Membership Has Its Privileges

Throughout the country, state-provided resources for job seekers are drying up.  Staff shortages, mandatory layoffs and furlough days that close facilities all impact the employment offices’ ability to provide comprehensive one-on-one services.  It wasn’t that long ago that if you were out of work, you could have gone to your local unemployment office, talked to a counselor and received help in your job search.  The likelihood of that happening again is pretty remote.
Obviously, employment offices are overcrowded and staffs overworked because of the huge numbers of people filing claims and looking for work.  The unemployment rate across the country is still very high.  (Let’s not forget that the “official” numbers reflect only those who were eligible for unemployment benefits, and do not include the hundreds of thousands out-of-work who have never filed a claim, or whose benefits ran out a long time ago and who are still not working.)  And while in many states an application for unemployment benefits can be filed online 24/7, the high volume of out-of-work people combined with tightened state budgets will continue to impact the unemployment office’s ability to provide comprehensive and timely services.
So if trained staff are not available to help you in your job search, is the local (un)employment office a viable place to look for your next job?
In many communities, job clubs have been a staple for job-seeking professionals who want to network, reinforce old skills, learn new skills, and gain access to the latest employment announcements.  These job clubs are frequently operated by volunteers who work under the supervision of the local employment development office effectively providing a forum for people to help each other in their quest to find gainful employment. The quality of services and information can of course vary greatly from one club to another, but a motivated group can be very effective at providing a dynamic and viable community resource.
Sometimes these job clubs are set up through community groups independent of the employment office, but the goal remains the same: to create a space to encourage the unemployed or underemployed to meet other job seekers, share job leads and hiring trends, and provide encouragement and support.  Whether part of a state’s employment programs or independent, many clubs provide job seekers with access to computers for viewing online job boards, help in writing their cover letters and resumes, even learning new software.  Some clubs even provide workshops on interviewing, or training in hard and soft skill areas that might need reinforcement, and others are able to present guest speakers from local businesses or other presenters who can enlighten and encourage.
Job clubs are an important resource – wherever they are located – but they can also be too much of a distraction.  Because these clubs’ functionality is dependent on the dedication and hard work of volunteers, some people with too much time on their hands get so involved in helping out that they forget why they joined in the first place – to look for work.  Many clubs have policies that encourage members to put in a minimum weekly time commitment for access to services.  As it should be!  Exceeding that minimum is often easy if you feel you have a lot to contribute that will better the lives of other member job seekers.  Just remember that your focus should remain your own job search.
It is wonderful if you have the time, skills and knowledge to share!  Yes, you should share what you know so that others can benefit!  BUT it’s also important to use your time and participation to move your own job search and career development forward.
A job club can be just the answer you’re looking for to provide resources and encouragement that you might not find anywhere else.  Check with your local employment development office or library to find a job club near you.  Find out about the programs they offer, and learn how your participation can help others, and help you in your job search.
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