California Job Club: Version 2.1

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

Over the past  thirty years, the Job Club has proved to be one of the most cost-effective employment  and reemployment strategies in California. Utilizing the approach of mutual support, job seekers help each other with job leads, job search strategies and unflagging moral support.

The Job Club today exists in a range of settings, both public and private. Job Clubs are sponsored by community job training groups,  veterans groups,  fraternal organizations, industry associations., They are sponsored by churches and synagogues (though in synagogues there sometimes are two job clubs, so congregants can say, “that’s the job club I don’t go to”).

The state Employment Development Department (EDD) since the 1980s has sponsored “Experienced Unlimited” job clubs , and most of these have become part of the One-Stop system. There currently are 20 Experience Unlimited job clubs in the state, including clubs in Fresno, Torrance, West Covina and Irvine. Job seekers are given office space in the One Stop, and staff assistance, but mainly are encouraged to take ownership of the process, including  volunteering time on the job search process of others, as well as themselves.

Ms. Kris Stadelman, the executive director of the NOVA Workforce Investment Board (WIB) in Silicon Valley, oversees ProMatch, one of the oldest and largest One Stop  job clubs in the state, with over 200 members at any time. It also is one of the most active in seeking to create the next generation job club, Job Club 2.1.

As noted in previous posts, the job search process in California and throughout the nation is rapidly evolving, due to the internet job boards, the widespread solicitation/submittal of resumes online, and the rise of social media sites, particularly LinkedIn.  ProMatch , whose membership includes a good number of laid off technology workers, has been adapting to meet this evolution, particularly around the concept of the  job network.

Stadelman regards the job seeker’s network as central to job success;  and in ProMatch a main goal is to assist workers to expand their networks. The job network assists the job search process in at least three key ways.

First,  through a job network, the job seeker can identify job openings that might not be widely posted on the internet boards or even posted at all. Network contacts can provide access to the hidden job market , and possibly even contacts with decision makers in hiring for these hidden jobs.

Second, network contacts can provide advice on how to interview with a certain firm or certain interviewer. Third, network contacts can help a job seeker stand out against the many other applicants. The internet makes it much easier than in the past for a job seeker to submit a resume. But this ease of submittal also means that employers receive tens if not hundreds of resume for each position. Through his or her job network, the job seeker might have a contact with the employer—to at least get to the interview stage.

To build a network, ProMatch advises job seekers  to start with seeking contacts from each other,  and from ProMatch alumni. ProMatch has a LinkedIn page for job contacts among members, and from previous ProMatch members who have found employment. Job seekers are urged to benefit from the networks of others.  Job seekers also are urged to increase their networks through the use of LinkedIn, and through building a profile on professional networks.

For Stadelman,  building a network is an on-going process. It is to continue even after the job seeker finds work,  so that it is available for advancement opportunities or for times of unemployment, or for the use of other job seekers.

Yet, in emphasizing job search as network, Stadelman does not minimize the non-network values of the Job Club. In today’s job world, it is easy to feel that a job placement will never occur; that hiring or even serious interviews will never happen. ProMatch celebrates each job placement,  each job interview. “ProMatch above all is about giving job seekers hope,” notes Stadelman, “Where else do you get that in California’s job world today?”

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