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It takes a village – to get a job

I realize this sounds like a version of “Take out your handkerchiefs”, but again, Aunt Toby is going to tell you to make a list. This is going to seem a little bit…weird, but bear with me here. You’ll need paper and at least two colors of pens or markers or highlighters™.

Write down, in no particular order, your friends. They don’t have to be close friends, just all the people who you interact with on a regular basis: clubs, organizations, church, work, your kids’ school, etc. Get ‘em all down.

Then take out a different a marker or highlighter™ or a different color pen and somehow designate the people on that list that you currently work with or who perhaps you used to work with but who still work in the same company or organization that you do. Then take out a different marker and put a check mark next to all the people on that list who you do ‘other stuff’ with (go for coffee, movies, drinks, clubs, etc. ).

How many people on your list are people you work with AND also socialize or do ‘other stuff’ with? If more than half of them are, then you’ve got work to do….hard work…adult work…work you probably have not had to do in decades.

You’ve got to make some friends.

Don’t laugh. Making friends is hard work. Think of how kids make friends at school or in the neighborhood – there are delicate negotiations (would you like some of my cookie?), deal making (I’ll trade you this for that), and diplomacy. Most of us end up with most of our friends from work because – those friends don’t take any work on our parts – they are just there. And we become very comfortable in terms of making them part of our lives. I know people who have literally been friends with the same people at their work since they joined the company decades ago; they and their families do everything now as families: vacations; their kids go to camp together, date one another. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Until there is a mass layoff. sucks..big time.

“After a major downsizing among municipal workers in Finland, the risk of death from a heart attack went up fivefold for those who lost their jobs….. evidence in the United States has been mixed, but research has found that people who lost a job in their 50s were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the next decade.
It’s not just those who lose their jobs who are at risk of serious health problems or premature death. In Finland, even those municipal workers who weren’t actually downsized were more likely to die sooner, says Hadler. In the United Kingdom, the “Whitehall studies” included a glimpse of a group of civil service workers whose jobs were threatened by a planned Thatcher-era privatization. The research found declines in both physical and mental health after the announcement, says Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London and the principal investigator for the studies. Research in the United States led by Sarah Burgard, a sociologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, has shown that job insecurity can be as bad for your longer-term health as a bout with a serious illness or even an actual job loss.

Job Loss and Health

Now, what these studies looked at was stress and job loss, but I know, because Aunt Toby has been through two swings on this job loss door, that one of the major stressors and depressors is ‘social loss’. If you lose your job and most of your friends are people you work with – they won’t be your friends any more. Instant Leprosy.

Trust me – it’s like getting a divorce; your spouse’s friends are not your friends any longer either. And if there is a mass layoff, then there are two factors going: you all will have lost your jobs, your social culture and will be under those stressors plus– there will be hundreds of you out there scrambling around, looking for a job. That does not make for charitable behaviors, believe me.

Which brings me back to friends.

When you lose your job or if you are in danger of losing your job, the people you need to consult with, talk with, ask for help from, get your resumes into the hands of, network with – should definitely NOT be the people you would have to compete with for jobs. This is not to say that joining a professional society in your local area is not a good idea – as a matter of fact, it is a great idea because you will meet people who do what you do up and down the scale and they are many times your best avenues to getting your resume into the right hands.

But the guy who you share cubical space with, who is married, with three kids, a mortgage, car payments and a three year orthodonture program for his 15 year old? He is definitely NOT going to call you up and say, “Hey, Fred; I heard about a job that I think you’d be more perfect for instead of me.” Trust me – survival of the fittest never included “love thy neighbor”.

So, look at that list. When was the last time you did something new? Joined a new organization? Joined a professional organization? Joined the local branch of your college alumni organization? Checked out (no, it is not a hooking up site – it’s a way to meet people who are interested in the same stuff you do, whether it is college alumni, professional and technical groups, religious groups and so on – the DC area one, for example goes on for pages and pages and includes everything from knitting and sewing, to college alumni groups, people interested in getting jobs on the Hill, IT professionals interested in fraud investigations, etc. )

Remember what your mom used to tell you on your first day at school? Riiiight…”go make some friends.”

Great for your career – great for your health, too.

(photo courtesy of carf )

This posting can also be found at: Oxdown Gazette at

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