Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Job Hunting? - JobAngels Networking May be An Answer to Your Prayer

An Interview with JobAngels Founder, Mark Stelzner

Are you one of the 30 million Americans looking for work right now? Have you been job hunting for 3 months, 6 months, or longer with little if any hope left? Have you talked to recruiters and applied for so many jobs online that they all run together in your mind now? And, you still don’t have a job or what seems to be a prayer in finding one?

Have you in fact said a prayer each night for strength to get through this time in your life and hoped for someone to care about your situation? The JobAngels network may be one answer to that prayer.

JobAngels is a grassroots, volunteer-based community dedicated to helping people find gainful employment one person at a time. The JobAngels network is people that have come together to pay-it-forward, help others, and seek the help they need. This extraordinarily simple concept is built on the basic premise of people helping people. Hundreds of thousands of people have participated in this grassroots movement since the JobAngels mission began in 2009.

The vision of JobAngels is “to bring people together in and across online communities where each person has a single goal – to help just one person find employment. It can be a friend, a family member, a colleague, or a total stranger.” As the Founder and Visionary of JobAngels, Mark Stelzner feels one of his greatest achievements was in sending that one simple message on Twitter that sparked the beginning of a global movement.

Mark Stelzner runs Inflexion Advisors, his human resources management consulting firm, as well as being a sought after public speaker and writer. He has brought over $3 billion worth of value to his clients and employers during his sixteen year career working with public and private sector clients worldwide.

An Interview with JobAngels Founder, Mark Stelzner:

BKH: Describe the first person's situation and outcome that you helped through JobAngels.
MS: Although it may not be the first, an early example involved a recruiter who had an urgent need for three specialized employees for immediate deployment to Puerto Rico. We put out the request to our network and within 48 hours three job seekers had secured new positions with her client’s firm. Everyone was shocked by the speed of the matching process and the fact that they never would have found one another were it not for the JobAngels network.

BKH: Are your networking resources 100% "free" to those needing help?
MS: Yes. The only cost is time and effort.

BKH: Does your JobAngels network have participants in all 50 states?
MS: Yes. There are participants in all 50 states and in over 20 countries.

BKH: Which are the top three states for participation?
MS: I can’t answer this with 100% accuracy, but it appears that Illinois, California and either Florida, New York or Texas has the most active participation.

BKH: Describe the type of people that become JobAngels in your network.
MS: “Angels” come from all walks of life ranging from stay-at-home moms to C-level executives. Because of the self-selecting nature of the movement, each volunteer offers their advice, guidance and support based upon their personal and professional comfort level. For example, here’s a message I literally just received in my inbox that may give you a sense of the type of people we associate with, “I live up in the northern Panhandle of Idaho in the town of Sandpoint. I have in my own meek ways tried to help people get back into the workforce whether it is by encouraging them to go back to school, mentoring them on applying for a career, and even hiring people to work with me in my small endeavors. I enjoy participating in helping people better their lives.” You really could not ask for anything more selfless.

BKH: What are the industries represented by your Angel participants?
MS: There are too many to list, and we see individuals ranging from retail employees in New Jersey to biomedical professionals in Hawaii.

BKH: What level of decision making is represented by your Angel participants - executive, mid-managers, and non-managers?
MS: It’s a broad continuum. Insofar as our online networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) are concerned, it likely trends more toward white collar professionals of all ages and experience levels.

BKH: What level of employment does the JobAngels network help with - white collar, blue collar, executive?
MS: All of the above. I personally spoke to over 100,000 blue collar workers in 2009 alone; and although one might not expect them to adopt new media tools as a means of finding employment, the premise of JobAngels and our advice still resonated strongly.

BKH: Approximately how many people participate in your network?
MS: We have approximately 45,000 participants that we know of, but many more that may never join our online networks directly.

BKH: Does JobAngels have established relationships with major corporations or business associations?
MS: Informally, yes. Because of my volunteer leaders’ strong backgrounds in working with public and private entities of all sizes, we have organically spread the word on the movement. In some instances, such as Intuit, they have gone so far as to add the JobAngels logo at the bottom right of their careers page.

BKH: Does JobAngels have established relationships with government agencies or elected representatives?
MS: Informally, yes. During my time in Washington, DC we did brief many agencies and officials on JobAngels. We also held several conference calls with the economic development and unemployment agencies for a variety of state governments.

BKH: What are most people looking for in general that come to your network for help?
MS: That’s an interesting question. We believe that many seek a community of individuals who understand what they might be facing. When the movement first began, I received hundreds of emails simply thanking us for “making it okay to be unemployed”. Many people are ashamed, devastated, and unsure how to proceed from the darkest days of their lives. Simply offering a sympathetic ear was often the most rewarding outcome for those in need.

BKH: What is the average length of unemployment for those that come to the JobAngels network for help right now?
MS: Again, this is difficult to say as we see new arrivals that have been laid off within days of joining the movement. We see others that are approaching 2+ years of unemployment and almost see JobAngels as their best and last light of hope.

BKH: What are the top three mistakes most job seekers make in looking for employment in today's market?
MS: Two that I speak to often is the need to know their destination and pursue it with complete abandon. Too often job seekers are attempting to boil the ocean through mass distribution of resumes to a wide swath of possible opportunities. Instead, they must find the time and wherewithal to reflect on their skills, assess market conditions and honestly define what they want from their career. For many, this requires them to toss away what has come before and reinvent a “new you” for the future. And once they’ve defined a course, be relentless in their attainment. Don’t apologize for their destination and use all means at their disposal to achieve the desired goals. They’ll encounter barriers, so they should surround themselves with those who will either lift them up or get out of their way. My third point is that job seekers need to do research on how others have attained their goal and do not be afraid to ask for assistance.

BKH: How does JobAngels enhance how the unemployed are already networking to find employment?
MS: For one, it broadens how many have traditionally pursued networking and allows shy and more withdrawn job seekers to participate in a comfortable, stress-free environment. JobAngels also offers exposure to a wide variety of individuals that they would not have been privy to otherwise. Finally, no one is judged, and this is important during a time of personal and professional uncertainty.

BKH: You use social media to bring people together. Hooking up with JobAngels on Facebook and LinkedIn are a given, but I found your Twitter use pretty amazing! Please tell us how you use Twitter to help job seekers.
MS: Thanks for the kind words. On Twitter, we ask individuals to follow “@JobAngels” and we will automatically follow them back. We then ask that they send us a “Direct Message” describing their desired geography, type of work, experience level and a link to an online resume or LinkedIn-type profile. In turn, we “Retweet” that information to our following and include the “#JobAngels” hashtag for those who actively search via Twitter. The results are pretty amazing as one average we see anywhere from 300-600 clicks onto that person’s profile and online resume. In addition, millions of messages, articles, job postings and the like have been posted on Twitter with the “#JobAngels” hashtag to let people know that these are JobAngels friendly organizations. It has been amazing to watch how the Twitter community has embraced our movement.

BKH: How do those that need help or want to help join the JobAngels network?
MS: Start by visiting JobAngels and getting to know our organization, my volunteer leadership team, and each of the social media properties where we exist. Then simply join those that make sense to you, and follow the instructions as listed. Or instead, simply learn from the premise of the movement and call an unemployed former colleague, take a neighbor to coffee, visit a local community center helping the unemployed and generally offer yourself to those in need.

BKH: What is JobAngels success rate in helping the unemployed find jobs?
MS: This is difficult to track given the “pay-it-forward” nature of the movement, but we do know of over 1,600 people who have found employment as a direct result of their association with JobAngels.

BKH: Do you have plans to expand the JobAngels mission?
MS: We do. In fact, we have found that it is quite difficult for many passive and active job seekers to sort through the noise in the career space and find advice that truly speaks to their needs. This is why JobAngels will be supporting the deployment of an online career summit in the fall of 2010. Although the website is still in construction, those interested should go to The Career Summit for more information.

BKH: What are the two most significant pieces of advice you have for those looking for employment today?
MS: Do not try and go it alone. When we have surveyed job seekers we have been shocked to find that over 50% of those in need had yet to ask for help. Despite our cultural disdain for “asking for help” or a “handout”, you have to know that there are people in the world who are willing and able to offer meaningful assistance. If you do not believe in yourself and the goodwill of others, you will absolutely fail. Build your confidence through little victories and know that somewhere in the world I am cheering you on.

BKH: Thanks, Mark. Network today with JobAngels at http://www.jobangels.org/

In reality, every day networking is the most successful “employment agency” in today’s challenging work environment. Internet technology, social media, and people are the best tools for job hunting.

JobAngels’ describes it best on their website, “Today, through the power of social media, each of us is just a few connections away from someone who may be able to help you by opening up their network, offering real-world advice from experts in their industry or field, connecting with individuals inside organizations who are hiring; and ultimately putting people back to work. We are not a placement agency or a recruiting company. Rather, following the ancient wisdom of helping others to do for themselves, we facilitate connecting volunteer mentors – Job Angels – with jobseekers, so that these Job Angels can provide guidance, instruction, and mentorship to jobseekers. We are truly taking networking to a whole new level – driven by the people, for the people – not just of this country but from around the world.”

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