Self-Care Through Networking: How Connecting in a Challenging Economy Can Make a Difference
Did the title of this article cause you to pause? Are you asking yourself, “What does networking have to do with self-care?” Although the word “networking” can evoke a number of emotions, positive or negative (depending on who you ask), it’s true meaning is “the cultivation of relationships,” in whatever capacity that might be.
Now, the next question: What does networking have to do with Maslow?
Abraham Maslow is most commonly remembered for his psychological theory on human motivation, introduced in the 1940s. Specifically, Maslow outlined a hierarchy of needs, illustrated by a pyramid, the base representing our fundamental physiological needs and the tip representing the highest order need for self-actualization. Somewhere in between is the need for love and belonging—thus, our need to connect, to establish relationships, and to (dare I say) network.
In a challenging and competitive economy, it’s easy to get discouraged or feel alone in your job search. Cultivating relationships can not only enhance our feelings of social support, but can also enhance our professional pipeline. Most of us whether we realize it or not, already have a network. It’s just a matter of becoming more intentional about how we turn to it. Consider your existing connections among family, friends, peers, professors, alumni from your alma mater(s), former colleagues/employers, church members, and others with whom you affiliate based on a common interest. Make a list of those you know in order to assess which of your networks are strong and which ones could be further developed. Begin with your greatest supporters in order to:
- Share your career objectives/aspirations.
- Exchange employment leads.
- Ask for introductions to prospective employers or influential contacts.
- Establish an accountability partner to check in about your job search, celebrate your progress, and provide helpful feedback or an additional boost when you get stuck.
Once you’ve started the process with your current contacts, focus on expanding your network to include others:
- Set up informational meetings with people in your field/industry of interest.
- Visit your alma maters’ career services offices to inquire about job leads and institutional partnerships with prospective employers.
- Contact their alumni relations offices to connect with alumni in your area.
- Join organizations that align with your personal and/or professional interests.
Whether you are a new teacher candidate or clinical intern who is just entering the field, or a seasoned professional who has been laid off or is changing careers, the job search process can appear daunting and potentially exhausting. Therefore, it is important that you are practicing self-care by cultivating a community of personal and professional supporters, to help prevent discouragement and facilitate forward movement.
Yet on second thought, maybe “self-care” isn’t the best word after all. Maybe it’s “reciprocal care.” I have a feeling Maslow would agree.