The Buddy System: A Job Search Partnership

If you've ever lost a job before, you know the look of panic that crosses everyone's face when they hear that you’re unemployed. It's awkward at best.

Typically, that wave of panic will accompany a few specific responses. First is usually a question you don't want to answer like, "what happened?" Second is a question you're not ready to answer, like – "what are you looking for now?" And last and most common is stating the obvious. "That sucks. Have you contacted your network?"

These traditional responses are an emotional reaction to a difficult moment. No one wants to talk about the job search. It scares them.

Why? Because it's emotionally dangerous.

The job search is filled with rejection, impossible to predict, reliably disappointing, and requires constant evolution to plan. There's no right way or one way. The only thing most people know to offer up is networking, which is why it comes up so often in the awkward panic for a response.

Traditional networking principles would tell you to first call former co-workers and friends. While that’s an excellent strategy for finding a job, it leaves out an important job search component – the emotional side. A networking call is great, but you need more emotional support than someone can sacrifice in an hour. Plus, you don't want to use or abuse the people closest to you.

Instead, you need a buddy – a person who can stick with you throughout the process. While we don't often discuss the buddy system in relation to a job search, it's common in other hobbies and fields – like diving.

You never dive alone. Why? If you're sinking or in trouble, there's someone there who understands what you're going through and has similar tools that can save your life. A job search buddy can be that lifeline – especially a good buddy.

What makes a good job search buddy, and how do I find one?

The best buddy is someone willing to hear honest feedback and return it. Your buddy will be someone you set goals with and cheer on. They're eager to commit to this mutual endeavor, making sure you both succeed. Ideally, your buddy holds you accountable for weekly goals while also job searching.

There are a few people you should immediately strike from your list. For example, you can't make a family member, spouse, or good friend into your buddy. Family and friends can’t be unbiased about your job search – they're too close to it and invested in the outcome. Your buddy relationship needs to be a mutual feedback loop that won't get awkward around the holidays

You'll need to look outside your own four walls to find a buddy for your job search. Start by asking for help, likely from an acquaintance or even a stranger. Use social media, professional associations, Chambers of Commerce, or even your place of worship.

Look for a buddy anywhere you meet people who share similar values or goals. Ask them questions about their aspirations, work experience, and current strategy to qualify further if they’d be a good fit for this partnership. But be prepared for more rejection. Not everyone is interested in this mutual investment and that's ok.

While it takes courage to face more rejection, it's worth it to find the right buddy. A job search is often long and arduous – going it alone is tough on mental health. You’ll need emotional support and if you always reach out to the same people, they’ll burn out quickly. But with a buddy, you know there's someone you can count on to help you reach your goals every step of your journey.

Read on for more ways to make your job search a success: Job Search: The Journey Journal

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