Just about every major city across the USA has a job search club. Some, like Kansas City, have several. They might be called the Five O’Clock Club, or sponsored by a non-profit. Some are faith-based and some are secular. Some charge a fee, and others are free of charge.  There are some good reasons to belong to a job search club if you’re serious about getting back to work. Research indicates that these organizations help job seekers learn networking skills, uncover hidden opportunities, and stay motivated in their search. I’ve seen job seekers in and out of these programs in less than 3 months. Many become gainfully employed when they follow the advice of the facilitators.

But there are some issues to be aware of if you want to use these programs most effectively. For one, treat every meeting as if it were a job interview. That means dress up. No, you don’t need to wear a suit and tie. But Birkenstocks and shorts (or sweats) don’t fit the bill either. Comb your hair, and at least look presentable. There may be employers in attendance seeking new talent. Not all will reveal that.

Follow the rule of Dale Carnegie. Don’t complain, condemn, or criticize. While there is a rule of confidentiality that should be maintained, consider this: there are others in the room paying attention. Perhaps their next job will require them to hire others. They know how well you react to adversity. Are you positive? Or waxing about how rude an interviewer was, or how unfair it is they’re checking your credit or online profile? Do you interrupt others, or hijack the meeting? How you act at a job search club can help you get hired, or keep you in the unemployment line.

Don’t over share. Would you discuss your divorce, or financial situation at a job interview? Then it’s probably not a good idea to discuss these issues in front of your fellow job seekers. If you have to get something off your chest, ask a church pastor or someone who leads the group to have a confidential discussion with you.

Be grateful. There are experts at many of these job clubs offering up free advice on their own time. If you don’t agree with them, that’s fine. But don’t argue, criticize the advice, or get defensive over the information. Smile and say thank you. These experts can recommend you, or look the other way when an opportunity comes along that you’d be a good fit for.

Respect boundaries and don’t ask invasive questions. If a group member reveals they had a job interview with a “large insurance carrier” don’t ask for the name of the company. They may not want to share that information with people who may want to also apply for the job. Yes, sharing is encouraged, but should not be required; especially  if after working so  hard to find a job lead on your own.

I highly recommend job search clubs to add to your strategy. To find one near you, go to Job-Hunt.org for a nationwide listing. Then treat it like a job interview. After all, everyday is your job interview.