Job-search clubs and career support groups have been around for a long time. But with so many mid-career professionals out on the street, the topic is timelier than ever.
New York career coach Win Sheffield offers the following blueprint of how a self-organized career support group should work. The idea is to give job-seekers and career changers the opportunity to regularly discuss their trials, tribulations and (hopefully) triumphs with others whose background and experience are different.
The group should consist of no more than five members, representing different industries but similar levels. "Members at similar levels with diverse backgrounds bring diverse strengths to the group," Sheffield says. Members will be at different stages in their search, which magnifies the group's value as well.
Meet for an hour each week to review accomplishments, priorities, and goals. Begin with a commitment to keep meeting for a set interval, such as three months. The commitment can be renewed when the period ends, or adjusted as members land jobs.
Each member speaks in turn, reviewing progress since the previous meeting, asking the group's help on some matter such how to best follow up with a new contact or refine an elevator pitch, and stating short-term goals to be accomplished by the next meeting. In addition, Sheffield recommends setting "boundaries for raising emotional issues that are comfortable for all group members."
Meet somewhere quiet enough to minimize distraction and allow note-taking. Limit any refreshments to coffee or tea, since a full meal can be distracting.
An outside leader isn't necessary. A group member can act as facilitator, keeping time and making sure everyone gets a chance to speak. The facilitator's role can rotate with each meeting. State up front how long each participant will be allowed to speak. The facilitator can give a 1-minute warning.
There should be explicit agreement that members will keep confidential everything said in the group.