I could be talking about eating right, or yoga, or meditation. Those are all good things. But there’s something that provides even more immediate benefits for your career and life. I’m talking, of course, about building your network. Here’s some research to back that up.
People over 50 take longer to find jobs
A recent NY Times article cited the research of Professor Connie Wanberg from the University of Minnesota, who analyzed and synthesized hundreds of studies related to job searches.
“According to a study by Professor Wanberg and others, job seekers over 50 were unemployed 5.8 weeks longer than those from the ages of 30 to 49. That number rose to 10.6 weeks when the comparison group was from 20 to 29…
In their study, the researchers found that older people on average had smaller social networks than younger people…in the job search process, the number of connections we maintain in our professional and personal networks is often critical.”
What you can do about it
Professor Wanberg said, “the job search strategies they once used may become outdated — especially as technology evolves ever more quickly.” What to do?
“The cure for these drawbacks is fairly straightforward. Once you hit your early 40s, even if you are not looking for a job, work to learn new skills and stretch yourself, Professor Wanberg said. Also, keep your networks strong by staying in touch with former colleagues and classmates, along with current co-workers and clients whom you don’t see regularly, she said.”
Unfortunately, that straightforward cure eludes most people, and it’s one of the reasons why we’re spreading the practice of Working Out Loud. Even if people understand the importance of a network, most people don’t know what to do or how to do it. In contrast, people who join Working Out Loud circles build a network toward a goal they care about in 12 weeks. In that time, it becomes a habit they can apply toward any goal.
"Instead of playing career roulette, you invest in deepening relationships. Instead of networking to get something, you lead with generosity. You make your work visible and frame it as a contribution. Combined, these elements form a powerful approach to work and life."
Why you should do it now - at any age
If you think this doesn’t apply to you because you’re younger, just wait for the next change in your firm, in the economy, or in your life. The sooner you can learn how to build a network, the sooner you’ll have more control and will feel better about work and life - the present as well as prospects for the future.
I only began investing in relationships and networks in my mid-forties, and while I wish I started much earlier, this old proverb applies:
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
No matter how old you are, start learning now about ways to build meaningful relationships and you’ll have more time to enjoy the benefits.