Trade and industry groups have a low-cost way to create a win-win scenario by offering job search support as a community service offering.
I recently wrote about how and why industry associations and trade groups need to offer career development to their members (see Industry Associations are Dropping the Ball on Career Development). I’m calling upon them to offer another service: job search community support. We’ll look at why it makes sense for them to do this and how they can implement it at little cost.
If you’ve ever had to look for a job, especially when unemployed, it can be daunting. You can feel isolated and alone, without support. You can feel lost. You may have questions that web searches alone can’t answer.
One of the best ways to solve these problems is to find peers and form a group. I’ve benefited from this with the Technology Executives Networking Group and the NY CTO Club. Both organizations have sub-groups of people who are looking for jobs. Like any such group in any industry, we provide support (starting with not feeling that you’re alone), help each other with questions, and share job leads.
You don’t need to do it under a formal organization, anyone can create such a group or job-hunting peers. Phyl Terry offers free job search groups on this website. That said, existing industry associations and groups should very much get into the game here as it benefits both the organization and the members.
While your job search peer group can be made up of anyone else looking, there’s a benefit to having people in your industry. They understand industry subtleties and trends. What you don’t want is someone saying “hey, I saw this opening for a doctor at a hospital near you, you should apply” only to find it’s for an OB/GYN and you’re an ophthalmologist. That sounds silly but I got plenty of software development jobs passed to me earlier in my career for which I wasn’t qualified in the same way that the ophthalmologist may be a doctor but isn’t an OB/GYN. Sadly many people outside a field don’t always know the differences in roles in the field. Likewise, while I always advise people to have a diversity of fields in their networks, for most people, a majority of their contacts will be in the field they work in, and these are the ones most likely to get you jobs (statistically speaking).
Industry associations and trade groups already align on this. They have access to the people in the field and provide a common location for the gathering. Moreover, the organization is aware of trends and has connections into the field. This also ties into content and activities the groups already offer.
Running such a group isn’t costly in terms of time or money. It can be as simple as creating a monthly video chat group that one of the staff members moderate. The content is simply everyone going around the room sharing updates and then optionally a discussion of people’s questions or a topic the moderator selects. Examples of such topics would be: conveying success on a resume, unconventional job search tactics, or doing network outreach. Likewise, you could take an article, blog post, podcast, or video and discuss that as the meeting. If you want to get more formal, you can bring in a speaker or have more structured discussions. Depending on the size of the group it may be one group, one group with virtual breakout rooms, or multiple smaller groups that meet each month (or whatever frequency you want).
If an association wants to go further you can create an email list, slack channel (or other messaging service), or discussion forum within your online forum software. If you don’t have those, any can be set up for a cost of typically tens of dollars a month (in total, not per person). Here the group creates its own content.
In terms of pricing, it should be low to none. Typically, such industry associations have an annual fee paid by members, or by companies. Unemployed people don’t have companies to pay for them and cash may be tight. Offer this service for free, or for some nominal fee like $50. This isn’t your money maker. As noted above, the cost to the association is de minimis, and by supporting people in your industry when they need you most, you build goodwill and brand equity. You can go further and offer an unemployed rate that gets full access to all of your online services. (The catch is that when they ask for it, they have to show on their Linkedin profile that they are indeed unemployed. Employed people likely won’t have “open to work” and an end date for their current employer.) Again, the purpose is to help people when they need it and once they are employed again, they’ll have seen value in your group and will want to continue to be an active member (at a rate they can now afford). And, of course, these folks will not only get jobs but will rise in the ranks over their careers. They’ll encourage others to join or may even use their budget to make sure in the future that their whole team becomes a member of the association. This is brand marketing 101.
The job hunters get support, emotional as well as resources. The trade groups get, at little or no cost, content and events, plus the goodwill. On both sides this is a long-term investment. Helping people find jobs strengthens in the industry which is good for the association.
There are many ways people can create job search cohorts, and this certainly isn’t the only way. That said, industry associations and trade groups are in a unique position to organize them in a cost-effective way. Doing so benefits both the job seekers and the organization.
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