When I lost my job I had no idea what a job club (or job ministry) was. I was so busy working and doing my life that I didn’t know there were thousands of people meeting around the world, every week, to help one another. It took me a few weeks before I learned about a local job club, and a few more weeks before I got the courage up to go to my first meeting.
Get up the courage? What kind of wimp was I?
I made up all kinds of excuses to go. The most compelling was that I was too busy looking for a job to spend hours away from my workspace at a networking club full of unemployed people. Really, I was afraid, lost, and ashamed. Because of that, any excuse would work to keep me away.
Then, I finally went, and it changed everything.
Since I went to my first job club meeting I’ve spoken probably over a hundred times at job clubs around the United States. Going into these meetings has been an honor, and meeting the attendees and hosts has been a great strength in my newfound career. As I think about the power of the job clubs, I have come up with a list of ten reasons why I always recommend people find a local job club they should regularly attend. This list isn’t exhaustive, for sure, but any of these are great reasons to find and go to at least one job club a week.
As a job seeker it’s easy to wear the new uniform all the time: pajamas. You have nowhere you have to go, no one you have to see… so why take time to be presentable, ever? Maybe at first you shower and get ready for the day, but after a while you find yourself in bed with a laptop, maybe a bit depressed (definitely a lot unmotivated)… and after a while there’s no reason to ever change out of your PJs.
That might sound like an exaggeration, and maybe it is. But only a little bit.
Going to a job club means you must (should) shower, do your hair, shave, get dressed in something better than pajamas… sounds pretty minor but for many job seekers, this is a major victory. And it’s a benefit of going to a job club.
I know, I know. We want to be effective and work hard in our job search. This usually means fixing our resume, rewriting cover letters, responding to email, and applying to jobs.
Try this for a while and you’ll find that this is not the most important use of your time. It is, rather, an exercise in frustration. At some point in a job search, people become converted to the idea that they, even they, need to “network.”
Let’s not be so afraid of networking. While it’s not the silver bullet in your job search, it is definitely powerful. At a job club you have the opportunity to talk to other people (you might even call that networking). After staring at your screen for many weeks, this could be a great primer in relearning basic human communication skills! Remember, at some point in your job search you will have a face-to-face interview… think of talking to people at job clubs as preparation and practice for the interview that you want to nail.
Joking aside, there seems to be something bad that happens when all of your communication is electronic. Going to a job club and talking to various people helps minimize that.
As my job search went on I thought I was a world-class loser. My resume was great, they told me. I would get a new job so fast, they said. But the reality was that I was getting nowhere except further and further from a career. Who cared about my technical four year degree, or my MBA, or my past titles? I could hardly beg my way into an interview… and it didn’t take an expert to see that my self-worth was in a quick decline.
The first job club I went to was eye-opening. I was particularly interested in hearing Randy’s 30 second pitch… it sounded exactly like my own. A technical manager, with an MBA… we could have been peers (except he had 20 years experience on me).
Listening to him for just a few seconds was the reality check I needed. No, I wasn’t a loser. I had proof, in front of me, that other people with my credentials where (a) out of work, and (b) struggling in a job search. This person, who was awesome, just had to work through the system to find his dream job. And he did… maybe a month later he came in to report that he had landed. That gave me an enormous amount of hope.
Dick Bolles helped me understand that HOPE is so important in the job search, and the hope I got from Randy helped me more than I can describe.
As much as the internet is awesome, it is lacking. I promise, you won’t find out about all of the openings and opportunities, companies, industry news, and even other networking events online. Talking to people at these job clubs can open a whole new world to you. Ask people, especially people who are in your profession or industry, or who have the same target companies, what other events they go to? Build relationships with them to the point where they would feel comfortable recommending you to others.
At job clubs I’ve seen people share about this hiring manager or that opening (that isn’t posted yet). I’ve seen people share what other networking events they are going to, and ones to avoid. You are able to get valuable information from people who are “in the trenches,” spending hours finding and vetting the information. The sharing that usually happens at job clubs is astounding. I invite you to get to a point where you are bringing as much valuable information to the meetings as others are.
When I was deep into my job search I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing. The problem was that I had no guidance, and my strategies and tactics where outdated and ineffective. At the job club meetings I listened to others share what was working for them, and what didn’t work for them, and I was able to adjust my strategy based on that.
The job search feels very lonely. But it doesn’t have to be. When you finally walk in that room and see everyone as peers, colleagues, and helpers, all in the same boat and all willing to help one another, everything changes. Instead of going to the meetings to consume, you go to be a part of a team, and even contribute… and that’s when the magic happens.
Keep your ears open and you should learn a lot from others at these meetings.
The first time I went I was Mr. Deer In The Headlights. By the fifth time, I could tell I was a veteran job seeker, and I could help onboard the newbies. Five weeks didn’t make me an expert, and indeed, if I were an expert I’d have a job (right?!?!). But there were definitely times where I was able to help motivate, encourage, and even train (or teach) others. If nothing else, I just encouraged them to keep doing the right things (and maybe cut down on the ineffective things).
I love to help others. Giving gives me satisfaction and fulfillment. As an unemployed chump in my normal circles I felt I didn’t have much, if anything, to give. But at the job clubs I could get that high from giving and serving again, and it felt invigorating. This was part of the solution to me getting out of the dark hole I found myself in.
Not all speakers are going to be great. I once went and took two pages of notes of how bad the speaker’s advice was. It was offensive, and the entire audience was reeling with pain from this guy. It really was the worst presentation, as far as content and audience mismatch, that I’ve ever witnessed.
What did I (and everyone else) learn from that? That none of us wanted to work for that creep.
But generally the speakers are pretty good. Sometimes they are exceptional. If you have the right attitude, you can always learn something. Whether it’s a mental/attitude shift or a tactical tip, you should always walk away ready to do something better, more, or differently.
Having been a speaker at many job clubs, I encourage you to go into the presentation with a good attitude… but I still think that it’s critical to not go just for the speaker. Go for the networking, and the giving, and the helping, and you should have a rich, rich experience.
Yes, you are unique. Your challenges are unique. Believe it or not, there are people at the job clubs who really can help you. Even people who have a lower title than you can help you.
Listen, I know how hard it is to “lower” yourself to go to these meetings. Before I went I spent weeks thinking “I don’t want to go network with a bunch of unemployed people!” See the irony there? I was the exact type of person I didn’t want to network with.
What I learned was that these people were the most helpful people I would meet in my job search. It was amazing to go to a meeting and have so many people anxious to give me real tips, great feedback, and even introductions to people who I was trying to network into.
Once I lost my unfair snobbery and saw everyone as people who, first, I could help, and second, could actually help me, I walked away from those meetings happier, and armed with ideas, information, and a to do list (including responding to introductions) that were just what I needed.
By now you should have the idea that, at the beginning, I was too good for many of the people at these meetings. After a few weeks of wasting my time (and feeling uncomfortable) something clicked. I went to the meetings with one purpose: to help others. I wanted to be the connector, the one who would make introductions, the one who would encourage. I got a rush out of this, and I found that it helped me to help others.
I went from a consumer mode to a creator and contributor mode. And this was the most important thing I ever did at any job club.
It got to the point where I couldn’t wait for the speaker to finish, so I could talk to people. My one goal was to find (at least) one person who I could help. I became hyper-focused on it. I didn’t do it because of karma, I did it only because it was what I wanted to do. I lost myself in giving, and that gave back in spades.
I challenge you to focus on others, and think about how you can give and contribute, and see what happens. It can be amazing.
This group becomes one of the most special groups you ever get to be a member of. It’s been eleven years since I went as a job seeker, and I still stay in touch with some of the people who I met there. You look forward to being with people who understand your situation, and spending time in a place where you feel like you are contributing.
More than that, there is an element of accountability. As a job seeker it’s easy to get lost in other crowds, but in this group people get to know you and want to know that you are making progress. You get to stand up and introduce yourself, week after week. You get a chance to share your weekly wins, and ask for help in your losses. You get support from people who are as focused as you are in your goal to get gainful employment.
Nowhere else have I found this camaraderie, especially for job seekers. It shouldn’t be a pity party (although sometimes that happens, and that’s okay). It is one of the most strengthening experiences I’ve had in my life, at a time when I really needed it.
Can you tell I’m sold on the whole job club thing?
Whether you are in Houston or Austin, Seattle or Portland (either one), Orlando or L.A., or Podunk, U.S.A., or even overseas, find a job club you can attend, and make the best of it. It was, without a doubt, the single most important thing I started doing in my job search. That’s why I’m a huge advocate of job clubs, and why one of my first bits of advice to people anywhere is to find and start going regularly to a club near them.
If you find the job club you attend isn’t “doing it for you,” I encourage you to step up and help make the job club better. This is really your opportunity to make great things happen for you and for others.