One of the issues that is clear to me when it comes to career resilience is that we need to build our connections to other people. Humans are social creatures, built for attachment and primed from birth to connect with others, and the more isolated and alone we feel, the more fragile and rigid we become. Caring for and being cared for by other people is critical to our emotional and mental well-being.
Typically when we talk about our connections in a career sense, we use the term "networks" to describe the people we are connecting to. We talk about living in a "networked world" and how it's the quality of our networks and the people in them that will help us be successful in our careers.
The problem I'm having with this, though, is that the term "network" carries many connotations that I think get in the way of building resilience. Maybe it's me, but networks feel very transactional, focused on whether not you are "bringing value" to a relationship. We want to network with people who have power or authority or influence, people who can bring us something that will help us be successful. Networks have us thinking about the WIFFM--what's in it for me?--and that's hardly a recipe for resilience.
I also find the term "network" to be very mechanistic, making us feel like cogs in a machine. It calls to mind computer networks, which are simply collections of nameless, faceless machines harnessed together to accomplish some larger task. There's enough in the world that makes us feel that way. Why do we have to talk about relationships like they are machines too?
I think I might not be alone in my concern about networks as I find that the one thing that most job seekers seem to consistently resist is the idea of "networking." They know on some deep level that networks and networking don't carry the same relationship ideals that really resonate with us as human beings.
As someone who believes that "words create worlds," (an appreciative inquiry concept), I think we need to think differently about the relationships we are building in our lives, focusing not on building "networks," but on building circles of connection.
As human beings, we have a deep, primal relationship to the circle. It is a universal symbol, found in all cultures. From our earliest days, we have gathered in circles around the campfire to receive protection from the dangers of the dark and we have used circles in our spiritual and community practices to represent inclusivity, connection and belonging.
Circles represent sanctuary--those who are in the circle receive protection from and provide protection to those who are gathered with them. This sense of safety and containment is critical to developing our resilience because it strengthens the sense of attachment we feel to other people and our sense of safety so we can relax and trust.
Circles also represent inclusivity and wholeness. Whenever we see the symbol of a circle, we are drawn to enter it. It is inviting and suggests that we come closer to experience its warmth.
While networks carry a connotation of information and messages carrying ever outward, circles close the loop. They emphasize the cyclical nature of life and experience and remind us that "what goes around, comes around." What we put into the circle will eventually cycle back to us.
Circles can be small, with just a few people, or large. They can intersect (think Venn diagrams), interlock or be completely separate. We can have a few circles or many circles. If our goal is resilience, though, it's the circles that will provide us with the support and nurturing we need.
For me, thinking about expanding and building my circles feels far more energizing and supportive of resilience than does the idea of "building my networks." Circles resonate at a very deep, emotional level, and connecting for resilience is about creating those deeer connections.
What about you? How does the idea of building a circle compare to building a network?