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Reach out for a big Jewish hug

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As the saying goes: “It’s a small Jewish world.”

I say, “Use it.”

I was on the phone with a friend the other day, recapping a funny Saturday night we’d had at a party. The hosts were from Deerfield and she and I are from Highland Park.  We knew the hosts and a few of their friends. After playing some serious, Jewish geography that evening, it wasn’t long until about 50 of us discovered we were mishpuchah.

My friend recalled the theory of six degrees of separation when meeting people, and pointed out that in the Jewish world, it’s two degrees. I would argue that with anyone you meet from north suburban Chicago, it’s one degree.

In leaving the North Shore, going off to college in the Midwest and returning to Chicago, I never, for a moment, lost sight of my Jewish suburban neighbors. 

While it’s fun to wax nostalgic at a party or out at a bar, I never imagined how useful these networks could actually be.

I don’t want to be mistaken for an opportunist—these networks have often found me. However, you can seek them out.

This year, I began working for the Chicago Tribune’s Triblocal, a hyper-local niche publication that focuses on Chicago’s surrounding suburbs. Ironically, I was assigned to report on the North Shore. 

As time goes on, more and more of my mishpuchah have been coming out of the woodwork. Some have become great sources for story ideas, but others are actively looking for employment during these difficult economic times.

To all of you 20- or 30- something displaced suburban refugees living in Chicago, I have a couple helpful hints: Don’t forget your roots and never stop networking, whether you’re employed or not. Jews are not only notoriously charitable, but they also love to schmooze. There are even Jewish networking events throughout the city.

But, your own network is bigger than you think. If you’re already in the practice of spying on old high school friends on Facebook, spy wisely—check out where they’re working and whether there are any openings. That’s how many have contacted me, and I try to help when I can.

If you haven’t visited the Twitter-verse yet, check it out. You may find that tweeting with fellow Jews will give you some unexpected leads. What is Twitter, but a big virtual handshake—or in our case, a big Jewish hug?

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