether you take your vacation in summer, as is tradition for many folks, or other times of the year, as job seekers you are all faced with one question:  Do you take your vacation or not when you have a job search underway?

It’s a tough question, because it generally affects multiple people, many who reside in your familiar village, who are looking forward to getting away and counting on you to go too.  But, my advice holds true for vacations as well as holidays:  Postpone the vacation.  Taking time away from your search, or stopping it entirely for even a week or two is not a good idea.  If you do, you run the risk of losing traction, momentum, and opportunities.

There is a high cost for time away from your job search.  It’s only a week!  Right?  Wrong.  Why?  Because when it comes to vacation - 1 week = 3 weeks.

In reality, when you take a one-week vacation, that week off and away from your search will actually cost you three.  Yes, that's 3 weeks away from your search.   And, probably more!  Why?  Think about it.  Recall vacations you've taken in the past:
  • First, there is the week before your vacation that you spend thinking about, planning, and getting ready to go on vacation.
  • Second, there is the actual week of your vacation  --  your time away.
  • Third, there is the week after your vacation which you spend trying to get back into the swing of things.  This week becomes a mixture of recalling your vacation's highlights  --  "Hmmmm . . . . last Tuesday I was . . . ," and trying to rev your search back up.  Unless you previously set appointments for the week of your return, you are back in the loop of trying to connect with your network and settings appointments for the following week or next.  Any way you look at it, a lot of time is lost.
In addition to the time lost from your search, other phenomena can also occur that is detrimental to your search for a new job or role.  
  • You get out of the habits of productive job search.  You previously put into place habits to organize your job search business day.  It was a struggle to:
    • Get up at 6:00 a.m.
    • Be at your desk at 8:30
    • Identify your 2 -3 networking calls the night before so that you have 3 network contacts ready to contact each day, etc.  
           But you did it!  However, take time away from these productivity habits, and you’ll find
           they’re easy to lose and hard to regain.
  • You begin to fall off their radar screen.  How?  You haven’t been in contact with them, your professional network.  When they don’t hear from you, every 3 or 4 weeks, they assume the obvious:  You’ve landed your dream job, and they don’t need to worry about you any more  –  at least not in the context of assisting you with your search.
  • And, the big, big co$t –  your pipeline dries up.  Minus your daily networking activity, new leads to both jobs and people dry up.  Upon your return to your job of finding a job, while not exactly starting over, you face the dry spell of no or few appointments and interviews while you pump up the pipeline, again.
The cost of time away can be $$ that you don't get the opportunity to earn due to missed leads and opportunities while you're away.  The fact is that you'll never know exactly what you may have lost, but do know you run a risk of losing a lot.  Time away slows your search, hinders your networking, and takes you out of your geographic vicinity should an unexpected interview happens to pop up.  Feeding your pipeline, the life line to finding that next opportunity, slows or stops altogether.

Obstacle 2:  The Holidays.  Keeping your search going during the holidays
The holidays  –  that wonderful time of the year when traditions bind us to doing what we’ve always done  –  even if we no longer want to do what we’ve always done, and haven’t for a very long time.  For many job seekers, their searches will extend into the holiday season.  They may have started their search later in the year, or may be searching for a highly specialized role or high level position.

I’ve heard from lots of job seekers over the years who feel trapped by holiday traditions that they feel compelled to participate in just because they’ve always done so.  When I ask them, “So why do you?” as often as not, they answer “It’s a tradition - we’ve always done it,” even if they really don’t like or have even come to resent holiday activities such as  . . . .
  • Getting together every year over the holiday with 23 people
  • Cooking dinner for those 23 people
  • Hosting the annual neighborhood holiday block party
  • Buying presents for 13.  It was OK when it was just your 4 siblings, but now with your siblings’ children, presents-for-4 has turned into presents-for-13
  • Traveling to St. Louis or Butte, or Mobile . . ., with 3 little kids on flights and presents in tow, to spend Christmas day with extended family since that is where they always congregate
  • or . . . well, you get the idea
Stop it.  And what better time to do so?  My advice to those job seekers has been to stop.  Stop doing those things that cause you to spend time, energy, and money you don’t have on things, activities, and people that will simply slow, stymie, thwart, or stop your search for a new position.   You can’t afford it!

Bah-humbug? . . . Not really.  It’s just a case of being practical, examining what you truly want, and balancing that against what you are able to do.  Even if money is not limited, your time and energy are.  You need both time and energy to identify, prepare, and perform for job opportunities.  And, you don’t want to be away in another city or state when an opportunity to interview pops up unexpectedly in your home town.

Change doesn’t make you popular.  Choosing to stop, or change your degree of, participation in long-time family or friends’ traditions is hard.  But, as a person looking for a job, you have the best excuse  --  actually a sound reason  --  to beg off of holiday events:  You can’t afford it, i.e., You don’t have the resources  --  the time, energy, or money to participate this year  --  that’s it!

And, people will adjust.  Over time, family, friends, and acquaintances may come to accept, if not actually understand, that you are making a decision that is best for you, your immediate family (if you have one), extended family, and even close friends.  Instigating change rarely makes you popular, but it can make you happier when you are engaging in only those traditions, or even starting new ones, that you really want and can afford to participate in.  It’s time to start some new ways of engaging in the holidays. 

So start some new traditions.  Think about what you really like about the holidays, and what you don’t.  Then, talk it over with the family and others in your familiar network who are close to you.  Decide what you want to do, and can afford to do . . . 2 different things entirely.  Base this on your resources – available time, money, and energy.

Now this is the hard part:  Inform those extended family members, friends, and acquaintances whose expectations you will not be able to fulfill this year of your situation, the earlier the better.  You might say, “I will not be able to participate this year due to my job search and limited resources."  Be prepared for arguments of why you have to from folks who want you to do what they want you to do!  But stand firm. 

Now, enjoy your holidays, knowing you are protecting your job search, and focusing your resources of time, energy, and money on what you actually want to do and can afford to do this holiday season.

Obstacle 3:  Ignored my advice and going anyway?
Decided to ignore my advice, and go on vacation or travel during the holidays anyway?  OK, then at least be smart about it!  If you do decide to take time away from your search, make an effort to keep your search moving forward while you’re vacationing or traveling out of your own geographic area.  Here’s how: 
  • Research the area you’ll be visiting.  Set aside a little time to job search, possibly while the family is off doing some activities.  Prior to your trip, identify prospective employers, staffing firms, and network contacts in the area who could be helpful to you in providing leads to opportunities.  Some job seekers exact a compromise with the family for a vacation destination.  Wishing to relocate to a different geographical area, they actually take their vacation in that city or state.
  • Keep your search going back home.  Advise hot employment prospects that you will be out of the area for period  of time, and attempt to step up your interviews prior to your departure.  Who knows?  Faced with the pressure of your impending absence during a prospective employer's interview period, you might get an offer to interview before you vacation using this technique.  If it leads to an actual job offer, better yet!
  •  Network from afar every day.  With today’s technology, you can network via your computer and phone from whichever corner of the earth you’re at.  Set aside a part of your vacation each day to stay in touch and connected with leads, employers, network contacts.
Using these three techniques, you can keep your search alive and moving forward during your vacation or time away.  

It boils down to this:  Keep your search moving forward
Job seekers who set themselves up for success are successful!

Those who think ahead, preparing their networks and keeping their job searches going, gain an advantage.  Many of your competitors in the job market don’t do either.  They initially jump into their searches unprepared, and then they slow or entirely stop their searches at times without realizing the costs incurred for doing so.  If you keep going, it’s your gain.  You gain the competitive advantage and win the prize  –   a new position.

So keep on networking, applying, meeting & greeting, and attending.  By staying in the game, the advantage is yours!

Wishing you great success,

Nancy

Twitter @ajcglobal.com. 
Blog:  http://ajc--careerstrategy.blogspot.com
website:  www.ajcglobal.com




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