Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Strangers Lend a Hand to Job Seekers


Once you've tapped out your network and run out of recruiters to contact, where do you go to get help finding a job these days? For a growing group of job hunters, total strangers have become the answer.

In late January, Jason C. Blais began following JobAngels, a group on the social-networking site Twitter.com that is dedicated to helping people find jobs. Mr. Blais saw a message posted by a laid-off technology professional asking for support and he volunteered to take the woman under his wing.

Mr. Blais suggested improvements to her résumé. He then sent a copy to a hiring manager at a teaching hospital he knew was seeking candidates for a position matching the job hunter's qualifications and interests. A week later, the woman was invited to interview for the job. She is still waiting to hear back.

Alarmed by the nation's rising unemployment rate, many working Americans are going out of their way to help their laid-off counterparts -- often complete strangers -- secure new positions. They're sharing job leads, leveraging their networks and making referrals and often putting their own reputations on the line.

"Adversity often brings out a generosity and compassion," says Tim Irwin, an organizational psychologist in Atlanta.

Career experts agree that the majority of the best jobs are found on the basis of networking or a relationship. "The power of a referral is tremendous," says Mr. Irwin, author of "Run With the Bulls Without Getting Trampled." "When I lend my name to a person's résumé, they benefit from the influence that I have with that individual. Their résumé is going to get different attention. That's just a reality."

Mr. Blais, business-development director at JobsInTheUS.com, says he developed a strong desire in recent months to help laid-off workers find new positions due to the increasing competitiveness of the job market. "A lot of good people are not even getting their résumé seen because employers aren't digging that deep into the pile," he says. "This is just one small way I could help somebody that's a good candidate."

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