Lay-offs, downsizing, business closings..what's next? These groups and events can help you discover (or even create) a new job niche in today's tight economy.
* Professional & industry associations & societies. These groups are key for several reasons. Attend their meetings to meet others---ask about a “guest” pass if it costs to attend. Volunteer to help on a committee as a way to get to know others. Perhaps a faculty member could bring you as a guest. If you aren't sure which groups to attend, check with your career center or faculty advisor for ideas. Or, you could visit the reference section of your library. Ask to see the Encyclopedia of Associations. This book has lists of groups you can join, as well as contact information.
Why are these groups worth your time? Simply put: the people. You'll be able to meet people who could hire you, people who could introduce you to people who can hire you, and people who could become your mentors. Special reminder: Remember, if you are newly laid-off, your emotions might be a bit raw. It will be hard at first, but try your very hardest to be pleasant as you are meeting new people at networking events. Don't give in to the temptation to vent about your situation to strangers. Let them know you're looking for work, focus on your strengths and experiences, and downplay the fact that you were laid off. Later, vent to your friends or significant other to sort out any hurt, angry, or frustrated feelings you might be having.
* Alumni Associations. If you are thinking about relocating, have your school help you get in touch with alumni from that area. Many times, alumni will be able to provide you with information about companies in their area, perhaps even key contact people's names. How to find these alumni? Try contacting your college career center for help first. If they can't help you, go directly to your college's Alumni Office. Some universities have alumni career centers and special programs designed for this purpose.
* Conferences and trade shows. These events might look like a job fair, but they are actually designed for companies to reach potential customers. However, they still might be a good use of your time. At these events, you can learn more about companies, pick up business cards & call later to inquire about potential job openings. You can also get a "feel" for what the people in a particular company might be like. Do you see yourself fitting in?
* Chambers of Commerce. Most Chamber websites have job listings online, lists of member businesses along with their contact information, and news about businesses that are moving in to the area. They also frequently sponsor networking events. If you are shy, try attending some of the smaller networking events first, such as a morning coffee "mixer", rather than a huge happy-hour event for the entire membership. How to find a Chamber in your area? Try Google. If you live in Tucson, simply google for "Tucson + Chamber of Commerce".
* Online discussion groups. Be careful about your privacy when you join these groups, and don’t assume that everything that you read here in the group is 100% accurate. With that said...you can still get great advice from the participants in these groups.
* Your friends. Make sure friends & acquaintances know that you are looking for a job. Don't be afraid to ask for help. And, think about who your friends know. If your friend's parent or boyfriend or cousin works at a place of interest, add that person to your network! Be courteous; don't embarrass your friend by hounding the people that they know. But definitely (politely) ask about future openings, how the application process works, what the boss is like, and so forth.
Looking for more ideas? Try these, too:
* Business publications. These publications have information about which new businesses are coming to your town, as well as information on which companies are growing and expanding. What great clues! If you hear about a new business coming to town, you can bet that they will need employees. Your chamber of commerce probably has copies of these publications, and possibly your college career center. Many local business publications are also available now online. A sure bet: your local reference librarian. They can always find this kind of information, and most likely will have other great suggestions as well.
* Teach a class. Try to make yourself visible to other professionals by teaching an adult-education class. Or, try teaching as an “adjunct” instructor at a community college. Don’t expect to support yourself from the money you make doing this, but do expect to find some new leads IF you present yourself professionally. For example, if you teach a class on Basic Website Design at a local community college, you might find that many of your students are actually entrepreneurs who are struggling to launch their first website. So, you might find that some of your students will actually want to "hire" you to build a website for them. To learn about this kind of teaching opportunity, simply look for a link in the “Human Resources” section of the local college for which you would like to work. Some K-12 school districts have "Adult Education" or "Community Education" offices that sponsor adult education courses. If you can teach a business-related subject, try contacting your local Chamber of Commerce to see if they need seminar leaders.
* Give a speech. Write an article. Anything that will make you more visible & that will put you in the spotlight can help with your job search. Remember to add these things to your resume. Perhaps you just earned a degree in Finance. Could you give a presentation about personal finance at your church? You never know who might be at the seminar...you can hear about job openings at the most unusual of places sometimes!
Remember: Maintain your network. Don’t just USE your network when you need a job. Instead, focus on making it grow and see if you can repay favors. Keep in touch. Try to make 1 networking call a week. Keep going to your professional association meetings, even after you’ve found a job. You don’t want to start from scratch the next time you are looking for a job. And remember to keep your resume up to date so that you can quickly fire off a copy when you needed. Nothing is worse than hearing about a “perfect” opportunity, but then missing out because you took too long getting your paperwork together!
Challenge yourself to try just a few of these strategies. I guarantee that you will hear about job possibilities that never even made it to the classified section!