It doesn't cost a penny to start a Job Club. To get your group going, all you need is a commitment of time and the genuine desire to succeed. It can take as little as a few hours to a week to form your group and coordinate your very first meeting.
Make a list of prospective members:
Clubs should have eight to 12 members. Any fewer and there isn't enough diversity of experience and perspective; any more and you can't offer customized advice for each person. Make a list of the people you know who are looking for work.
Not everyone must be unemployed. Some may have jobs, but they're looking for better opportunities. You might also include someone who is happily employed and would welcome the chance to assist others.
It's best to have a mix of industries and functions. You should also have a mix of ages and levels of experience. There's nothing wrong with a 20-something and a 50-something joining the same group, especially since that dynamic is highly reflective of today's workplace.
Not all of these people should be your best friends. Think about former colleagues, the friend of a friend you've never met, neighbors and so on. You can stick to one gender or have a mix of both men and women. The goal is to pull together a group that will feel comfortable with one another, since candid communication is key to the success of your group. Once you come up with your master list, jot down why you think each person would be an asset.
If you simply don't know eight to 12 prospective members, you can solicit participants by posting a request on Craigslist.com, on message boards and with local groups. Contact your clergy, doctors or other service providers to recommend people in your area who'd be good candidates for consideration. Specify a deadline by which applicants must respond, and don't promise them a spot until you're sure you'd welcome their participation.
Invite individuals to consider joining:
Since there is a time commitment to participating, it's important to spell out the expectations to your prospective members so they can determine if it's the right fit. While nobody can promise to stick with something forever, you can request a minimum initial commitment, such one hour a week for a month. After that time, you'll be able to assess the effectiveness of each member and the group as a whole.
Choose a convenient meeting time and location:
Meeting weekly is ideal because it enables you to maintain momentum. Everyone has a different schedule, so you must determine when the group can meet. Some may prefer mornings, while others will only be available evenings. Poll everyone and then settle on an established time -- every Wednesday at 7 p.m. or every Saturday at 9 a.m., for example -- so it can be built into everyone's week. Decide where you'll meet. Options may include your home, rotating among every member's home, a church, the public library, a local coffee shop or another conveniently located free spot.
Assign a captain:
Some things can't be done by committee, so it's typically easier for one person to assume responsibility for those tasks. Among them: Distribute the agenda 48 hours before the meeting, send reminder e-mails about the time/location, track attendance, lead the meeting (this can be shared among members going forward), report the weekly successes on an exclusive Job Club message board.
Name your club:
Every great club has a name to define its mission. Your Job Club is no different. The name should reflect your collective personalities and goals. You might opt for something fun: the Determined Divas of Dallas; the Fearless, Fabulous Fargo All-Stars; Main Streets Future MVPs, or something more serious, such as Positive Professionals of Phoenix; Winnetka's Winning Workplace Group.
Materials to bring:
Each member should maintain a dedicated notebook of the activities of the Job Club. Bring this notebook and a pen to each meeting to record assignments and ideas/leads provided by other participants. This is also the place to document daily tasks and successes to share at the next meeting. In addition to the notebook, always carry a copy of your resume and business cards.
At your first meeting, establish an understanding of the expectations of each participant. You may consider asking each of your Career Club members to promise to abide by the following: If a member shares something that he or she wishes to remain confidential, the others will not repeat it outside the meeting. Each member will be diligent in preparing for meetings and will be honest about his or her progress. Each member will work toward the success of the whole group. The idea is to put everyone at ease so they're candid as opposed to guarded within the group.
"No complaining" rule:
Since job searching can be awfully frustrating, it's easy to spend an hour complaining about the rude people who don't return your calls and any number of other things. Before you know it, the meeting is over and nothing's been accomplished. While it's great to get things off your chest, you must put a limit on the amount of venting. Go around the room and give each person just 30 seconds to share a specific frustration and then agree to move on to more productive conversation. Sometimes a frustration might lead to a more serious discussion, so be sure to steer it in that direction.
Invite guests and experts:
After the first couple of meetings, you can decide on special guests to invite to join you at future meetings. In such cases, plan to extend the meeting time from one hour to 90 minutes or even two hours, depending on the guest.
Potential guests may include a business reporter at your local newspaper who can talk to you off the record about the local economy; resume writers and career coaches who often welcome the chance to speak to small groups to share their expertise; a college professor who is knowledgeable about the current economy; an author who has written about career issues; the HR manager at a company in your area; a representative of a placement agencies or headhunter.
Even though these meetings aren't about drinking and dancing, you can inject some pleasure. Business. Job Clubs are designed to be positive and reassuring forums, which means smiles and laughter are most definitely welcome. Members should have the opportunity to get to know one another for the purposes of building trust, which comes when each person lets his or her hair down just a bit.
Track your progress:
At each meeting, attendees will be required to share a specific accomplishment from the previous week. The club captain should keep track of these accomplishments, since over time it'll be smart to reflect on how much progress has been made.
Contact local media about your club:
The story of one job seeker isn't nearly as exciting as the efforts of eight to 12 people who've opted to join together to find work. Once you have your rhythm down as a group, you might contact your local radio station, TV news desk, print columnist or blogger to share the best practices of your Job Club. The goal of the potential publicity is to catch the attention of local business owners, hiring managers or anyone else who might be in a position to hire -- or who knows someone in a position to hire.
Share your progress with us:
And, of course, we want to know about your weekly progress too. Even though the ultimate goal is to get hired, share the mini successes too, such as setting up informational meetings, securing interviews, making new contacts and so on.