How to Rebuild Your Community After a Layoff

If you're like most Americans, you'll lose more than a job when you're fired--you'll lose your community.

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When you lose your job, you lose more than a paycheck. You lose your community.

Many workplaces are like families. Companies encourage this because an emotional attachment to your coworkers and a desire to support them is often what’s behind your “choice” to work nights and weekends for no extra pay.

You may even be one of the increasing number of Americans who has few or no friends outside of work, which makes losing a job an emotional, as well as financial, blow.

This is bad because isolation is debilitating. Sure, you can join Toastmasters, volunteer at the food bank, or take up ballroom dancing. But if the prospect of all that exhausts you, try this: Identify one person you know who has a ton of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. Everyone knows someone like this.

Now this idea may sound simplistic, but that’s the beauty of it. Take this person out to coffee. Explain that you’re looking to expand your range of acquaintances and ask for the names of five new people—both those who might lead you to a new job and people who would just make good friends.

Why would this person oblige? First, it’s a flattering request and, second, you’re buying the coffee. But, third and even more important, it’s specific. You’re not whining, “I know no one.” You’re asking for five names. It’s a clean transaction with a clear beginning and end.

Voilà. You’re on your way to building a new community—one not dependent on any particular job.

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at karenburnsworkinggirl.com .

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