It's the trend in job hunting - networking. Outplacement firms emphasize this technique as 10 times as effective as answering ads in the newspaper or online. Web communities devoted to connecting people have sprung up, and many of them include job postings and referrals.
Lately I, too, have been riding the networking roller coaster. As one who is "in between opportunities" (as my outplacement firm calls it), I've had to dust off my résumé and get out there. And networking has boosted my confidence. I've found that most people are ready and willing to help. Local business expos and professional organizations provide many opportunities to meet new contacts. And on my favorite new website, LinkedIn.com, my own personal network will apparently allow me to connect with over 27,000 fellow professionals with a few clicks of my mouse.
But as in many areas of life, too much of a good thing can sometimes be overwhelming. Will all these contacts get me anywhere? How do I focus my efforts? Am I going in too many different directions at once?
The "net" image reminds me of the Bible story when Jesus' disciples were discouraged at the loss of their teacher. These fishermen returned to their nets, and the Bible tells us that for an entire night, they caught nothing.
Sometimes networking and job hunting can feel like this - going back to square one in striving to find our place in the world, and fishing and fishing but coming up with nothing.
Yet Jesus appeared to them, on the beach a little way off. He wasn't dead after all, but had returned. When he heard of their troubles, he suggested, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find." The Bible tells us that they obeyed, and then caught so many fish they weren't able to get them onto the boat (see John 21:1-6).
The message in this story for me is that insofar as our "net-working" is in obedience to the living Christ, Truth, we will get results.
In Guy Kawasaki's new book, "The Art of the Start," the final (and shortest) chapter is devoted to being a "mensch" - a Yiddish term for a person who is "ethical, decent, and admirable." Kawasaki quotes Samuel Johnson, who said, "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
Networking is an example of this. Sure, many people start networking because they're after something, such as a job or more contacts or clients. But this works only because there are people on the other end of the equation - people who want to help.
The fact that networking is blossoming in our culture today represents to me a significant new movement - universal, intelligent helpfulness. Networking connects people with one another on the basis of mutual values and trust. Ideals such as helpfulness and trust are like spiritual rocket fuel for the job search, because they're expressions of the one divine power source, God.
So in our networking, we can ask ourselves, Am I riding that wave of helpfulness, truly striving for the "menschood" Kawasaki talks about? Or am I scrambling around out of fear for myself and my future, limiting my approach at the outset? On which side am I casting my net?
This outlook has become a daily discipline for me. The more people I meet, the more I'm striving to see how I can help them, rather than how they can help me. As I pray each day before checking my job-search sites and e-mails, I take the time to appreciate the spiritual power behind receiving and giving help. I try to see myself and others as part of this unimpeded flow of good, as described in Mary Baker Eddy's "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible" (page 514).
My job search continues, with Christ leading the way.
Be kindly affectioned
one to another with brotherly love;
in honour preferring one another;
not slothful in business; fervent
in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing
in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.