The first rule of Job Club is this: You do not talk about Job Club participants by name. Confidentiality is an important aspect of this support group for motivated job seekers, some of whom are looking to make a career transition or are underemployed. Many group attendees have experienced mid- to late-career layoffs.
Job Club is the brainchild of Caroline Francis, a nationally certified career counselor with Alumni Career Services at the University of Kentucky, who facilitates the semimonthly meetings with Diana Doggett, a family and consumer sciences extension agent with UK Cooperative Extension Service. There really hasn’t been a program like this in Lexington before, specifically providing job-search strategies for degreed, seasoned professionals out of work.
“These are people that have excellent work histories,” Francis said of the participants. “People who have never had to look for a job before and never dreamed they would be in this situation.”
In its first nine months, the program has had 262 participants, ranging from 21-year-old college graduates to professionals in their late 70s. As an open group, Job Club is free and open to anyone in the community, regardless of age or background. No registration is necessary. Job Club meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. at the extension office on Red Mile Place. Employers and recruiters are invited to arrive at 10 a.m., after the strategy session, to announce job openings. The program has attracted recruiters in the areas of engineering, accounting and technology, among others. Certain employers have offered seasonal work as gap money for the holidays while people are searching for full-time employment.
At the first Job Club meeting in January 2013, Francis and Doggett had no idea how many people would show up. They made 20 copies of materials and set up that many chairs. When 75 job seekers piled into the room, the two facilitators looked at each other.
“I think it’s being confirmed,” Doggett said to Francis, “there is a need for this program.” They planned an agenda through May, but the program has become so popular —
averaging 60 per session — there’s no end in sight. The extension office is pleased to be partnering with the university’s alumni association on the project, as one of the missions of both entities is to provide service for the community.
It was President Lincoln who came up with the idea of extension. “He thought it was important that all research information from land-grant universities did no one any good unless it was presented to the masses, and that's what we do,” Doggett said.
Job Club meetings start with Francis reading a list of employment opportunities she has received via email. Then attendees break into small groups for a few minutes to introduce themselves and explain what they’re looking for in a job. A guest speaker, or one of the facilitators, then presents a program on a job-seeking topic, including ageism in the job search, goal setting, money management, maximizing LinkedIn, crafting a competitive resume, brushing up on interviewing skills or negotiating a salary. The Nov. 12 topic is “how credit impacts your career.” On Nov. 26, there will be a speed networking program.
“Resume writing changes like fashion and hairstyles,” said Diane Kohler, manager of staff career development at UK. She has recently joined Francis and Doggett as a Job Club facilitator. Networking, interviewing and resume writing are the most common session topics.
At each meeting, Francis hears positive comments from participants, such as, “It's nice to see I’m not the only one in this situation,” “It lifted my spirits being there today,” and “Other people encouraged me.”
Attendees have become supportive of one another, which is a dream come true for a job club, according to Francis.
“People form bonds; they meet for coffee afterward and become accountability partners, sharing job leads with each other,” she said. “Job Club has been one of the most rewarding things I've done career-wise.”
Everything Doggett does as an extension agent is rewarding, but nothing has affected her as profoundly as her work with Job Club, especially when a participant has gotten hired and won’t be returning to the program.
“You just sit there and reflect on the significance on the life of a family,” Doggett said. “From the perspective of health, physical and mental, the burden has been lifted off the shoulders of people we have endeared ourselves to.”
For more information about Job Club, visit www.ukalumni.net/jobclub.