For those of you who are familiar with the work that I do (career coaching, resume writing, and promoter of the group job hunting concept), my title probably seems a bit surprising. After all, how can one of the biggest fans of group job hunting claim that there are times when it doesn’t work?
Well, most great concepts require more than just theory to make them beneficial. You can talk all day about how wonderful something is, but without true application, it will fall flat. The same is true for group job hunting.
The idea is that job seekers, who are all essentially in the same boat, will join forces and assist each other through the job search process. This assistance can be anything from swapping leads and resources, making introductions, and even offering referrals.
To me, it’s a no-brainer. In this age of social networking and nonstop talk from career pros about the importance of building contacts during your job search, you would think group job hunting would be taking the Internet by storm. Although we have seen “pay-it-forward” attempts pop up across many social media sites, by and large, you are still hard-pressed to find job seekers really banding together.
Why is that?
To help put some perspective on this, I’ve compiled a few reasons I think job seekers might be struggling to get this concept working for them:
1. Job seekers are worried about competition. I hear this a lot when I speak with job seekers about networking with other job seekers: “But aren’t they my competition?” Of course, you could always meet someone else who is going for the same position as you, but with the amount of virtual social networking websites for job seekers, I think it is a pretty safe bet that you are going to meet candidates from all backgrounds and industries. Many job seekers only look to people in their field for support, but that is a big mistake. People know people from all walks of life. So if you are in IT, don’t be shy about meeting up with another job seeker in marketing. Maybe that person is married to someone with strong IT connections or has contacts in that arena from past employment experiences.
2. Job seekers only want to speak with employed people. We seem to have this perception that currently employed people are “in the know,” whereas unemployed people are “out of the loop.” Considering our unemployment rate at the moment, I would say that this thinking is pretty shallow. In fact, often employed people are the least likely to help job seekers. It is other job seekers who can empathize that are more willing to offer assistance. In addition, it is other job seekers who are hearing about leads and exploring opportunities that are often much more aware of what’s going on in the job market as opposed to the employed professional who spends all day working at his or her desk.
3. Too many job seekers are too worried about receiving help and not about giving help. When people are stressed (and a job search is no doubt stressful), true character often comes out. And sadly, all too often, people only want to be helped. They can’t be bothered with helping anyone else. I see this a lot in my firm. I often will recommend job seekers to connect with one another, particularly if I think they are a good fit for supporting each other. Too often, one client will reach out to the other and then come back frustrated that “she didn’t do anything for me.” It doesn’t take much to find out that this client didn’t help out either. Sometimes it is amazing how they even neglect to respond to each other’s e-mails!
4. Job seekers are obsessed with online job boards. As much as this drives us career pros nuts and as much as we report the appalling statistics (less than 4% effectiveness rate), candidates continue to insist on devoting the bulk of their time job searching to applying for job postings. It doesn’t matter that many of these jobs are not real; job seekers are infatuated with them anyway.
And I can understand why. It seems so straightforward. Company has position available. Job seeker applies. Company calls for interview and makes offer. Job seeker takes the job. But it is a little like playing the lottery. You can spend a lot of resources and never win the reward. At some point, you have to ask yourself, “What are the odds? How can I create a better balance of my resources?” By all means, you can still dream, but you also need to be realistic.
5. Job seekers are afraid group job hunting is too much like a support group. For this last reason, I blame career counseling. Although the intention is nice, helping job seekers, the application often comes off like an addiction support meeting. Job seekers are already often feeling down; they don’t need to be treated like they have fallen off the wagon. Instead they want to attend networking functions with other professionals who are united for a common purpose. That is support and encouragement, but it isn’t patronizing. These people haven’t failed; they are looking for jobs. We tell them to represent themselves as top talent, but then we have meetings where we all sit in a circle and look lost.
It really has become my goal to see job seekers utilize the group job hunting concept with success. I know that it can be a powerful tool in the job search arsenal. But in order for that to happen, we need a shift in mindset for how we go about conducting our job search and where we place our time and resources. Truthfully, without this shift, very few tools will work for us.
So who am I anyway? Why do I think my advice is so valuable?
My name is Stephen Van Vreede. My company is called No Stone Unturned, and I have spent 15 years on both sides of the corporate hiring experience.
The short story is that I have an MBA in Marketing from Villanova University and a dual B.S. degree in Finance & Logistics from the University of Maryland. I am a certified professional résumé writer (CPRW) and a member of the Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC). As I mentioned, I paid my dues in the corporate world eventually running a large-scale call center for a major truck rental company, and I have spent the past 7 years with No Stone Unturned, assisting job seekers in achieving their goals.
In February 2009, I launched a new group job hunting networking site: NoddlePlace.com. It is absolutely FREE to join, and you have access to everything on the site. Come check it out at NoddlePlace. You can also follow me on Twitter.