We had the second meeting of the Autism Job Club this past Saturday, December 10, at the Friends House in downtown San Francisco. The main topic was networking to find a job. Networking is one of the three key elements of job placement in California today, along with mastery of the internet job boards/social media and mastery of resume/interviewing.

The numbers on hire levels/rates in the United States and California have remained high throughout the Recession and to the present. Californians I speak with are usually amazed when they hear that there are around 4 million individual instances of hiring each month in the United States.  Below is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on hire levels through September of 2011.

Hire Levels: United States (Number of Individual Instances of Hiring Each Month)

 Sept. 2010  April 2011  May 2011  June 2011  July 2011  Aug. 2011  Sept. 2011
Total 3,869,000 4,001,00 4,129,000 4,058,000 3,976,000 4,060,000 4,245,000
Private 3,614,000 3,733,000 3,870,000 3,797,000 3,733,000 3,785,000 3,984,000
Government    255,000    269,000    259,000     261,000     243,000    275,000     262,000

California has around 11% of the payroll jobs in the United States (14.1 million of the 131.7 million payroll jobs in the U.S.), meaning in California we have roughly 400,000-450,000 individual instances of hires per month. Job placement specialists estimate that more than thirty to forty percent of these job openings are not listed on any job board or public posting. Access to job opportunities through networks of friends, family, and work colleagues, is a main strategy for identifying this “hidden job market”.

Our Job Club networking discussion was led by Ms. Cindy Zoeller. Ms. Zoeller has more than ten years of experience as an employment coach. She is active in a number of the statewide professional organizations for career counselors and human resources professionals. Her current practice focuses on adults on the autistic spectrum. When she heard about the Autism Job Club she drove from Sacramento to San Francisco for our first meeting. She volunteered her services, and became the Club facilitator.

Ms. Zoeller started with the nature of networking today. She described networking broadly as a process of talking to other people to learn about your field of work, the current job market in your field, and potential job openings.”By networking you are enlisting the assistance of others in your job search,” she explained. “You are creating more eyes and ears that will work on your behalf. You are creating an opportunity for yourself—rather than just waiting for something to happen. You are finding the unadvertised jobs that are available to you—the hidden job market.”

Ms. Zoeller then set out three action items for the Job Club members.

1.  Identify everyone you can possibly think of to tell you are looking for a job and then decide what you want to ask each of these people. Often it will be helpful to give your network contacts ideas about the sort of position or company you are looking for.

2.  Write out your goals prior to the contact.  It can be an uncomfortable feeling to approach others for assistance; but being prepared can greatly reduce the anxiety. Have your goals for the contact written out, with a possible script.

3. Create a record keeping system to keep track of each networking contact.

The Job Club members (along with a number of parents and other volunteers) were asked to fill out a “Network List” form, identifying their contacts, including phone number and e-mail. “In building your networking list, most people will come up with 25 to 30 names,” Ms. Zoeller advised. “You will continue to remember more names as you keep developing your network. Continue adding to your list. These people will be your primary contacts. Your goal is to have them become your ‘job search agents’.”

After the meeting, Ms. Zoeller explained that in her experience with persons on the autistic spectrum, a lot of one-to-one assistance will be needed. We are setting up an online meeting group, and will be meeting in person as a group next on January 17. The numbers noted above of 400,000-450,000 hires per month in California serve to motivate us, as they should motivate other job seekers throughout the state.