Park City Career Network hosts special speakers, nurtures the unemployed
In late summer, Anne Gardner and a few associates started the Park City Career Network. The idea was that a lot of people were looking for work, wanting to start a new business or change careers because of the recession. People like herself and the other facilitators have special skills that can help people in that situation. coming together to share knowledge, successes and failures, everyone involved would benefit.
In a little less than six months, the group has established an email list of 64 contacts, enjoys over a dozen people in attendance at its weekly Monday morning meetings and has 16 "graduates" who have attained new employment and 10 who have started new businesses.
The group is now transitioning from an open discussion group to a more organized format including monthly presentations from local professionals. The first on Jan. 11 welcomed local financial planner Joe Cronley and a not-for-profit group from Salt Lake City teaching how to organize one’s finances after losing a job.
Future presentations will likely assist attendees in overcoming the financial, emotional and practical concerns that arise during unemployment.
"We want to bring in people who can help with needs," she said.
Future presentations will cover maximizing use of social networking sites and getting tax help before April 15.
Since many attendees have started their own business, she hopes to address some of the special issues they’ll face and she thinks professionals like life coaches or people with stories of successfully navigating major life transitions would be useful.
"What do you do when life hands you lemons?" she said. "Our overall theme is perfecting ‘the brand called you.’"
Gardner said that as the group has grown, it’s become more self-sustaining. People really push each other to make goals set at each meeting and offer constructive criticism of how each is promoting their own image and specialties.
She hopes that trend continues and the group can grow so that professionals can replace the existing facilitators. Gardner doesn’t think an organized corps of officers is right for this group, because it’s not a club with membership fees and obligations. It’s a volunteer organization of people looking to network, grow together and help each other out. She wants it to attract attendees who want to serve the organization as well as the people in it.
"They come back in and pay it forward," she said. "A number of people have gotten something through relationships inside the group."
One woman was recovering from a divorce and was trying to re-enter the workforce after a 17-year absence. She found a job in the hospitality industry working with people and came back and reported to the group that she was the happiest she’d ever been.
The people who attend don’t have much in common except they’re battling with the same concerns, fears and aspirations. She said that diversity actually strengthens the group because the wider one networks, the more likely people will hear of and pass on information that is useful to a specific person.
"Start to think differently about people in your day-to-day life and think about who you know," she said.
If information comes that you don’t need, the members of the network can think about who might need it.
Another way the diversity helps is that different people address the same challenges in unique ways. Sometimes just observing that there are multiple ways to interpret and address a problem is helpful, she said.
"They use the energy to pull each other forward," she added.
Gardner said she’s aware of similar groups across the county, but said most are faith-based, which can be exclusive. Also, many are more like support groups where they push each other to keep looking. She said she’s pleased with how the Career Network has turned out because it offers multiple services to its attendees. The members support one another, but useful information is provided as well. If someone needs professional help for emotional needs, a licensed social worker with Jewish Community Services facilitates the group as well.
Even if someone’s actual needs are minimal, basic networking benefits all people in all professions, she said.
Gardner expects another shift in focus and format to come in another six months as the group re-evaluates its needs. She’s even comfortable with it dissolving if those needs go away. The vision that started the Career Network was about helping people nothing more, she said.
The group meets every Monday at 9 a.m. usually at Temple Har Shalom, but Jan. 18, 25 and Feb. 1 the group will meet at St. Mary’s Catholic Church so as not to conflict with the temple’s Sundance Film Festival commitments, she said.
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