Here's the deal. Unlike a lot of people in this economy, I'm very fortunate right now to have a stable consulting practice that actually looks like it will improve when the stimulus package goes through because of the nature of much of the work I do. And honestly, I feel a little guilty about this. I see how many people are struggling and, while I feel incredibly lucky that things are going well for me, I also feel like it's incredibly unfair that so many other people are NOT doing well.
One of my areas of expertise and actually what most of my consulting practice is about is career development and job search. Most of my customers are government and nonprofit agencies who have me work with them to design programs that will help get people to work and climb the career ladder. I also teach their staff how to facilitate career development and job search activities.
It occurred to me this morning that one small way I can potentially help in the downturn is by creating a free, online job club where people could connect to one another, we could deal with some of the issues that you face when you're out of work (including the emotional blow to the self-esteem) and you could get some feedback, information and resources on career and job search related questions. I want to do this in two ways.
Bamboo Job Club Network
I'm setting up a Ning network that can serve as an online resource and hub for job seekers to connect with one another. One of the things that is the hardest about being out of work is the isolation. Through my years of work in this field, I've seen that people feel a combination of shame, despair and anxiety when they lose their jobs and there's a strong need to connect with other people who "get" what they're going through. Often it's helpful if they can find people who are outside of their normal networks because it's safer to share some of their concerns with relative strangers.
I'm hoping that through the Ning network, if people want to connect, share their stories, get advice from one another, etc. they are able to do this. I will also include links to all the resources and information I have related to career and job search and will certainly do what I can to help facilitate discussions.
The other thing I want to try is weekly webinars. I have Go-to-Meeting, which allows me to do online meetings with up to 15 people. My thought on this is to post the date for the webinar and then invite people to sign up, first come, first served.
The webinars will be informal--people can send in questions/issues they want to discuss ahead of time so I can be somewhat prepared, and then we'll take an hour to talk, share resources, etc. If there's enough interest, we can then look at doing more "formal" programming if necessary. The webinars would be a way to extend connections from the network and/or be an alternative for people who would prefer to just participate in a call.
Both of these will be FREE. I want to give something back and this is an area where I think I can help. I'll be honest that I also miss direct contact with job seekers and the feeling that I'm actually making a difference, so this will give me an opportunity to get my "fix."
I Need Your Help!
What I need from you is to spread the word. Let people know about this idea and if they are interested, have them email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That way I can let them know when I've set up the Ning network and scheduled the first few webinars, which I hope to do within the next week or so. This will also help me see if I need to enlist the help of some other people on this. There's potentially a HUGE need and I can see that I could quickly get overwhelmed if it got too big too fast.
I could also use your advice and suggestions, so feel free to leave them in comments.
And if you're interested in participating as a facilitator, either in the Ning or by participating as a "content expert" in a webinar, please let me know, again in comments or by email.
Let's see where all of this goes. . .