Non-profit helps jobless managers find new work
Mary Teresa Bitti, Financial Post
Published: Saturday, August 22, 2009

Last week, 102 downsized middle and senior managers took part in a networking session at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ont. The event was organized by HAPPEN, a not-for-profit that got its start in 1990 -- right around the time of the last recession.

HAPPEN is an entirely volunteer-run organization geared toward helping middle-and senior-level managers who find themselves in transition -- in other words, unemployed.

The past two years have been a boon to the organization, which began in Mississauga and now has 10,000 members and chapters in Toronto, Mississauga, Burlington and Vancouver, with plans to export the concept across the country.

"I'm getting requests weekly from cities," says HAPPEN's president, Jim Geraghty. "We're in the process of putting together a package of the service for other locations."

He draws a direct line from the current recession to HAPPEN's growth.

"The restructuring of the economy, with the manufacturing sector almost disappeared in Ontario, is leading the expansion."

Mr. Geraghty, owner of marketing firm TellSell Marketing, has been putting in 60-hour weeks at HAPPEN, all volunteer hours. He joined HAPPEN in 1998 and became president in 2001.

"I recognized that these people needed assistance in personal branding and personal marketing and that I could help."

The fact is, says Mr. Geraghty, there is a huge need for middle and senior management to get more career support.

"The government seems to feel that people who have earned six-figure salaries don't need help. But I would argue that kind of experience makes it harder to find comparable employment."

As part of his mandate, Mr. Geraghty has taken on the task of finding and booking more than 200 high-quality speakers a year for weekly meetings. If members need additional assistance, HAPPEN's volunteer executive has also built a stable of service providers that HAPPEN members can reach out to for various forms of support -- career coaching, resume and interview coaching, legal services and cash-flow management/ financial advice.

The membership fee is $60 a year after a one-time initiation charge of $90.

The organization has grown substantially, predominantly through word of mouth. Many outplacement firms now recommend that people looking for work consider joining HAPPEN.

And for good reason. "Nowadays, companies are concerned about their bottom line and don't want to spend $30,000 on a recruiter to find talent. Instead, they are turning to their networks," says Mr. Geraghty.

"The fact is 80% of all jobs are found in the hidden job market. We help connect them to that market."

Since its inception, HAPPEN has helped close to 30,000 people find new positions.

And Mr. Geraghty has some good news to report: These displaced managers are taking less time to find those jobs.

Members take an average of 18 weeks to find new jobs. That's down from 23 weeks a month ago.

"Things are definitely picking up," he says.
© 2009 The National Post Company

** It’s nice to see the hard working executive at HAPPEN, such as Jim Geraghty, who donate so much of their time, getting some recognition. -- Nice job, Jim!**
Bryan C Webb, P. Eng.
HAPPEN Blog moderator

Courtesy of
Hugh Black
HMB Communications Group