paper-men-woman“We are hardwired to connect with others,” in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

As a Job Search Coach who works with many people struggling through long-term unemployment, I am amazed at how much Brown’s message extends into my world. A loss of connection or community leads to isolation, leaving people vulnerable and wracked with anxiety and shame. What is a layoff but the expulsion from the “community” of your company?

What stings is that the number-one most crucial element for success during a job search is confidence. When we’re living in isolation or feeling vulnerable, anxious, and shameful, we’re a far cry from confident. In that moment, confidence is a land that isn’t accessible by boat, plane, or train—it might as well be another planet.

Finding, creating, and joining community is the first step toward rebuilding confidence. When I’ve felt my most vulnerable and isolated—when I had to rebuild my community from scratch—here is what my world looked like:

  • My first day at college. None of my high school friends went to my university, which was more than two hours from my home town. When my family drove away from my new dorm, I cried with such an intense fear of the unknown that I had to bury myself in my belongings and gasp for air. Then I had to muster the confidence to set out on campus and claim it as my own.
  • When I moved to a new town. I left Colorado after 20 years and moved to a town where I knew no one, in a state where I hadn’t lived in 20 years. One of my first acts of connection was developing a mom’s group at my daughter’s daycare. Nearly two years later, many of those women are the basis of my Chicago community.
  • When I started a new job. On my first day in a 200-person tech company, I was sitting in a windowless office alone without a friend. I knew the only way to get over the nauseous feeling of vulnerability was to step outside and connect one person at a time.

It’s often community that keeps us in jobs we know (at least subconsciously) we should leave. We’ll suffer through poor leadership or lack of career growth if we feel a kinship with our co-workers—especially if we have no community outside of work.

People are hardwired for connection. This is a piece recruiters ought to take note of when tempting the employed with new opportunities of money and bigger titles. How will they fill the community piece? How should they address this primal need for connection?

This theme of community has been relevant during many of my mentoring sessions with clients over the last few weeks. The job search can be an isolating process. If you’re living alone, if you spend every panicked moment on job boards, if you’re afraid of leaving the house because it wastes productive job-search time, or if you’re working as a solo employee in a remote location and have no one to come home to at night, lack of community will beat you down.

I believe that the best thing you can do for your job search is to shut down the computer, get out of your house, and seek out community. In community, networking happens naturally.

Community can be found by:

  • Volunteering – Consider volunteering with a local organization where you can sign up for a regular shift, maybe at a soup kitchen or the library or at a museum.
  • Joining a club – Get involved with a hiking club, a scrapbooking club, a book group, a medieval re-enactment group. Meetup is a great online site for finding groups in your area. LinkedIn groups often tout local events or regular get-togethers.
  • Getting together with friends on a regular basis – Be the group facilitator to get your friends together on a semi-regular basis to attend trivia night at a pub, to meet for a regularly scheduled Saturday-morning coffee, or to get out and get active (hiking, biking, rollerblading).
  • Improving yourself with a group – Join a local Toastmasters club, partake in a regularly scheduled fitness class.

It’s only from engaging in our world and helping others that we understand our place and our value. Random conversations will occur when you’re out and about, and those conversation trails often lead to new opportunity. Your job search needs a break to bloom; let it go and allow yourself the space for something new to enter.

Find your tribe, your group, and regrow your identity as part of the group. When you do land that next opportunity, this part of you still exists—you are more than your job.

I invite you to share examples of communities and how you became a part of them. Do you have stories of rebuilding community? What advice can you share with others who have lost theirs and need help finding their way back to belonging?

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