I Just Work Here

Psst: It's OK to cheat on your employer

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At work in a coffee shop

At work in a coffee shop (Tim Robberts / The Image Bank / Getty Images / October 9, 2011)

As expected, this brought gasps and near-immediate signs of withdrawal. But her point is sound and, again, applicable to the employed and unemployed.

The computer has become a networking crutch. It is endlessly useful for researching companies and careers, and identifying industry trends and areas of opportunity. But electronic networking and purely electronic job searches are not the way to go.

"I call the computer the black box," Goins said. "It's like a slot machine that you have in your house. And that's about how much it's worth. You can apply for 400 jobs on the black box, and you won't hear anything back about any of them. You have to get off that black box and get out there and network face to face."

Think about the way you stay connected with most people. It's very likely through Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media networks, maybe through email. Half the time I communicate with co-workers via instant messaging rather than walking 50 feet and talking to them.

In a working world in which job security is dodgy at best, our dependency on electronic connections is risky. Whether you're out of work, in work and not happy, or in work and happy, it's foolish not to aggressively meet with people.

Go out to lunch with friends who work in other industries, grab a beer with former colleagues. Go to community meetings, hit industry conferences. Talk to people on the train (except for the ones who look like they might bite).

"The world is full of great people who want to help you," Goins said. "You just can't be afraid to get out there and meet them."

And you can't be afraid to flirt with other opportunities. You think your company wouldn't do the same thing behind your back, possibly ogle a younger employee who might do your job for less pay?

Get out there and play the field. Have a rendezvous with a recruiter. Keep a wandering eye, no matter how good your job has been to you.

This ain't love, it's business. And if you happen to find something that makes you happier, go for it.

Just tell your employer the truth: "It's not you, baby. It's me."

TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at ijustworkhere@tribune.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.
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