Is your community prepared to help?

[leave a light on for your network]

Warren Sukernek is looking for a job.

He told me about it and now I'm telling you.  Does telling you about this feel like I'm violating his trust?  It's OK – he's public about his status.

Warren did something that may seem counterintuitive after receiving his bad news – he reached out publicly and shared it.  His network responded in a big way, immediately starting to collaborate in helping him generate leads for a new job.

Today's corporations thrive by limiting information flow between employees.  For example, it's rare that you know the compensation of your colleagues. Open-air cubes foster cooperation – and management surveillance.  Separation agreements include clauses that prevent retelling of the facts.

Social tools give today's employees the means to connect with others and create a safety net independent of the corporation.  Let's face it: your at-work network is weak.  In research referenced by my colleague Kate Niederhoffer, the people we're likely to connect with are those in close physical proximity, not necessarily the people who are best positioned to help us.

Be warned:  not everyone can succeed like Warren did.  So start preparing in case of an emergency; don't wait until the snow has started falling before you run out to buy a shovel. How?
  • Make connections that matter.  If someone declines your LinkedIn or Facebook friend request, that's OK – they likely wouldn't be willing or able to help you anyway.  Don't fall into the ego trap of building numbers.
  • Keep your network primed.  You don't want a generator in the garage that won't start during the blizzard because you haven't tried to start it over the year.  Stay in contact with your network via regular conversation and participation. Comment on a Facebook status.  Reply @ a tweet, even if it wasn't directed at you.  The more you give AND take, the more these interactions will come naturally.
  • Meet people for real.  Tweetups may seem silly (the term certainly is) but those personal connections will form the basis of solid relationships.  In-person matters.
  • Bookmark resources.   My friend and former colleague Jeremiah Owyang maintains a web strategy job board.  He also organized a recent Silicon Valley Tweetup.  Other specialized resources certainly exist.
If you lost your job today, would and/or could you go public like Warren has?  Would your community be ready to activate and respond?  What else do you advise the people you mentor and/or what advice have you received that can help this community be better prepared?

 [UPDATE: Warren found a job.]