Faith Based & Neighborhood Partnerships


Guest Blog: Thoughts on How to Run a Job Club
by Ken Soper

Running job clubs, or as I prefer to say “work-search” groups, requires a lot of flexibility, persistence and consistency.  During the 16 years now I have facilitated them in West Michigan, sometimes just for a few weeks, but most often weekly since the turn of the century, I have discovered a couple of key areas for facilitators to keep in mind.

First, you don’t have to have all the answers about the work-search, resume writing, or interviewing.  There are many resources available, some simple to access, some known only to those with special skills and training.  Yes, we do need to vet them so that silliness and even wrongheaded ideas of how to find work and stay employable don’t creep into our language, advice and networks. 

It’s not that I don’t have opinions.  Yes, I do have opinions, and most facilitators will, but be open to learning from those looking for work for insights.  Many of them have much more experience than I in hiring as HR professionals, managers, and salespersons and learning how to sell services or products.  (Especially, the sales people who come through our West Michigan groups. They help us all learn how to “TOYASE”—think-of-your-self-as-self-employed—and develop stronger skills and mindsets in selling, regardless of the type of position we’re seeking or the level of responsibility.  Excellent sales blogs are also very instructive.)  The age of the entrepreneur and innovator is here.

And second, the folks coming through work-search/transition groups need concrete, genuine and personable encouragement (and support) that they will find a new situation.  They need encouragement that the transition can be a time for reflection, spiritual renewal or discovery, and affirmation of their connections to their community and “affinity groups” as a significant source of strength.

Here are some of the suggestions that EaRN Employment and Resource Network affiliates are encouraged to share with their congregants:

  • Seek out the person who is ‘unemployed,’ though they’re really ‘in transition between positions.’ Offer to have coffee or lunch together.  Frequently unwarranted shame or embarrassment will cause them to hide the fact they’ve lost their job.
  • Ask what their skills and expertise are (a.k.a. their features), what their strengths are (a.k.a. the benefits their previous employers received from employing them), and what types of work and contacts they are seeking.  This information is part of their identity
  • Listen carefully and make a few notes, including phone number and email address. Offer your business card (and take theirs). Urge them to update you (by phone and/or email) periodically about their progress—both the encouraging and discouraging news. If they don't contact you periodically, you call them.
  • Refer the job seeker to others whom you believe are willing and can give them good advice and suggestions about their plans for getting reemployed. (These people need not have or know where a job is currently available.) Call ahead to alert that person to the approach of the person looking for work.
  • If you are a person of faith, pray daily for the individual and their family members during this time. Often a job loss provokes a family crisis, particularly when the loss is not anticipated.

 More information of this type is available through  the EaRN website,

Ken Soper is vice president of EaRN/Employment & Resource Network and principal of LifeSteward Group LLC. Ken is an NCDA-recognized Master Career Counselor and an NBCC National Certified Career Counselor.

Submitted by Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP)

Norma Blackburn has landed many jobs in her life, but her recent experience with Job Clubs of Eastern Kentucky taught her that there is a level of job search techniques that is beyond what most people imagine.

With coaching and help from Job Clubs of Eastern Kentucky in Pike County, Norma recently obtained a great job as the branch manager for the Chloe Road branch of Professional Transportation Inc. (PTI). She now manages a fleet of vans and drivers that transport railroad employees.

“Job Club is an awesome program,” Norma said, smiling. “It’s the place to be.”

The job club is sponsored by Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, and the Pike County JobSight workforce center. It draws on these sponsors’ expertise and contacts to provide the job club’s members with information, job skills training, job leads, networking, and chances to meet with and learn from local employers.

Self-taught and self-motivated, Norma has had a varied career that started at a grocery store when she was 15. Over the years she has driven a truck, worked at a dairy and a bookshop, repaired coal trucks, and managed U.S. Census workers, among other jobs.

When her recent census job ended, she attended the Job Club in Pike County and was surprised at how much useful job search information she still had left to learn.

“I joined Job Club because I needed to freshen up on my job search skills and I needed to figure out how to market the skills I have,” Norma said, adding that Job Club helped her with those goals and many more.

At the small, informal Job Club meetings, Norma was able to get to know other job seekers who helped each other and brought each other information about possible job openings.

She also learned about how to use networking to tap the “hidden job market,” which consists of jobs that are filled through recommendations and networking and therefore are never advertised. In every community the majority of job openings are in the hidden job market.

Networking, as Norma described it, is “knowing the people who know the people who have the jobs.” These business and personal contacts are essential to successful job seeking, but they are aspects that many people overlook in their job search. 

Norma also learned resume-writing techniques, how to creatively assess one’s skills, the importance of practice interviews, strategic volunteering, and a host of other techniques, including ones as simple as sending a thank you card after an interview.

When Norma got a lead from the Office of Employment and Training about the job at PTI, the job club staff was there to help her prepare, lending her emotional support, helping her fine-tune her resume, and tirelessly performing mock interviews.

“They gave me as much support as I needed. I can still call them now,” Norma said.

Norma impressed PTI with her knowledge and preparation — and as a result she now has a challenging job she loves. 

Now Norma is supporting other job club members. She passes job leads on to the Job Club and plans to become a Job Club mentor, sharing the skills she learned with the next generation of job seekers.

Job Club Coordinator Traci Nolen said Norma’s story is inspirational, and proves the benefits of job clubs.

“Norma not only took support from Job Club, she gave back by being committed to helping her fellow club members get jobs, too,” Traci said. “She shared job leads and helped introduce the Job Club to people all over Pike County. She is a leader, a doer, and a giver, and these three extremely admirable qualities got her hired very quickly!”

Now a hiring manager in charge of eight regional locations for PTI, Norma naturally turns to the job club when she is looking to recruit and hire more drivers.  Now, that's a success that keeps on giving.






With the help of Job Club in Pike County, Norma Blackburn landed a new job as a branch manager for Professional Transportation Inc. (PTI) after her job with the U.S. Census concluded.

Several job clubs have been organized in eastern Kentucky and more are being planned. To find out more about Job Clubs of Eastern Kentucky, call 1-877-512-WORK. Find out more about EKCEP at or on Facebook at