Job clubs are affordable, fun and a very effective way of looking for work. "It's the best deal in town," declares Tom Babcock, a two-time member of the Sacramento Professional Network (SPN). "You could expect to pay $2500 if you went to a private employment company, but this job club is free."
New members start with four days of workshops that cover skills analysis, job-search strategies, resumes, cover letters, and interviewing techniques, including mock interview sessions. Members also have access to the office computers, Internet, fax, copier and job listings.
Members help each other find job leads and contacts in prospective companies. Ninety percent of jobs are won through networking, Babcock notes.
Participants are required to work at the office four hours a week. Facilities are provided by the state's Employment Development Department (EDD).
"The first time I came in to apply for unemployment, they told me about the (job) club," he recalls. "So I went over, signed up and through networking and the workshops, I landed a job as a project manager with a company in Elk Grove."
Last November the company closed its local office, and Babcock was back at SPN networking with other jobseekers. He notes membership now tops 125, a huge change from the 10 members a year ago. He says the length of time jobseekers stay at SPN varies with the job they are after.
"We have had people here from two weeks to a year. It all depends how much effort you want to put into only finding a job or finding your dream job."
Susan Felt, the Network's coordinator and EDD liaison, was once a member. "I was in the insurance business for 17 years until the company was downsized," she recalls. "I guess you could say the experience of belonging to the organization changed my career goals. Now I'm really delighted to work with it on the other side."
She says the difference between a career center and a job club is the networking. "In a career center you are on your own, whereas here we work together to help others find work. The bottom line is finding a job and I think it is working very well."
Forty Plus of Northern California, a cooperative job club located in Alameda, provides professional job-search programs, valuable networking opportunities and a wide variety of resources.
Membership is open to anyone at least 40 years old, with annual earnings exceeding $40,000, who is engaged in a job search in a managerial, executive, or professional field and is committed to finding appropriate employment as quickly as possible.
Job-search training includes networking with current members and alumni, weekly support groups, professional counseling and career guidance, career workshops and videotaped practice job interviews.
There is a membership fee and a requirement to volunteer each week.
Want information about the Bay Area job market? Looking for job leads? Need to update your resume? Experience Unlimited may be just the place for you. It offers a variety of free job search, career development, and employment preparation resources, sponsored by EDD. The job clubs were created in Berkeley in 1959, and now every county in the Bay Area has one.
"We have 72 members in our chapter and the emphasis is on self help, networking and professional support," explains San Francisco chapter coordinator Iswari Espana-Mejia. "Unlike other career centers, the program is targeted for managerial-level people who could benefit from interacting with other professionals in their fields."
The job club is not a placement service, but creates opportunities for members to help each other. Espana-Mejia recalls a recent success story of a member deciding to start his own import-export business after hearing a club speaker and getting members' support.
"We have a very open forum where people share their experiences," he states. "I believe there is not a right or wrong way to look for work; there is always a better way to do it."
Another EDD-supported Experience Unlimited Job Club is in Pleasant Hill.
"We have 184 members and that number is constantly changing," says EDD manager Judy Martin. "We are fortunate that our unemployment rate is not as high as Alameda and Santa Clara counties but we have seen an increase in members from this time last year."
Martin notes that all the EDD-supported clubs follow the same successful format of helping other members with their job search.
"I had heard about Experience Unlimited while I was still working, but I had no idea I would become a member," Heidi Appe says. "But the moment I was laid off from my employer, a consulting firm, I knew where I would go."
She says the club has been a lifesaver, offering moral support and valuable classes - videotaped interviews, writing or fine-tuning a resume, Internet 101 and more - to help in her job search.
"It is so comforting to walk into a room and know everyone is in the same boat," she declares. "You come away from these workshops with a 68-page packet that answers every imaginable question from networking techniques to keeping your attitude strong. I have also gotten job leads and interviews."
Appe says all the classes are taught by members who are at least middle management. Many are professional trainers who share their knowledge and experience for free.
"I'm looking for work in public relations or public affairs and I've had to take a couple of part-time jobs in the meantime," she admits. "But I'm really feeling optimistic about the possibilities of getting a career job."
For more information on job clubs, contact these organizations:
- Tri-City One Stop in Fremont - (510) 794-3581
- Forty Plus in Oakland - (510) 337-0790, fortyplus.org
- Pro Search in Oakland - (510) 563-5210
- Experience Unlimited in Pleasant Hill - (925) 602-5026
- Sacramento Professional Network - (916) 227-0330, lanset.com/spn
- Experience Unlimited in San Francisco - (415) 771-1776
- Peninsula Professional Network in San Mateo - (650) 652-7858
- Marin Professionals in San Rafael - (415) 507-3510
- Experience Unlimited in Stockton - (209) 468-3510
- Pro Match in Sunnyvale - (408) 736-2391
- Employment Development Department - edd.ca.gov/jscjb.htm, lists of clubs and other jobseeker services throughout the state.
- The Riley Guide - rileyguide.com, job listings, resources and lists of job clubs throughout the country and on-line.
- JobStar.org - job listings, resources and lists of local career centers.
- America's Service Locator - servicelocator.org, a database search for jobseeker organizations/clubs by zip code.