I have anxiety, worse I get intrusive thoughts that at times can really set me back and for lack of a better term plant me flat on my !@#. I have also maintained a full time job since 1988 (yes I am ancient). I’ve worked in many places and have had many different roles. How have I done it? I have worked on one important asset throughout my career.
The asset? A robust professional network. Now we hear this term, “a network” many times but what does it really mean? It means that you accumulate a list of people that you have worked with that are allies and references. Yes, it’s that simple but it’s critical because this asset can be the difference between getting a job and being unemployed. In the stress cesspool we all currently fight so hard to survive in, we have to have assets to help us survive. A good network is one of the best assets you can have.
Quick story – I lost a job in 2012 the company was sold, and headquarters were moved to Denver. I knew it was coming but like everyone else at the company I didn’t know when. I looked for another job, to no avail and then the meeting happened we got our last checks and I was driving home. There I was out of work, stressed and pretty bummed out. I was angry, I was scared, and I was desperate. I had to pull over. I called my wife and told her I was on the side of the road that I was okay but would be late. She got very scared, a police cruiser pulled up and he tells me my wife called them because she was afraid.
I explained the situation and told the cop I was just clearing my head. He understood, but told me I needed to go home. He followed me, I was humiliated. It was a very low point for me, my anxiety was in full bloom, intrusive thoughts were sweeping through me, and I was losing control. I got through it but the next week was horrible, my kids were scared, my wife was scared, I was scared.
I had bills, a family to support I was panicking. It took me weeks to recover from the stress, I recall sitting at my PC at home looking at jobs, and they all sucked. It was then that I reached out to my “network” which at the time consisted of 6 people. These were all professional contacts, none of them were great friends but we had worked together, and I had identified them as allies. Every one of them replied to me, 2 of them had jobs for me. One was at a much lower level then my last job, but it was benefitted, the other was a lateral move from where I was.
I was back to work within the month, because of my network. It’s critical for professionals to network with other like-minded people. This “network” is an asset that you need to maintain like your other valued items. I know this language may not sound normal for the maintenance of relationships but it’s critical to do this. How do you do it? Here are 5 tips to keep your professional network cultivated.
- A holiday email: Send your network a happy holidays email.
- Birthdays: if you know them, send your contacts a happy birthday email
- Do lunch if you can: From time to time reach out and see if they want to meet for lunch.
- Follow their social media: don’t stalk them of course but from time to time drop them a “hey” on their Instagram.
- Ask how things are going at work: They may be looking for a job too.
Keep it professional don’t go to personal (how are the kids, etc.) unless they do. Remember, as a person living with anxiety we need to look for help sometimes. It’s okay to need other people and its okay to use a professional network when things in your work life aren’t so rosy. I am so glad I had a network, who knows where I would have ended up. Ya we had a little money, we aren’t wealthy though. I recovered fast because I had cultivated this asset. I hope you never need one for the same reason I did but please, build one.