Many job seekers have or are facing long-term unemployment. One of the side effects of going long bouts without work is called “shrinking world syndrome,” in which job seekers fall into repeated patterns of inefficiency. It becomes harder and harder to break out of a rut as the world feels like it shrinks.
If you feel like your professional world is shrinking, you may feel increasingly helpless when trying to connect and grow your network. You could be struggling with ideas on how to utilize the small network that you still have. Here are some ways you can take advantage of your smaller network to regrow a shrinking professional world.
Sometimes, Weak Ties are the Best Ties
Nearly 30 years ago, a study by Johns Hopkins University showed that the best leads for job opportunities are more likely to come from more distant colleagues and friends as opposed to the closest ones. This isn’t because your close friends don’t give good recommendations, but because they are more likely to know about the same job openings, while the job openings known to more distant colleagues- those with whom you don’t interact very often- are not as likely to be known to your own friends.
The Hopkins University conclusion of opportunities coming from distant connections remains true today. A recent academic study shows venture capital firms concentrated in the traditional tech centers do better than other firms primarily because they “cast a wide, public net,” harvesting the results of their weak ties. Consider reconnecting with those old contacts you haven’t talked to in a while. They may have leads for you that your current network doesn’t.
Get Out of the House
Another step to take is to get out of the house. At least once a week, make a commitment to get out of the house and around other human beings, in person and face-to-face. It doesn’t have to be a huge networking meeting, but that can be one of the possibilities. It can also be doing something you enjoy, or meeting one-on-one with an old friend for coffee. Volunteering at local charities works great as well.
The main thing is to start an interaction at some level. Our world starts to expand when we share it with others. There are several websites to help you meet others. Meetup.com is a handy site to find like-minded people, and, depending on where you live, many groups can be related to your industry. Many LinkedIn groups also meet in person. So, check with the group organizer to see if they are organizing anything. Group members often post events on LinkedIn, so look for ones that interest you as well.
Modern job searching is about making quality connections. Embrace getting to know others, and your network will get bigger. Sometimes meeting just one person can change your job search, but that can only happen if you make the effort to get out of the house. What are some ways you’ve made the most out of your network?