Job Search Support Groups
Job Search Support Groups

To enhance their job search and make it more effective, many people are turning to the encouragement found in Job Clubs-groups for support, networking, and sharing tips on job hunting, resume writing, and interviewing. Many people find job clubs energizing and genuinely helpful in moving their job search forward.

I spoke about job clubs with Jolene Varley Handy, the Director of Career Services at Grace Institute. Jolene started a Monday morning job club four years ago for Grace Institute alumnae and I asked her to share what she's learned.

1. What made you start your Monday Morning Meetings? About four years ago I noticed people sitting alone with their laptops at my coffee shop, and I realized that for many, isolation is the hardest part of the job search. My experience also told me that people could become more focused and successful when they have group support.

In the beginning it was just a chance for graduates to meet, have a cup of coffee, and talk about their job search. We soon realized the potential job club meetings have for everyone: people could network with others, find peer support, and, very importantly, put together a weekly action plan. Giving structure to your week is crucial.

How have your job club meetings changed? We now try to take a holistic approach to the job search. Writing a good resume and networking are critical, certainly, but do you need to clear other hurdles too?

In our Monday Meetings, we help participants learn to self-direct their job search using the Internet, we share interview tips and job leads, and we have speakers involved with HR talk about what they are looking for in candidates. We've also found, though, that assisting our graduates to resolve issues standing in the way of employment is crucial.

For instance, we line up speakers to discuss issues facing the women as they seek work, such as finding affordable childcare or health care.

What else can you pass on from your experience? With the economic downturn, finding a job may take longer now, but things can change in a day - sometimes they do. I believe that as long as people participate, stay active, and focus on industries that are hiring even in this downturn like healthcare and education, interviews and jobs will come. Being successful in any job search, even in better times, takes a willingness to keep at it.

As part of your club, I also strongly advocate including volunteer work. It's a great thing to do, and it gets you out of the house and involved with helping others. A recent graduate from Grace was just offered a position at a hospital where she volunteered for two months.

If people are interested in joining a job club, a great deal of information is available online. You may also find information in your local newspaper, library, or house of worship. The important thing is to build structure, not be isolated, and ask for and find the support when you need it.

Mary Mulvihill Ed.D.
Executive Director, Grace Institute

For over 100 years, Grace Institute has provided tuition-free, practical job training in a supportive learning community for underserved New York area women of all ages and from many different backgrounds.