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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reach out - People dig helping

Networking, networking, networking. That's what everyone says is the only way to find a job, especially in a tough economy. We call it networking, my guy thought it felt like begging for help.

You see, my guy is fiercely independent in some ways. He's been on his own since he was in his teens and has always found ways to be successful. He clings to his independence like our 11 year old clings to his DS (old people read: gameboy). The perplexing thing about this is when he was working he was the best collaborator. His entire world was connecting the right distributors with the right end users and the right consultants. His entire career success was based on collaboration. When it came to the job search, I found him firmly rooted in front of his laptop reeking of independence.

I didn't talk of this until it became the stench of independence. Finally I said something sweet and kind like, "No job I know of has been found sitting in front of a laptop at our kitchen table." this was not one of my finer coaching moments. Sometimes I fall into the Gillian on The Biggest Loser category. This was one of those days.

I asked him to make a list of everyone he knew that could help him network. I might as well have said, line up for your root canal. At the time I didn't really know what was holding him back. I think I actually started talking slower like he just couldn't understand what I was saying or maybe all of a sudden I was speaking a different language. Finally, after a pitiful attempt at a list I said, "what's going on?" And then I looked him in the eye and tried to feel and listen.

It took more cajoling then I'll elaborate on here but finally he said "I can do this myself, I don't want to go bugging people to help me." I was a bit shocked at first because I'm the queen of networking. I softened my approach because I could tell this was really bugging him.

Once again, another one of those whacky situations when everything we know and everything that has made us successful in our career short circuits when the job goes away. It's like we're unplugged with the red light flashing and no charger cord in sight.

Finally, after a more loving approach I said, just test this out. I really think people like to help and don't see this as begging for help at all. I urged, "Go call Dave and ask him to lunch. See what he says." He begrudgingly went outside to call Dave so I didn't witness the phone call to critique his approach. (not that i would do that, wink wink)

He came back in smiling, smirking really and said, "I'm having lunch with him on Friday, are you happy?" :) I was happy. I knew it took courage to make that call. Real courage. Here's a guy that has snow skied in places that most people would have rather helicoptered down and he needed courage to call an old neighbor to ask him to lunch.

The other whacky part is, my guy really likes to help other people. His favorite activity is to go out after a big snow in his 4 wheel drive and look for people he can pull out. Clearly there's some testosterone involved in that decision too but kindness is always involved. For someone that is kind and helpful why would you question that someone would have an interest in helping you?

Once again confirmed .... job hunting sucks and the challenges make us stronger.

Over the course of a few weeks, this got easier. He would come home from lunch or the coffee shop having 'networked' and always a bit surprised at how helpful and willing people were to reach out and help.

This week I emailed a previous client that I knew for a short time, a really short time before he moved out of state. I had seen on LinkedIn that he knew someone at a company that my guy was applying at. This client, in no time, picked up the phone and called me back. He was so excited to help. He was coming up with so many ideas on how he could help. I was overwhelmed. I said, "I am so grateful for your help." He said, "Hey, this is fun. How cool will this be if something comes of it!" Darned straight, how cool will it be if something comes of it.

Even if it doesn't....

Here's my theory. Most people have jobs that aren't all that fulfilling if we're lucky enough to have a job. In the daily grind of whatever our schedules are we're all secretly or openly looking for meaning, a purpose. Knowing that we might be able to help someone charges us back up to go out and do the daily grind. Knowing that we have connected someone to something meaningful rocks, anyway you slice it. And if there's a $4 coffee involved, even better!

Recession lesson. We really are all in this together like it or not, so we might as well reach out a hand to help or reach down to grab one. Got anyone that needs a hand?