I've been reading a number of studies lately that point out how important our social connections are.
Bear with me for a second (I know, my eyes tend to glaze over when people reference studies too, but humour me), in one study, a team of researchers looked at how social connections at different stages of life can affect health. The team measured important key factors to assess mortality risk--things like blood pressure and inflammation in the body for example and related these to different levels of social connectedness (I think I might have made that word up).
The results showed that social isolation could have the same negative effect on health as other risk factors, with the team finding that in adolescence, social isolation increased the risk of inflammation in the body the same amount as physical inactivity, and in old age social isolation had an even more harmful effect on blood pressure than diabetes.
Building up a network of professional and personal allies
I've had many clients tell me that aside from not feeling as though they had a solid professional network, they also felt like they didn't have a solid network of friends.
To me, a solid network of professional contacts might be what I'd refer to as a 'Layoff Lifeline". Do you have at least a dozen people you could lean on for support if you were laid off tomorrow? Perhaps, three or four professional references, in addition to a few people inside and outside of your current company you could reach out to as allies to help you get the word out that you're looking to land your next role? This is what you should be shooting for at minimum.
In terms of personal support, who are the one or two supportive people in your life you would be able to share your feelings with if your job went away tomorrow. These are the friends who will remind you of how awesome and worthwhile you are no matter your employment status.
Dig the well before you're thirsty.
An important part of my work has always been to help people engage. Engage with others both personally and professionally. Of course this is an important element to career change and job search that many find uncomfortable and tricky. Don't panic if you don't have a vast network. Of course the best time to have started this would have been years ago--to have dug the well before you got thirsty, but the second best time is now. So start now. Don't wait until you feel desperate for support to ask for it. I have found a way to teach this that I'm told makes it begin to feel natural and well, kind of effortless--even during COVID. No matter if you're an introvert, shy, or even feeling a little bit anti-social. A little bit of work each day on engaging and strengthening our contacts and connections can be such an important behavioural vitamin to take. I fully believe in the power of social capital. We need these supports always but especially now.
Reach out to me if you'd like me to send you one of my networking tricks. I've got lots of them. From a daily practice you can implement (it's almost as easy to do as not to do), templates for when you're not sure how to approach someone on LinkedIn, and some you can use even when you simply feel a little awkward about saying hello to somebody you know but have lost touch with. Why not start engaging by reaching out to me? It's as easy as sending me a DM on Instagram. Good luck!