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Job Search – Is There Safety in Numbers?

The employment search process is typically a lonely one. You’re out on your own, pounding the pavement, being stared down by an interviewer, etc. Not really a team sport, is it? There are ways, however, that you can create some group dynamics in a manner that will not only inspire you but may shorten your days “in the market.”

How, you say? Simple. Start a group. Seek out others in transition and find a place to meet regularly (a civic hall, house of worship, private residence, etc.). Provide coffee, tea and a treat (we typically offer bagels or doughnuts). We have found such meetings to be an exceptional opportunity to enhance the job search experience while providing some needed emotional support at a very tough time.

Why are they so useful? Here are some of the reasons we have identified through our years of running what we like to call Career Strategy Sessions:

  • Provides support and a safe place to share feelings, frustrations, etc. with other people going through the same process.
  • Creates a sense of community and support during a very challenging time.
  • Increases opportunities for networking and problem solving.
  • Sets up a sort of accountability system among attendees to keep each seeker honest and active.

Based upon our experience in running such groups, following are some key guidelines that you may find useful.

  1. Plan to meet no less than once a month. More frequent meetings may be useful, but getting together less often than once a month will reduce the likelihood that individual attendees will stay active. The meeting length is flexible, but we have found that roughly 2-2½ hours is adequate.
  2. Take turns leading the group (we’ll discuss the agenda below) and have someone in the group serve as a “secretary” to capture key questions, concerns, as well as identifying the action steps that individuals will commit to for the next meeting.
  3. Start each meeting with a brief introduction around the room. You are likely to find that the number of people attending will vary, with new people coming in, others leaving, etc. The leader needs to be sure that no one monopolizes the meeting or seeks to go into gory, graphic detail about his or her dismissal. These introductions should be short and focused – name, most recent position, employment target and present activity.
  4. Be sure to keep track of successes to share with the group each month, such as individuals finding employment since the last meeting, to share with those in attendance. Even if people have never met the “graduates” mentioned, they are likely to be inspired by success stories.
  5. The leader should have a topic prepared in advance for discussion, like handling rejection, following up on open applications, networking, etc., but should also be open to more pressing questions or concerns that come from the group. We have found it helpful to have the “secretary” note any key issues (putting them on a flipchart for reference is an excellent technique). Some our best meetings have come from focusing on concerns that were identified during the introductions.
  6. Near the end of the meeting, be sure to include something light and fun to give the group a chuckle. Laughter is powerful medicine. This process is not fun for most people – they could use some smiles. Lighter moments could include an amusing story from the job search, interview gaffes, short articles, videos, etc. We’ve shown sketches on interviewing and vocational guidance from Monty Python’s Flying Circus™, the Bob Newhart show where he ran his “Out of Work Workshop,” and have even shared amusing articles. The Internet is a goldmine of resources to entertain and inform.
  7. The meeting should close with open networking time. Be sure to allow adequate time for individuals to connect with each other, share phone numbers and email addresses, ask questions, provide insights, etc.

Looking for a job can be a lonely task, but it doesn’t HAVE to be!

Categories: Job Search
  1. Judith Higgins
    June 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I think I need to reconnect with your group! I have been out here on my own and it is lonely!

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