Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why "Job Clubs" Are Bad For You

Not that you need the assist, but let’s make this really simple anyway. If you were desperately looking for a gallon of milk, where would you go? To a place where other people who were desperately looking for milk are hanging out? I’m guessing probably not. You’d probably go where there’s milk. Or at least talk to someone you’re pretty sure would know where to find said milk.

So what’s with this trend of job seekers joining job clubs — groups of other job seekers – all equally frustrated in the fact that they’re having trouble meeting people who might have a job possibility up their sleeve? That is not networking. That is wasting your time.

Does that sound harsh? Surely you’ll meet some very interesting, valuable people in these groups. Of course you will. But meet them under different circumstances (like a local volunteer endeavor where you gather to give back to the community, for instance), not when the only thing you have in common is a sense of expiring hope that somewhere in this world there might be a job with your name on it.

This is why these groups are bad for you:

* The time you’re spending with these people is time you could be actively meeting people who actually have leads and introductions that will eventually land you the job you’re looking for.
* They’re convened based on the commonality that everyone in the group is out of work.
* They often do not benefit from the leadership of a professional, such as a truly excellent job search advisor. A well-meaning one, maybe. But that won’t get you the job you want.
* The loudest woe-is-me’er tends to dominate the group’s culture, sending everyone into the Pit of Despair.
* The people there know less about finding a job than you do (you’re here, after all!). And pretty soon your beliefs will be skewed toward hopelessness.
* You will start to think of these meetings as actual networking events. They’re commiserating events. Commiserating events won’t get you where you want to go. No!
* Job club members are likely to be more interested in handing you their resume than really doing anything productive with yours.
* You’re likely to get a lot of stupid advice on how to create the perfect resume (there is no such thing) or put your best foot forward in a job interview (let’s make this simple too: Blow your nose, straighten your tie, be on time, be yourself, be genuinely curious about the person you’re speaking with, no pat answers, no goofy gimmicks, no begging [even subliminally], remember you’re a grown-up with tons of value to offer the world).
* You’ll feel really bad when you do land your job and you have to leave these folks behind.

So what should you be doing with your networking time? Meeting working people in their offices. Your counterparts in companies where you might like to work, preferably soon. Local professors whose expertise is your industry or profession. The membership director of the local chapter of your professional association. Your peers at companies that used to be your competition. People who work for companies or industries you’ve always been curious about but, up until recently, had been too busy working to really set aside the time to explore.

Stay away from groups – especially leaderless groups – where the only thing you have in common with these people is that you’re all looking for your next gig. You’ve got much better things to do with your time.

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