ed muses upon

2009/11/13

How PSG Adds Value to Job Search

The Professional Service Group, or PSG, adds tremendous value to the job search process for professionals in transition. The following is discussion of my experiences with this extraordinary group.

I have been involved in the PSG of Mercer County since January. I first discovered PSG through the Job Seekers networking and support group, and as a professional in transition, quickly found a group of like-minded professionals with an interest in taking ownership over the job search process, committed to thought-leadership and passionate about best practices.

As the name suggests, PSG is a group that provides a service to professionals: getting back into the workplace. Past members have held certifications such as PMPs or CPAs, with degrees ranging from an associate’s up to a doctorate. And as a group of professionals for professionals, we help one another land our next jobs.

With the support of the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, we have access to tools such as computers, phones, faxes, copiers and printers. But I want to discuss what the members provide that makes PSG so valuable.

According to numerous sources, 80% of jobs are filled through networking, and PSG is a great way to network. When you work alongside somebody on a project, you know better what he or she is willing to and capable of doing, and they know better what your strengths are. When you complete a project, you have kept your skills fresh or perhaps you learned a new skill, which means there’s something new to add to your resume. But beyond that, each week the Training Committee provides a presentation that directly addresses concerns or topics of interest for job seekers: job leads, resume tips and mock interview workshops featuring members, to name just a few.

I am aware of no other resource offering such a rich toolkit of job search tools and tactics. While there are other counties across the state with their own PSGs, this is a toolkit not available in neighboring states: neither the Pennsylvania, New York, nor Connecticutt state governments provide an analogous such framework that empowers professionals to conduct a more effective job search.

With the NJ unemloyment rate at nearly 10% at the time of this writing, it is important that both prospective employers seeking local candidates as well as transitioning professionals know about this unique, free resource.

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2009/11/09

Staying Focused: Tracking Progress

It can be dispiriting to put in so much effort into job search and often not even get an acknowledgement, never mind an interview. I know I face that frustration myself often and doubt that’s unique to me. But I found a way to combat that frustration.

I was privileged to hear a presentation on job search methods given by David Shultis recently through a networking group. He shared a lot of excellent ideas, but there are two in particular I wanted in turn to share with you.

Some years ago, I was let go from a major financial services firm and part of that included several months with an outplacement firm, Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH). One of the ideas LHH had, which Mr. Shultis also recommended in his presentation, was the idea of developing a method of tracking the progress of your job search. Think of it as applying metrics to any other work.

The idea itself is simple: create a chart for each day of the week, in which you track calls attempted, calls made, specific e-mail inquiries sent, general e-mails sent, informational meetings, meetings with possible employers and with whom, interviews with possible employers and with whom and networking meetings.

Assuming you are using a spreadsheet such as Excel for this purpose: create one worksheet for each month. Being able to review when you’ve been most productive can give insight about ways to optimize your efforts Beyond that, the ability to track the effort you are putting into job search is not just sound project management, it’s a great motivational tool for you as well.

The second idea Mr. Shultis shared, and this was new to me, was the idea of a buddy group: a small group of people who can share networking info and offer support. Networking groups can sometimes be a bit large for some to feel comfortable, so the idea of a smaller and more intimate environment fired my imagination, and reminded me of something that happened at my last job.

A little over a year ago, I began a new position. On my first day, I met another new hire, waiting patiently in the lobby while waiting for the HR orientation. We learned that we were going to be coworkers in the same department and we bonded immediately. Although both of us were let go from that position, L remains a dear friend, and I know she and I both felt having a support group was helpful in getting oriented in a place that employed several hundred people.

While of course your friends or family can be great assets, there’s something to be said for getting outside of your comfort zone with other people who bring different perspectives and insights. The strain of being unemployed is hard to appreciate unless you’re in it, and who’s going to get it better than other folks facing the same kinds of obstacles as you?

I mention these two ideas together because individually, they’re pretty useful ideas—but using them together can make them even more so.

Use the buddy group to be accountable for progress, in terms of calls, e-mail and meetings. In turn, everyone in the group analyzes the results your respective job searches yield and you can help optimize your efforts. You may find that calling on Mondays or Fridays is tricky in the summer because people take long weekends when the weather’s nice. If that’s what your research shows, you just saved your buddy group hours trying to reach people who are sipping umbrella drinks, not their morning joe.

At the end of the day, tracking your progress helps you to stay focused on the big picture: landing your next job.

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