Like so many people, when I lost my job of 21 years, I was crushed. I felt alone and isolated; like no one could understand what I was going through.
It was 2008 and the economy and the job market were tanking, and I was angry. When I met with an employment counselor at the local unemployment office, she mentioned that the office scheduled weekly networking meetings for “professionals” like me (whatever that meant). When I asked if there were any networking opportunities for “non-professionals,” she gave me a funny look. I never went to any of the meetings simply because I didn’t like the idea of having a separate group for professionals. It was too club-ish for me.
As we all know, so much has changed in the economy and job search world in past five years. Hidden under the negative news, one bright light was the introduction of a number of supportive networking groups. Most of the groups are run by people who have been there. They aren’t gripe and moan sessions either; they offer job search training, emotional support, role-playing practice, access to interviewing, resume writing, social media experts and friendship. The groups are run by business people so they are very organized and on target. Best of all, most are open to everyone, regardless of job level.
I talk about networking all the time in my job search training classes, writing and with my clients. The benefit of these groups outweighs the initial nervous jitters that someone may feel upon walking into the first meeting. If you are on LinkedIn you can search for a listing of local networking groups. You can also Google them. Here are a few that have received great reviews. If one doesn’t fit, go to another one until you feel comfortable. Members of networking groups feel as if they are understood and at home at the meetings. The other benefits are the friendships, the learning and the job search help. I highly recommend them.