Job Networking Club has been connecting job seekers to employment for nearly 14 years
By MARIA RAKOCZY (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MADISON – For nearly fourteen years, the St. Joseph the Worker Job Networking Club has been helping unemployed individuals find jobs through weekly meetings. The club was founded in September of 2009 during the recession that left many laid off and out of work.
Founding volunteer, Maureen Chemsak, felt compelled to use her experience in career coaching at University of Alabama in Huntsville and Athens State to help those affected by the recession.
She recalled, “My background is in career services at UAH and at Athens State, and I was retired but kept getting these, ‘Why don’t you start something to help people?’”
Other volunteers have felt similarly compelled over the years to use their talents and past professional experience to help others. Now, the club is sustained by more than twenty volunteers who lend their time and expertise to coach job seekers on resume building, cover letter writing, interviewing, and other skills.
Chemsak describes the volunteers as having “big hearts” and “generous with their time.”
The club is a rich resource for job seekers as it both develops hard and soft skills and connects members directly with hiring employers. It emphasizes the impact of networking in linking individuals with jobs before they are posted online and making meaningful, personal connections with employers.
The club meets every Tuesday at 12:30 in the basement of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Hughes Road. The club is non-denominational and open to all job seekers of any background and any career interest.
The meetings comprise of three parts that introduce the club, its volunteers, and its members, facilitate a presentation by a guest speaker, and offer time for individual networking. A special session, ExperiencePlus, follows the main session and is tailored specifically to job seekers over the age of fifty.
The club brings in guest speakers with valuable career experience and coaching. The March 14 meeting brought McKinley Curtis III, a military official and motivational speaker, to present on hard and soft skills in job hunting.
One recent member, Paige Barber, a cybersecurity expert looking to enter business analysis, appreciates this aspect of the club, “Every week is a rotation of different speakers.” Barber says she finds the weekly speakers and coaching from volunteers enriching and productive in her job search.
The meetings also bring in representatives from career placement and guidance organizations like North Alabama Center for Educational Excellence (NACEE), Alabama Career Center (ACC), and Calhoun Community College. In addition to the weekly meetings, the club sends out a regular newsletter to its members via email with job opportunities and updates, and they are planning to hold a job fair in the fall.
Those interested in volunteering with the job club and joining as a member can find more information online at sjwjobclub.org and via Linkedin.