Weekend Read: The Benefit of New Friends (with Benefits)

The United States economy added a paltry 120,000 jobs last month. A UCLA forecast predicts California will not crawl back to pre-recession bliss until at least 2016.

The politicians are not doing much to help, but it’s not like they can. Presidents and politicians, regardless of party, have almost nothing to do with recovery, as much as they’d like us to think so.

The Huffington Post reports today “more than a dozen states this month will lose eligibility for the second of two federal unemployment programs, subtracting as many as 20 weeks of benefits from the amount previously available to the long-term jobless. At the same time federal programs are changing, state lawmakers are making changes of their own. Arizona and South Carolina are currently mulling drug test bills, while Georgia recently slashed the duration of state benefits.”

The middle class is limping, gasping for air, like a runner with one ankle taped, approaching mile 20 of a marathon. Wall Street is happily churning along, but the lives of the 99% continue to be in a genuine pickle in a ramshackle economic recovery.

Our friends have been there for us as we navigate these choppy waters of economic uncertainty. They support us, hold us upright, urging us to keep walking.

They have checked out job leads for you at their workplaces, and have passed along the occasional link via text or email, and maybe even through a social post.

Our friends (and we) have strong social motivations – the need to belong to a group is a motivator, and we have an inherent need to share.  We share recipes, videos, links and yes, job leads too. By doing these things for our friends we can publicly show we are part of a particular group. This is the human essence of social media.

I spend a lot of time discussing this theory with my students. We spend a lot of time looking at social platforms, analyzing patterns of behavior amongst circles of “friends”.

If you are looking to break out of your current job/career, or merely looking for a better deal for yourself in this malaise, you are, however, going to need some new friends.

Are your current (real, analog)  friends the people you hung out with in high school?  From work? From your neighborhood or social class?  There is absolutely nothing wrong with hanging with your tribe, but by limiting your exposure to people like you, you place yourself in a box from where you are unlikely to hear radically different views of the world. You won’t  learn new techniques, or see different and perhaps better life choices in action.

One solution is to continue to embrace your current people, but try to find  additional friends from different backgrounds.

Posting “I need a job!” or “My job sucks! “on social sites will elicit a smattering of sympathetic/earnest/snarky comments and a couple of likes, but that post is a poor word choice. The danger of your current employer eventually noticing it is high, and you are not giving your circle any information about what it is you do want and what you can do.

Maybe you have a job, a spouse/partner, and 4 kids. Your time is largely not your own.

Maybe you are a recent college grad. You have way too much down time. You are bored and bewildered- a state that can be as paralyzing as the married with kids crowd.

You are trapped in sameness and familiarity. Comforting indeed, but you can create an expansion of your universe by meeting people out of your comfort zone. This increases your odds of securing the position that’s an upgrade from your former or current one.

I haven’t used the word networking up to now, because it is too generic. Of course you need to network- it’s the oldest proven strategy to career success.

I’m talking about new (digital or otherwise)… friends.

Take some time this weekend, avoid Facebook and pour through LinkedIn. Look at your connections, then look at some of their friends- the ones out of your zone.

You’d be amazed at who is willing to correspond with you, if you are sharp, savvy and not a stalker. If you have a genuine interest to learn about something you aren’t expert in, the vast majority of people on LinkedIn will graciously be willing to help.

In a future post, I will show you how to be a leader on LinkedIn, the kind of person that makes strangers want to be friends with you!

Stealing a phrase from media thought leader and USC professor Jerry Del Colliano, “Good happens anyway. Be prepared for it.”

Those new friends need your knowledge and expertise, too.

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