Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without

by Tom Rath

Gallup Press, 240 pages, $14.46

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Friends are often considered to be items that don't mix well with work. Your friends are usually the people you see outside of your professional life and there are good reasons to keep them separate. Vital Friends reexamines relationships from many different angles and is especially relevant for career seekers looking to add weapons to their job search arsenal. Friends are obviously critical components during your search, but this book goes the extra mile and gives readers insights into furthering on the job relationships, getting the most out of past ones and truly valuing friendships.

"Who expects you to be somebody?" is the question that Rath asks early on in the book. In other words, who are the people you don't want to let down — your support system when things get tough? He cites a study of homeless people that uncovers an interesting fact. Although many of them are addicts, this condition seems to be more of a symptom. In fact, many of their downward spirals into addiction were predicated by the loss of a close friend or friends.

Vital Friends introduces the concept of "Energizer friends" who have the ability to encourage and lift spirits. Various professionals testify about co-workers who can make them laugh or calm them down in stressful situations. "If you want to relax and have a good time or need to get out of a rut, call an Energizer," writes Rath. This is solid advice for those who need to keep positive during a job search and can also use friends for practical purposes like conducting mock interviews.

The bottom line that Vital Friends proves is that many people succeed or fail based on the support and involvement of their friends. Examining the eight vital roles that friends can play shows what you can derive from cultivating different relationships. When Rath writes about being a better friend, this is great advice for career seekers who must understand that they are far more likely to receive key help from people when they themselves make an effort to help others.

Vital Friends is a must read for career seekers looking to start a dialogue with friends regarding their search. Readers will appreciate the suggestions supported by Gallup Poll research, and professionals in collaborative groups can learn about group dynamics from Rath.

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