The Circle of Job Seeking
An inspiring story of mutual support amid the struggle
When we started the Hearty journey I was pretty confident that I knew a lot about finding and sharing talent and job opportunities. After all I’ve had a hand in hiring at least a thousand people over my career. But, thankfully, we realized that “he who is wise admits he knows nothing” and have spent a ton of time interviewing other people in the people business to uncover insights, problems and opportunities that we’ve missed.
Any good researcher ends an interview with the question, “Who else should I speak with?” Usually people are willing to make a helpful introduction after you’ve spent some time together and they trust you’re not just trying a clever sales pitch. It’s a great way to get farther and farther outside your filter bubble, and a warm intro makes things much easier.
In the past few months these conversations have led me to discover several groups in my city that are comprised of professionals who are out of work and gathering to help each other find a new position. These groups reminded me of the best of humanity in business, and give me hope that people are willing to give help to each other—especially if we can make the asks a little bit easier.
The Circle of Support
I got to sit in my first group a few weeks ago both to learn and share how Hearty can help those seeking work. I’ve now sat in on a couple of groups and heard about several others in town. Some are organized by profession while others are centered on a community. They happen weekly or monthly, and are led by experienced executives whose day job tends to be in a “people business”—like recruiting or training—but are mainly doing this work because they enjoy helping others. The attendees are mainly mid-career professionals who have been unexpectedly laid off and are finding the job search process difficult.
This job search group model fits with a concept that I’ve read about in a couple of other places. The general idea is that a group of 10-15 people comes together in a real or virtual circle, and each person takes 5 minutes to share what they are doing and how the group may help. Since the purpose is mutual, people are very willing to volunteer to make introductions or share advice.
I was blown away in my first group to see an amazing burst of support activity from the start. The first person had applied to a specific company and asked for help standing out in the application process. She immediately got intro offers from three other members. It’s amazing—but actually not surprising—that a group of 10 strangers coming together would lead to several new connections.
Beyond specific introductions, the group was incredibly helpful with advice and insights. Many people are trying to use a lay-off as a chance to switch their careers into something more meaningful, which takes more time and struggle. Those that shared their struggles were rewarded with useful advice and perspective from fellows who have been-there, done-that.
Aside from helping people find jobs faster, I think there’s some other big benefits to this concept. Let’s face it, being out of work is depressing, but getting together with other good people who are in the same situation makes you feel better and get more motivated. A spirit of camaraderie is sparked as folks can be real, honest and open about their struggles. Some have made life-long friendships with people they met in job search circles, and “alumni groups” even get back together months and years later.
Can we do this more often?
Each time I leave one of these meetings I wonder why we don’t help each other like this more often. Does it take being out of work for people to come together for mutual assistance and gain? Why would this be the case when—in theory—we’re already connected with so many people across multiple social media platforms?
Deep down we crave a circle of trusted advice, which goes back to sitting around a campfire eons ago. But we’re missing the modern, tech-enabled campfire or water cooler that fits how life is lived today.
There are some examples where this is happening. Various CEO groups have risen in the past few decades, such as YPO, EO and Vistage. They all center on building small groups of peers for mutual, trusted advice. Others are compelled to create Slack channels or Discord groups for people who work in the same city and industry.
This is what we’re trying to tap into with Hearty. Our product uses technology to make mutual support easier and more useful. We’ve already been surprised to see people using our Leaderboards to pull together communities that have not been united before. We’re betting that people are willing to pay-it-forward in new ways.
Time will tell if our bet is a good one, but after these job search group experiences, I’m even more of a believer in the power of trusted networks and human kindness.