Eight months ago in Chesapeake, Va., Adam Coppin was handed a pink slip amid cutbacks at the Web company where he had worked for five years as a project manager. Like so many other Americans in the past year, he found himself out of a job.
Coppin was forced to hit the pavement in search of another career. But as he expanded his search online and through contacts, it wasn't finding potential jobs that was a problem, it was scoring an interview and actually getting an offer.
"It's an arduous process," explained Coppin. "I knew I needed to do everything I could to make sure I got a job as quickly as possible."
Through friends, he heard of a local job club called the "It Factor." It's a sort of support group for those looking for work. Coppin said he was too skeptical at first to attend.
"I didn't necessarily expect to get a lot out of meeting people who weren't in my industry and sharing ideas, but I seriously undervalued the networking potentials with this group," he said.
As unemployment continues at a high rate, job clubs are springing up across the country. Held in church basements, community centers, people's living rooms and cafes, most clubs are part networking forum and resume workshop, and at times can be part therapy session, too.
A job club requires little more than a group of people willing to share contacts, techniques and moral support.
The "It Factor" was founded by Laurie Baggett and Michelle Pippin after seeing "Good Morning America" workplace contributor Tory Johnson sing the praises of job clubs on Facebook.
Baggett recalls reading Johnson's initiative on Facebook, "I remember when I read the initiative, I cried. I think when you help somebody find work, you help somebody put food on their table. It helps prevent poverty. I believe in that very much, and I've seen it happen."
Networking, Confidence Building Gets Workers Back on the Job
Over the next four months, Baggett worked tirelessly with her 12 members to get them back to work. The members, who were all unemployed but one, met every Thursday night at Bean There Cafe. During meetings, motivational speakers, small business coaches and recruiters came and met with members.
Baggett also arranged for image makeovers and a salon day during which they provided free services to all 12 people. She said it was easy to get the word out, and when more people know what's happening, it's not surprising if they want to help.
"We didn't have to work very hard for our press," she said. "All we had to do was tell them stories."
The "It Factor" provided confidence building and social networking to get people back on their feet.
"Our goal is to help our members get back to work ... if it's to be a freelancer, if it's to start your own business, if it's to contract, if it's to go to work a full-time job for a small business or corporate America," Baggett said. "And hopefully, in the meantime, [the club can] help uncover their identity, their brand and their next career."
The job club paid off well for its members. Everyone found work, including Coppin. Within three weeks of attending his first meeting, he landed a new position as a Web strategist with a new company.
Coppin initially took a 20 percent pay cut but has since been promoted twice, and he's now director of projects for his team.
"I am responsible for following every single project with every single client," Coppin said. "Work is always different. It's always something new and constant, which is fantastic. I love to stay busy."
Baggett hopes to start another job club this month. This time, she'll ask previous members to come back and pay it forward. She also hopes to offer more confidence-building opportunities.
"We're going to do the spa day all over again," she said. "I already have a spa picked out. I have a local dentist who is going to do a smile makeover on somebody. I can imagine how significant that could be in somebody's confidence."
But the most important thing at the end of the day is getting a job.
"Even if you help one person back to work, your job club's a success," Baggett said.