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Nurture and Leverage Your Personal Support Network

Losing your job, searching for another one, and returning to work after a period of unemployment can create stress and hardships for you and your loved ones. A personal support network can help you make the best of these difficult times.

Here are some ideas for identifying the people you know who can provide support and with whom you might build mutually rewarding relationships.

  1. Divide a sheet of paper into two columns. In the first column, list anyone you know who might be willing to provide you with support. The list should include members of your immediate and extended family, friends, neighbors, and members of religious congregations, groups, or clubs you belong to.
  2. In the second column, list the types of assistance you might need including:
    • information or advice about resources and strategies for overcoming challenges related to unemployment and your job search.
    • practical assistance, such as help with transportation, child care, household repairs, or running errands when you're pinched for time.
    • material assistance such as temporary financial support, food, clothing, or other household essentials.
    • emotional or psychological support, including encouragement: someone to listen sympathetically when you share your disappointments, worries, and frustrations; someone to offer a fresh perspective or way of thinking about your situation.
  3. Next, match each person you listed in column one with the type of assistance in column two that they can provide, or the type of support you feel comfortable asking for from each of them.
  4. On a separate sheet of paper, again list the names of people who could help you. Next to their names, list ways that you might be able to assist each of them. The best way to develop and sustain your network is to make your relationships mutually beneficial.
  5. Look for ways to help others. Offer that help before people ask for it.
  6. When you ask for support, be specific. Even close family members can't read your mind. Take care not to overwhelm any individual with excessive requests. Look for ways you can return the favors people have done for you.
  7. Plan ahead and identify times or situations when you're likely to need extra help. Give the people in your support network as much advance notice as possible. Let's say you've signed up for workshops in your local One-Stop Career Center or have scheduled job interviews for the following week. If you expect to need help with transportation or child care, for example, notify the people who could help you as soon as possible. Give others enough time to make arrangements so they can assist you.
  8. Express your appreciation when people provide support and remain alert for opportunities to reciprocate.
  9. Make time each week to keep in touch with people in your support network by calling, writing, emailing, texting or meeting with them. When you're in regular contact with people, it's easier to ask for help when you need it, and also to learn of opportunities to assist them.
  10. Maintain as positive an outlook as possible. People are generally more willing to help people who maintain an upbeat and optimistic attitude in the midst of difficulties. It's fine to share your concerns and worries with family and friends, but when they ask, "How are things going?" begin by noting something that is going well before sharing negative issues.
  11. Moods and attitudes can be contagious, so surround yourself with people who have a positive outlook. Complainers and pessimists will deplete your energy and dampen your mood. Spend more time around people who encourage you to feel good about yourself and your prospects. If you must be in the company of someone who's not feeling positive, try to do so when you're with a group. This way, the positive energy of the others in the group might lift everyones's spirits.
  12. Expand your network. Carve out several hours each week from your job search activities and other responsibilities for free or low-cost activities you enjoy that involve other people. Volunteer for an organization that offers opportunities to do things you enjoy doing. Ask a librarian at your local library to show you ways to find local groups organized around activities or interests. Consider using social media websites to help connect to people who have interests and hobbies in common.
  13. Be open to striking up relationships with people who do not share all of your interests and values. The more diverse your network is, the wider a "net" you are casting for opportunities to come your way.