People who are not familiar with job networking groups have a hard time understanding the benefit of job networking groups. After all, you are networking with people who do not have a job. How can that benefit the job seeker?

They do understand that these groups offer lectures on setting up a LinkedIn profile, assessing your skills and strengths, overcoming the fear of cold calling, writing an effective resume, using social media in the job hunt, etc. Each networking group offers a variety of services. Some (like HAPPEN) offer weekly lectures, some offer monthly lectures, some (like HAPPEN) offer structured group networking sessions and others only offer informal networking opportunities. HAPPEN offers structured group networking sessions where 6 – 8 job seekers gather around tables, exchange business cards, and tell the group who they are, what their previous job was, and what they are looking for. This is considered to be an extremely valuable exercise by these job networking groups.

How can there be any benefit in networking with people who do not have a job?

The only thing that comes to most people’s minds is the thought that each of these people will eventually find a job and will become a resource for pulling others in. That happens, but it is only a minor consideration.

The more significant benefits include (but are not limited to) the following:

The job seeker learns to express himself/herself clearly. Week after week you have 5 minutes to describe who you are and what you want. You know that next week you will have 5 minutes again so you prepare for it so you can gain the most benefit. Also, practicing week after week improves your ability to communicate. I have heard many people who have landed jobs indicate that this exercise (and others like it which are common to these networking groups) benefited them enormously when it came to interviewing. I have seen people who could barely put two sentences together in front of a group, struggle and grow week after week when speaking in front of these friendly groups of job seekers who were pulling for them, almost willing them t succeed.

Everyone worked someplace in the past. If I am looking for a job at Sabre (for example), 90% of the time I will find someone who worked for Sabre in the past. They can give me contacts inside the company, tell me which corporate recruiters (which you can easily find on LinkedIn) specialize in my area, which areas are making money and which ones are not, what items to promote on my resume, and how to figure out the confusing job titles.

Every week my Marketing sub-group hears me say the same thing over and over “I have global experience in high tech products looking to pursue a career in social media marketing…” After they have heard it over and over, they now know what it is I am looking for. Since this is a group of marketing professionals, they are pouring over the marketing job postings. Each week, a couple of people forward me job postings for social media marketing positions. I now have more people helping me find that target position.

Since I am networking with job hunters, my access to information on all things related to finding a job is much better than if I were only networking with people who have a job. I doubt that any of my friends who have been working steadily for the past 10 years can tell me how to find job leads on Twitter, how to maximize my profile on LinkedIn so recruiters will find me more often, or how to increase my “digital footprint” or why I would want to do so.

And finally, these groups lift your spirits. You are in the same boat as everyone else who watches their neighbors head out to work each morning. You form friendships based on a common crisis. This is one of the worst times of your life (potentially) and you are pulling through it with others. These groups are up-beat. You are surrounded by people who are learning new things, sharing new experiences, overcoming new challenges, and retooling for the job market that is emerging while the folks who are lucky enough to still have jobs are stuck in the status quo. People are learning new skills and gaining new certifications at deeply discounted prices or even for free. I see ads for training in “social media marketing” with a price tag of several $100. I am getting the same training for free…and it is “all you can eat” training, overflowing in abundant amounts. I have a network of friends who are a week ahead of me (or sometimes an hour ahead of me) in the learning process who will answer any question and share any information I need. The flow of information between participants at these meetings can be mind boggling. The selflessness is inspiring. Everyone wants to see you land that great job. Everyone wants to help you get that job and share in the joy.

We have been thrown together by the cold and unstoppable crush of macro business cycles which have brought about a historic and fundamental shift in the worldwide economy. Out of such times emerge bands of brothers. We became such a brotherhood.

James Snider
Global Marketing, High Technology