Sherry Luft is a participant and founding member of the Job Seekers Club at South Metro Career Center.
Let’s start with what line of work you’re in. How and when did you become unemployed?
I was laid off after nine years as a receptionist/administrative assistant for an environmental company. Our contracts changed due to the economy, and I was officially laid off at the end of February.
So how did this job club get started?
Well, I did some research and found South Metro Career Center. It happens to be the closest career center to my home, and it’s also the largest. They have all these great workshops. So I started taking them once or twice a week. I ended up talking to some of the career advisers. One of them happened to be Shauna, who is the facilitator of this job club. She and Linda, the workshop coordinator, both had asked if I’d like to be an organizer of this job club. I said I’d be happy to. We had a couple of meetings beforehand about what we were going to do, how we were going to recruit members, etc. We started it in May.
What does the group do? When do you meet, and so on?
At this point we meet twice a month, for two hours on the first and third Wednesdays. We discuss different topics that pertain to job searching. One day we talked about the letter of introduction you might use to contact someone you don’t know personally, but with whom you’re looking for an informational interview. We also share personal stories of the job hunt, and we practice our public speaking skills. We talked about body language for interviews once. That was fascinating.
So, when we meet, we have an agenda, which is my responsibility. I welcome the people and make sure everyone is on the same page. And then I lead the group in the different topics. Sometimes we have a guest speaker. Sometimes we have presenters from inside the group. The last one happened to be from a member who gave us a brief tutorial on LinkedIn, and showed us how to navigate it for job searching.
What are you looking to get out of it?
We’re looking for job leads, for one. I’m in administrative, for example, so someone else in the job club who’s not looking for that occupation may have a suggestion for me to try this hospital or this field. We do information sharing. That’s part of it.
All of us need the support of the other group members. It’s almost like we have a collective power among our peers. It gives us optimism. We can believe we’ll find the work we’re looking for. Obviously, we’re all going through the same thing, so we all understand what we’re going through. And it gives us focus. Some of us have become very good friends.
Tell me about some of the people in the group. What’s the age range, and what kinds of professions are they in?
We have young people all the way up to those of us who are more mature. It really depends on the week. We have several people from administrative. We have medical people, financial people, a software programmer. There are all different types. Typically, we have 15 to 20 participants in each meeting. But, like I said, it varies. If someone gets a job we call them graduates.
We’re aiming for a mix of ages and industries and experience. We want it to reflect the real world. Most of us are unemployed or underemployed.
Tell me something important you’ve gotten out of this group.
As an organizer, I’ve regained my confidence in talking to people. My speaking and writing abilities and my creativity are kept sharp from the work I do with the job club.
It’s also helpful to see the different perspectives that the outside guest speakers bring.
Can you give me an example of a job-related success you’ve experienced?
Well, the networking has helped me for sure. One of the men in finance introduced me to another person with a possible job opportunity. So this means that instead of sending my résumé to the email universe, I actually get to send it to a person with a name. It’s in process right now. We’ll see what happens.
What would you say to someone looking for work?
I’d say to take the workshops at South Metro and the other career centers. I’d also say to come to our job club. But I want to emphasize that networking in general is really important, even if you’re not in a job club. You have to use every opportunity you can to land work. I think having business cards is also important. That was my first homework with the club. I always take my business cards when I go to all meetings, to the grocery store, wherever I go. They make networking nice and simple. You never know who you’re going to meet.