As a career strategist at MassHire Lowell Career Center, I lead a job club for our clients. Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, we met in-person in a large room. At these meetings, there would be anywhere between 10 and 20 people.
We didn’t meet in person often—only every second and fourth Tuesday of the month—but our clients enjoyed the opportunity to get out of their house and share the news of their job search or participate in a mock interview.
The mock interviews were a key activity of the job club meetings—sitting in the hot seat and being interviewed by me or another member of the group while being filmed with a digital camera. The rest of the participants provided feedback at the conclusion of the interview on the interviewee’s answers.
Times have changed
Now, all of the in-person meetings have been thrown out the window. We’re confined to our homes, only allowed to venture out for groceries, gas (who needs it, though?) takeout food, and exercise. Life has changed significantly.
To pile insult upon insult, we’ve experienced the worst number of unemployment of all time. Our labor market is truly in a crisis. Hopefully a two-trillion-dollar relief fund will help the new and currently unemployed. But the future is unpredictable for everyone.
For the unforeseeable future job seekers can’t network in-person. They can’t share ideas on how to better search for jobs, talk about potential opportunities. tout their happy landings. So, what can job seekers do?
Go to virtual communication
The only solution to continue networking, even meet for social reasons, is to go online. The phone is another option, of course, but it’s not as intimate as using platforms like Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangout, and others. (Employers have resorted to interviewing candidates online.)
The job club I lead, since the pandemic has forced us to practice social distancing, has had two meetings via Zoom so far. We haven’t let the pandemic phase us. The first meeting garnered 15 members, the second 19. There are 21 members in the group.
The first Zoom meeting was all about job-search talk. I would normally insert my advice in the past, but I wanted the group to simply touch base. It wasn’t as rewarding as meeting in-person. But it was the best we could do.
The second meeting was our Zoom mock interview. I had one member interview another member. The logistics were not hard. There was no need to make one of them a presenter and the other a guest. Zoom makes it extremely easy to facilitate mock interviews.
After the mock interview, the other members provided sage advice to the interviewee. I inserted my opinions as well, but I wanted the group to be more self-sufficient. Besides, many of the members have had far more experience interviewing candidates than I have.
Of course I recorded the event. The interviewee gladly allowed me to share the recording with the members. She said it was a learning opportunity for everyone.
Although the mock interview was but an exercise, it still demonstrated to the other 17 members what it’s like to be interviewed online. A few of the members have experienced video interviews. For the majority of them, however, this was a new experience.
I ended the meeting encouraging the group to form smaller buddy groups. I want them to reach out to each other without having to attend a formal job club event. As job seekers, they need to be self-sufficient. Already some of our members have contacted me asking with whom they should connect.
Activities for job-search clubs
Every good job-search club offers actives to its members that enhance their job search. With a large group, Zoom’s breakout rooms allow the members time and space to discuss how they would, for example, write and deliver a more powerful elevator pitch. This is one activity that I have led in a meeting. Others include:
- Answering difficult interview questions
- Dealing with emotions during the job search
- Accountability for their search
- S.T.A.R accomplishment statements for their resumes
- Using LinkedIn to network
- Creating a stronger LinkedIn profile
- Writing a branding statement
- Open networking
- Participants introducing an aspect of their job
- Job-search tips from participants
- How recruiters/hiring authorities look for candidates
- Addressing ageism
- Discussing the applicant tracking system (ATS)
To use a cliche, online job club meetings have become the “new normal” for our members. Given the positive reception thus far, I’ve considered increasing the job club meetings every week if only to get these job-seeking warriors together.
If you lead a job club at your career center, consider doing it online. Don’t let the momentum die because you can’t meet in person for the time being. Of all the platforms, I highly suggest Zoom.
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