The Beginning of Something New
Standing before a room full of professionals in job transition, Grace Decker delivers a “Landing Report.” She shares the job search success of a recent participant in The Boardroom San Diego - “a job search resource, support and networking community which empowers people to plan, develop and implement effective career transitions” . The entire room claps wildly and gets ready for another weekly meeting, where everyone will support job search and career successes with scheduled career presentations, structured activities, and peer support.
When Grace began The Boardroom San Diego in June 2009, her plan was simple: to help people successfully manage career transitions through a collaborative, community-based approach that emphasized support and feedback, delivered content and instruction, and provided recognition and celebration. Along the way, she’s changed the lives of those she’s helped, as well as her own.
During the 1970's, Nathan H. Azrin (1930-2013) introduced the concept of “job clubs” to help the unemployed. While job search support groups grew to a standard strategy for career services programming, they have recently been incorporated into newer settings at a larger scale than ever before, creating another example of career convergence: groups now affiliate with churches or community organizations, offer online resources, a well-developed social media presence with rich resources, and a continued connection that unites people from different backgrounds in pursuit of a common goal: career success.
The Formula for Job Search Group Success: Purpose, Program, Plan
From the beginning, the purpose of The Boardroom San Diego was clear: Grace wanted to create a complete career transition service and experience for professionals experiencing job loss or facing transition. She combined her professional background in business and business development with her passion and interest in serving others and helping professionals connect to new careers to create a needed service in her community.
Each week, a different speaker delivers a different workshop related to career, job search, and professional success. This is crucial to The Boardroom San Diego’s success, and also a challenge: confirming quality speakers is an ongoing process that requires diligent work to establish and maintain relationships. To manage the program effectively and maintain balance in her own work-life, Grace stays active in her networks and communities, relies on program participants for referrals and suggestions, and works diligently to maintain a healthy relationship between the work and the other parts of her life.
For those of you career services professionals already working in organizations, why not consider offering your career development expertise to such groups in your community. For anyone considering starting a new group, or supporting an existing group, think through your programming structure and goals. While The Boardroom San Diego uses a rotating weekly speaker model, you can use the approach that fits your resources, goals, and clientele. Or, instead, you could simply collect and share information and resources about career and job search support groups in your area! Start with a simple web page of resources, and build from there.
Over time, Grace has seen the ebb and flow of participants, and works diligently to continuously offer a program and place where people in transition can find support, security and success. In order to keep things running smoothly, she recruits program participants to help with specific roles and activities, including guest registration at meetings, room setup and refreshments, and mentoring.
In order to plan for the success of your job search group efforts, ask these questions to help guide your decisions:
Will you be creating a new group from scratch, or supporting an existing group, perhaps as a partner?
Are there enough resources--people, money, space--to support the group?
Are there strategic partners you could enroll to support your group? Meeting space and speakers are great ways for organizations to contribute to job search success, which boosts the local and national economy!
What would be the greatest threat to the group? How can you plan around that?
Summary and Next Steps
Job search support groups can help people successfully transition from the trauma of losing a job to the stability of employment. In the process, group leaders can impact individual lives, their communities, and themselves.
Career development professionals can create new group programs or support existing group programs in their own area or even virtually through online services and applications like Google Hangouts and Skype.
How could you use the power of groups to support your success as a career development professional? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
Website for The Boardroom San Diego
Pope, M., Minor, C.D., & Lara, T.M. (eds.). (2011). Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling Classes and for Facilitating Career Groups (Vol. III). Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association.
Available in the NCDA Career Resource Store
Peirson, O. (2006). The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Companion website with free resources:
Websites with Job Search Group Resources and Information
University of Wisconsin-Madison Adult Career and Special Student Services
Great example of a well-developed job search support organization, with plenty of examples of different group formats, support resources, and inspiration for starting your own job search support group
Bryan Lubic, M.A., CCMC, is a Professional Development Advisor at San Diego State University. He is also a law school graduate and a certified career coach. Career Convergenceand NCDA appreciate his volunteer work as the Associate Editor of the Organizations Department. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.