Faith Based & Neighborhood Partnerships

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

Posted by Ashley Gerwitz - On August 17, 2011 (EST)

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.

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