If by "hanging out" you mean joining an active and effective job club, the answer may well be “yes.”
Job clubs can be not only great networking venues, but also amazing sources of support and encouragement—not to mention accountability, feedback, training, strategy, contacts, and even friendship. You can find job clubs in your area by conducting an Internet search for “job or career clubs” and then the name of your city.
How can you tell if a group is a good one? Here are the main things to look for:
Networking potential. Some job clubs are aimed at a particular industry; some consist of folks from many different lines of work. Either way, look for members in your general income range but with a breadth of experience a bit deeper than your own. Ideally, these will be people with contacts you don’t already have, and vice versa. You also want members to be people who are good at what they do and have clear goals.
Stability. Ask how long the group has been active, how many members it has (around 30 is a good number), how it recruits new members, and how often it meets (two to four times a month is usual).
Confidentiality. What goes on in job club should stay in job club. You want to be able to openly share your strategies, ideas, and frustrations. You need to be able to trust your job club colleagues—so go to a meeting or two and use your common sense.
Built-in accountability. For many people, this is the chief benefit of the job club. Most meetings begin with a status report from each member and end with an announcement of goals for the following week. Being required to report on your progress and your goals keeps you plugging away on your search.
A businesslike venue. Some job clubs meet in the members’ homes, with the host providing refreshments, and it works just fine. But a “neutral” location is usually best. You don’t want it to turn into an eating (or drinking!) club. Your venue doesn’t have to cost money; job clubs can meet in community centers, libraries, community colleges, places of worship, or other public places. Check out coffeehouses—some offer private meeting rooms for only the price of a cup of Joe.
A leader/moderator. The best groups are those that have someone who guides the discussions and keeps the group focused. It can be a paid moderator (many job clubs are sponsored by local municipalities or career centers or even Goodwill), or members can take turns leading the group. Either way, it’s good to have someone in charge.
Extras. Some job clubs conduct practice interviews, provide resume critiques, help develop job search strategies, arrange for motivational speakers, and more. Regular meetings, moral support, and accountability are the chief pluses of the job club. But extras can be nice, too.
A job search can be isolating and lonely, and the longer it goes on, the harder it gets. But you don’t have to go it alone. You can join a job club.
Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.