3 Ways to Find Community in Your Job Search

Job search can be a lonely, discouraging process. Particularly when you’re lacking results, it’s easy to feel unmotivated and maybe depressed. You may feel like you’re doing all the right things – networking, submitting your resume, attending job fairs – however, you aren’t getting any callbacks. You are not alone!

At times like this, connecting with other job seekers in a similar situation can help you get back on track emotionally and into a more productive job search. Here are some tips on how you can find community for your job search by starting or joining a support group.

1. Find or start a resilience circle.

Resilience circles are small groups where people come together to increase their personal security through learning, mutual aid, social action and community support. For job seekers, it’s a place to share stories, talk about frustrations and learn from one another. You can remain connected and engaged in your community while receiving emotional support and encouragement.

In this video, Elizabeth White, author of 55, Unemployed & Faking Normal, shares how resilience circles serve as a place to “let everything go” so you can go to your next interview feeling confident:

2. Attend a job search strategy group.

Get out of the house and away from your computer by finding a nearby job search group. You’ll quickly discover that you’re not the only person who has questions, from how to use LinkedIn to how to answer the Tell Me About Yourself interview question. Here are a few to consider:

The Job Forum

Join other job seekers every Wednesday evening to benefit from group discussion, as well as advice on job search challenges from local managers at companies like Facebook, UCSF, Visa, Salesforce, LinkedIn and more.

LGBT Job Club and Trans Networking Club

Connect with fellow job seekers to receive support, insights and resources at the Center’s weekly drop-in LGBT Job Club and Trans Networking Club. The Center offers these clubs in a welcoming environment for job seekers to share their experiences and learn valuable information.

50+ Job Search Strategy Group

Strategize in a safe environment with other 50+ job seekers. This informal group is facilitated by JVS staff and will include topics such as addressing age discrimination in the hiring process, highlighting your work experience effectively and transitioning to a new career.

Experience Unlimited San Francisco (EUSF)

EUSF offers job search support based on teamwork, collaboration and inspiration that helps job seekers set the ideal career path. They organize weekly meetings for practical, peer-to-peer support from other professional job seekers and share notices of outside professional networking events, educational opportunities and job fairs.

3. Join the Job Search Accelerator community.

Job Search Accelerator (JSA) is a monthly cohort-based program that is open to job seekers from all industries, functions and levels. Connect with other Bay Area job seekers and build your job search skills all in one program. The programs kicks off with 36 hours of in-person job search classroom training, followed by weekly group meetings and opportunities to meet with a career advisor.

Enrollment is open and ongoing. Learn more about the JSA program today!

Mind The Gap

The 21st century has been a turbulent one for the U.S. workforce. One of the consequences has been periods of unemployment for large bands of professionals across many industries.

Formerly spotless resumes had to contend with the problem of the dreaded gap – periods without employment. As the recession dragged on and unemployment lengthened, gaps grew both on paper and in the psyches of the unemployed. The gap became – and still remains – an obsessive and paralyzing fear.

Mind the Gap is a catchy phrase popularized by the London Underground. It alerts passengers to the potentially dangerous gap between the platform and railcar. They notice the gap, mindfully step over it and move on. Gap problem averted.  This is a good strategy for professionals who are in possession of a significant work gap.

  1. Your first job is to make peace with your gap. This will likely come incrementally, but the work you do to build acceptance is vitally important. Gap-itis creates fear and paralysis. Until you fully embrace and understand your story, the corrupting feelings of guilt, shame, or fear will leak out and sabotage your efforts. When you make a decision to step into your life as it is, the resulting freedom leaves you available to focus on what’s most important – the value you bring and how you can help.
  2. Look for the value that you have acquired as a result of your gap time. For some, this is an easy task as they can point towards skills or knowledge gained through contract work, classes completed or roles played in volunteer projects. Others might have to look a little deeper. Possibly it’s the resourcefulness gained through enduring a life hardship or the clarity of where they want to devote their time and energy which can be a powerful driver for one seeking their next job.
  3. Address employer concerns about the gap. Research shows that the hesitance of employers regarding extended unemployment usually stems from one of three concerns- atrophying skill sets, an inability to assimilate into the new work world, or a lack of technological savvy — especially from older workers. With this information in hand, it is your job to demonstrate that you haven’t gone rusty, that you are not a grumpy old baby boomer, and that you are current and excited about the changes happening in the workplace.

The challenge of navigating a work gap is real. It can’t be swept under the rug hoping it won’t be there when you next look. It also is not a deal breaker… unless you let it be one. Mind your gap by doing your advance work, stepping over the danger and moving on. A job awaits you so don’t get left at the station.

How old is your attitude?

Our JVS job seekers are insightful, curious, powerful individuals. They help and inspire each other every day at JVS. We facilitate an environment that is both innovative and aspirational; this is where transformation happens.

In line with our coverage of age discrimination against female job seekers, we present advice from one of our courageous, successful 50+ former clients.

Sound advice from our former client:

Think about how your “age attitude” is reflected in how you talk, look and what you focus on in life. Here are some of the things I learned at JVS:

  • Age does show on the outside, but it is the inside attitude that connects or repels people. Are you experienced and helpful or are you experienced and trying to prove yourself?
  • Are you still growing? Are you learning new things and up to date on the latest trends in your industry? Being open and interested in learning is huge and very appealing to employers and everyone else.
  • How do you look? Are you still wearing the same styles from 10 years ago? Even Goodwill has stylish clothes if you look for them. Look for sales and ask a younger person to go shopping with you. You don’t want to look like you are trying to be 16, but you don’t want to look like someone’s Granny/Grandpa either.
  • How is your hair? A good haircut will take years off your age. And, a department store make-over helps, too, if you are into it.
  • Are you happy? If you are down, this shows. If you think you are old and have nothing to offer, this shows. If you are interested in life and open to new things, this shows.
  • Are you afraid of younger people? If you find yourself saying negative things about some trends in the world, this may be because you don’t understand and have become defensive. Try seeking someone out who can explain things to you and who you feel comfortable asking questions. Get curious instead of defensive.
  • It is not so much what you did in the past, but what you learned in the past that can help your employer now.

JVS played a big part in helping me move out of my old attitude about my age and into a new attitude about life. THANK YOU!

With deep gratitude,
Laura (proud former JVS job seeker)

Are you a courageous job seeker with advice to share? Tell us in the comments or email [email protected].

Thwart Off Those “Old” Stereotypes

Here you are. Your dream job. This one will bounce you back. Twenty years of executive admin experience. A rockin’ LinkedIn profile. Fabulous dress. And your friend in accounting forwarded your resume. You strike the power pose because, you know, you got this.

But, then, the hiring manager greets you, texting as he approaches with stylishly ripped jeans on. Walking to the interview, you note people on couches. Is that a date or a meeting? Your throat tightens. Shoulders slump. The hiring manager looks at you remarking, “Yeah, people work pretty hard around here. It’s kinda fast-paced.”  

The voice in your head rouses.

I recently wrote a blog about deeply disturbing reports detailing hiring discrimination against older women. I don’t question whether it exists. And while I’m somewhat interested in long-term policy and legal solutions to combat it, I’m very interested in how to effect change now. We must empower older women with strategies to effectively battle discrimination – interview-by-interview, job-by-job – and, ultimately, drive societal change. In the words of an insightful JVS colleague, Jesse Golden, “While we can’t avoid discrimination, we can do what salespeople do: anticipate objections.”

What are common, ill-founded objections? Which unsubstantiated labels do hiring managers hold onto, despite countless examples to the contrary? What can you do?

Stereotype: Her tech skills are probably out-of-date.

Strategy: Demonstrate your tech know-how. Acquire new tech skills (for example, learn WordPress or Salesforce). List them on your resume, and talk about how you’ve used them to solve a business need.

Stereotype: She may not get along with the younger staff.

Strategy: Prepare accomplishment stories that demonstrate your successful collaboration with diverse (including those “just starting out in their careers”) colleagues. Choose relevant, current small-talk. Engage with everyone. Avoid categorizing yourself as “other,” or isolating yourself with words like the classic, “Back in my day…” or “You’re probably too young to remember this…”

Stereotype: She may not want to work hard. Or worse, she might not keep up with the pace.

Strategy: Talk about your activities – hiking, yoga, friendly debates, meetups or whatever it is you use to keep active and engaged in your work. Use your body posture, words and interview follow-up tactics to demonstrate energy and action-orientation.

Jesse Golden also suggests using stereotypes to our advantage. According to the Adecco Mature Workers survey many managers believe older workers are more reliable, professional and have good writing skills. If candidates have to suffer from discrimination, it seems fair game to exploit those attributes that work in their favor.

More than anything, though, check your “I’m too old” baggage at the door. How you see yourself, and what you believe about your worth, will be the biggest predictor of success.

Which stereotypes do you see?  What can job seekers do to turn it on its head?

Check our calendar for the next 50+ Job Search Strategy Group that will help you move forward with confidence. The informal group is facilitated by JVS staff and will include topics such as age discrimination and transitioning to new careers.

Leveraging Seasonal Work

Your seasonal job may have ended, but your momentum does not have to!

I might have been smelling too much cologne, but I thought I was seeing double. Macy’s fragrance floor was covered with helpful staff. Then, I remembered. Of course – seasonal employment. During the holiday shopping season, many retail stores ramp up their hiring.

In fact, stores like Macy’s and Uniqlo routinely turn to JVS to find qualified applicants.

We know that we have an advantage when we go through JVS. Their job seekers are always well prepared and ready to do a good job.” – John Lee, Human Resources Manager at Macy’s

JVS works with job seekers – both youth and adults – to help them fill out the online applications and practice for interviews. Last year, JVS honored one of our young job seekers, Widny Nazaire, who was hired by Uniqlo and is now a floor supervisor. It’s a great job for him while he continues his studies to become a physical therapist.

Taking on temporary work may seem like a step backwards for most people, but I encourage job seekers to get this work because it’s a great opportunity to learn new skills, network and gain new contacts, attain a great reference. To top it off, having a job to go to every day helps establish normalcy and routine.

Most seasonal jobs end in January, but there are many ways to leverage the energy of this work for your job search.

JVS job seeker Widny Nazaire, was hired by Uniqlo and is now a floor supervisor.

  1. Stop-Gap Strategy

Employers don’t typically like to see huge gaps in a resume. A seasonal position fills those and indicates to potential employers that you are serious about your job search. Your employment status is active and is an indicator that you are not idling away your time.

  1. You’ve Got New Tricks

Think about how you can apply new skills to other positions. So-Ky Loren, Store manager at Uniqlo, notes the care they take into training their staff.

“We want our customers to have the best experience at Uniqlo. Our customer service associates develop skills in sales and marketing, critical thinking, and active listening – skills that will continue to serve them for the rest of their lives.” – Loren

Rasmussen College conducted a survey and identified 10 most in-demand skill sets for 2014 that reinforces these skills as highly marketable.

  1. Schmooze

Network, network, network! Your job may be over, but have you connected with your co-workers on LinkedIn? Have you explored their connections? Did you ask your supervisor for a recommendation, or provide a recommendation for someone else? I encourage job seekers to make as many connections as possible during their seasonal employment. In some instances, it has led to an interview down the road. For Joseph, who was working at Office Max, his retail work led to a job! (Go to 3:15 in the video) Dust off that elevator pitch, set up some coffee dates and keep that momentum going!

Four Benefits of Temporary Employment

As you move into the New Year, don’t be afraid of temporary work. Think of it as one of many tools to get you to your next step. There are so many benefits.

  1. Cha-Ching!

Obviously, earning an income is a great benefit of temporary work—at least for a while. It’s tough finding people willing to work during high seasons and many employers provide higher pay during peak work shifts.

  1. Temp to Perm

Employers will try to keep their most dedicated and hard-working employees, if a position is available.

  1. Reference

While it might not be your intention to turn temporary work into a permanent position, forming great relations with your co-workers and supervisors helps when it’s time to search for a permanent gig. This is a chance to build professional references.

  1. Confidence Booster

It’s easy for job seekers to forget about their skills and abilities, especially if they have been out of work for a long time. I’ve seen seasonal work improve confidence among job seekers. It re-energizes their spirit, builds their network, and, more importantly, it reminds them that they have a lot to offer an employer.

Seasonal employment is not limited to sales and retail. Many corporate offices and organizations have staff members taking vacation during the holidays and, therefore, hire temporary workers to fill in. Temporary staffing agencies such as Manpower, Alan J. Blair, Pacific Coast Staffing, and Interim Staffing/Temporary Employment Program through UCSF (just to name a few), work with job seekers to fill temporary administrative positions, which can lead to full-time permanent employment.

Each season also brings different opportunities. For example, conventions peak during the summer months in San Francisco and many convention staffing agencies hire seasonal workers to staff conferences such as Dreamforce, VMworld, and Oracle OpenWorld. In collaboration with JVS, agencies such as Action Figures Staffing, Ovation Event Staffing, and Convention Staffing Solutions placed hundreds of job seekers in temporary convention positions.

Temporary employment is a great option for people looking for employment or a transition into a different career. From gaining new skills to expanding your network, there are many reasons to embrace this tool.

Until everyone is working

Here in San Francisco, we take pride in our collective way of thinking. Is it normal to wear wool in July? Of course. Shop without a reusable bag? Never. Expect the Giants to win on every even calendar year? Yes!!

Perched at the edge of the left coast, we take pride in the distinctiveness of San Francisco’s culture and our shared values. We’re all part of this great city and beyond, neighbors.

So I know you’ll find it shocking when I tell you that 23,000 of our San Francisco neighbors are feeling demeaned, helpless, scared and irrelevant. That despite San Francisco’s red-hot economy, 23,000 of our neighbors remain unemployed or under-employed; shut out because they lack the right training, skills and connections to employers.

It’s no secret that many unemployed people are struggling without solid access to education, food or housing. But, I bet you didn’t know that at least 40% of California’s unemployed people have been searching for quite a while – six months or more – making them “long-term” unemployed. These people are facing employer discrimination and more. They may have once worked by your side, or have lived on your street. For many, their mortgages are in arrears, and their retirement savings are gone. They are in danger of falling into poverty.

When the surrounding counties are included, 23,000 quickly becomes 182,000. That’s more than the entire population of the cities of Davis and Santa Cruz – combined.

JVS exists for them.

We believe the best way to fight poverty – or prevent it in the first place – is with a job. Work has the power to transform lives, instill dignity and move us from dependency and insecurity to mobility and opportunity. I work at JVS because I envision a community where everyone who wants to work can work and share in the Bay Area’s growing prosperity.

These are paradoxical times. While thousands are looking for work, many employers are searching to find well-trained candidates to fill job openings. This gap – a prosperity gap – is fueling an ever-growing divide. I believe this gap can be closed, and we’re leading the effort, by connecting employers to freshly trained job seekers who can fill their openings.

JVS can’t do it alone. Join our efforts to close this prosperity gap. Read this blog and share it with your networks with the buttons above and below each post. We’ve got a front row seat to this uneven economic recovery, and we’ll be using this blog to share our thoughts and observations.

Stay in touch. Let us know what you think: about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and what skills you think are needed in today’s workplace.

And most importantly, send your neighbors to JVS so we can help them find a job.