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Free Online Job Club--Need Your Help!

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. 

Weekly Webinars
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 bamboojobclub@gmail.com. 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. . .

Comments

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Awesome! As soon as I get caught up on my ALA postings I will post to my blog.

Thanks, Lori--YOU are awesome!

What an incredible idea Michele! As always you're always reaching out to others and I think this idea will definitely help out many jobseekers.

Ofcourse, I'd love to participate as a "content expert"...I helped out family members and numerous friends look for work and have many resources to share.

Keep me posted by email!

Thanks, Soha--I really appreciate your willingness to help out. I will definitely keep you posted!

I like the idea. There are plenty of sites that help people identify open positions but, if I understand you correctly, part of what you're proposing is something that would be a great adjunct: a support group for job seekers. Having a social space for connecting, sharing, commiserating and supporting could be very helpful for both the employed and those seeking employment. I look forward to seeing where this goes...

Michele,
I am on it! I posted to twitter and facebook and will continue to share it. Plus, I'm joining! :)
Elisa

Thanks James and Elisa--yes, James, you're correct that I think there's a need for a social space that I just don't see happening. I'm thinking of it as a sort of "virtual" job club where people can rely on their mutual wisdom and support.

Elisa--thanks for spreading the word. And I'll look forward to seeing you there! :-)

Great idea Michele! This good be a great help from someone like me. I having been working for non-profits overseas and am looking to come back to the States. Count me in!

Hi,
I just found your wonderful site and as learning is one of my big passions I love it! I've just been sitting here reading posts from last year and checking out what you've done. I need to come back another time, more than once to read back.

As I'm out of a job this sounds like something I'd be interested in, and I think offering the conversations as mp3-files for download later is good, as I don't live in your time zone so those things are usually difficult for me!? ;-)

Thanks for a great resource! I'll be back! I wish my blog had a ONE TOPic and was as focused and well written.

I, like iHanna, also have somewhat of an eclectic site. I wonder if that is a disadvantage in an effort to carve out a niche. But I like to think that the big issues need a wide horizon. I enjoy visiting your site and wish you well in establishing a forum.

Hi Michele, I'm interested. I'm in a good space emotionally about my job search but could always use some advice. Thanks.

Hi Michele, I've started spreading the word. This is an awesome thing you are doing, ANY help you need, please just ask.

Em

Michele, one of my former students works for the NY Dept. of Labor creating interactive career help. I will pass this on to her if you think it is appropriate.

One question, will you have an industry or types of careers specialty (i.e. instructional designers, educators, trainers) or will this be open to any career? If you do have it open, I would create groups within the Ning helping people to network depending on their needs (i.e. new to the job search, returning to a career because a spouse has been laid-off, older worker, new graduate, etc...)

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Virginia, yes definitely feel free to pass this along--I set up the new site at: http://careercommons.ning.com/

Also, great idea about the groups. I did plan for it to be a more general site. I figured we'd see how things go in terms of the number of people joining and then look at creating smaller groups.

This is a great idea, and one I've been promoting to One-Stops and workforce boards here in California.

I'd recommend that you build in a strong, systematic evaluation component to this so you can learn what works & what doesn't, then share it with the rest of the field.

Have you considered using Edufire to administer any classes on the subject? They use Adobe Connect, and I don't believe there is a call in option at the level they offer tutors - but the amount of participants is unlimited, and there is no fee to use it if the class is free.

As someone who will be finishing grad school in a year and seeking full-time instructional design/edtech work, your offerings on the subject will be invaluable to me. Thanks for this.

Thank you for coming up with something like this. I go through "unemployment" quite frequently because as a writer-editor, my skills aren't highly valued in many companies trying to save a buck. So, yeah, I've gone to trying "freelancing" full-time (while still looking for those now non-existent jobs). I have a few freelance editing gigs (a software manual, a novel, and a marketing book)... but they come and go. Like you said, sometimes the hardest part is the isolation... I'll be sure to mention this to many of my other unemployed buddies.

This is a wonderful post. It is important to stay positive and I like how this post reinforces that!

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