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Leverage free online tools to widen your network and source jobs

There are plenty of feee online communities that one can utilize to create professional connections.
There are plenty of feee online communities that one can utilize to create professional connections.

Despite soaring living costs, when it comes to your career, virtual support communities tapping into insightful tips are available at your fingertips — for free.

In January 2022, Patricia Nunez, 48, discovered just this. She started attending a weekly online group run by John Madigan, president and CEO of Executive Talent Services, a career coaching and consulting firm in West Hartford, Conn.
“My main objective was introductions,” said Midtown East resident Nunez, who used the free 90-minute virtual calls to initiate conversations offline.

At the time, Nunez worked in contract consulting and was searching for a full-time job, so the structured calls sparked inspiration — the first few minutes shine a spotlight on a member who recently scored a new job.

“Kicking that off definitely inspires the group,” said Nunez. “Here was somebody who was just in your shoes, and John has this very calming presence. He would tell the group, ‘Don’t worry, everybody will land.’ ”

He was right — Nunez scored a full-time job last summer as head of new business product development, and although she no longer joins the calls, she stays in touch with Madigan and contacts with whom she developed deep connections.

Free online communities are a great way to meet people in similar professional situations. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Free online communities are a great way to meet people in similar professional situations. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Madigan said there are several benefits, including practical tips and emotional support. “People find it incredibly important to have this sacred space to share their goals, challenges, concerns and know that others they perceive as smart and capable are also facing all the same things,” said Madigan. “There’s the practical learning they get as well as the social and emotional support.”

Joan Strauss-Evans, 57, an administrative assistant in Danbury, Conn., also found support through an online group.

The monthly VIP Job Seeker Office Hours is run by Detroit resident Brenda Meller, chief engagement officer at Meller Marketing consulting firm.

“I love Brenda’s positive demeanor,” said Strauss-Evans, who began attending in 2021. “Her group helps replace the structure and missed feeling of being part of a [work] community.”

The virtual calls are not only a great resource for networking but also for practical tips. Getty Images
The virtual calls are not only a great resource for networking but also for practical tips. Getty Images

As a result of these relationships, Strauss-Evans’ LinkedIn profile was reviewed and refreshed, and she picked up pointers about cover letters and Zoom calls.

Meller emphasized the importance of posting weekly on LinkedIn to demonstrate your expertise, ultimately boosting your “social media karma” with connections who can return the favor and comment on your posts.

“This can be achieved by sharing industry articles and including a thoughtful comment, posting a FAQ about a trend in your industry or inviting your network to participate in a poll about a trending topic,” Meller said.

When job searching, it can be helpful to post often on LinkedIn to demonstrate your expertise. Getty Images
When job searching, it can be helpful to post often on LinkedIn to demonstrate your expertise. Getty Images

If you’re job searching, use the LinkedIn experience section to highlight a membership organization, volunteer organization or board position and write something in the description section such as, “While I’m seeking my next full-time position as a [job title] in the tri-state area, I’m an active member of [insert professional organization].”

Online job fairs are another way to find opportunities. Although Madigan thinks they’re a less-effective way to land a job compared to other strategies, job seekers should target companies of interest and concoct a brief self-introduction online.

Uploading your résumé to a portal can help get noticed, as well as signing up for 10-to-15-minute appointments, if possible, to lead with your elevator pitch.

Virtual calls providing tips, strategies and support are often available through communities like your alma mater’s career office and professional organizations, and there’s no reason to limit the number you join. Many people hop onto more than one, but consistent attendance is key for results.

These communities can sometimes be reached through your alma mater’s career office. Getty Images
These communities can sometimes be reached through your alma mater’s career office. Getty Images

Pat Romboletti, TEDx speaker, author of “Bulletproof Your Career” (Bulletproof Publishing), and career coach in Roswell, Ga., started weekly 105-minute calls with three people in 2018. Through word-of-mouth, it’s now several hundred.

“You need to know you’re not alone, and you need to know that other people are having success,” said Romboletti. “It’s the energy, strength and grit to get through the next week. We all need that wind under our wings.”

This mindset also empowers you to become the CEO of your career.

“You’re in charge,” said Romboletti. “It’s false advertising to say, ‘There’s your new job, now you’re safe.’ There is no such thing as safe.”

Being a part of a virtual community can offer structure, and hearing about others’ successes can be energizing. Getty Images
Being a part of a virtual community can offer structure, and hearing about others’ successes can be energizing. Getty Images

That’s why Mike Kennedy, 50, an accountant in Brentwood, LI, still attends Romboletti’s calls. He joined in 2019 to polish rusty job search skills.

After landing full-time employment in 2020, he stuck around and leans in every Thursday night.

“I learned so much from Pat — it changed my life,” he said. “I started networking with anybody and everybody.”

Kennedy makes between five and 10 new connections from the chat during every call. As for a bonus? New friends in real life.

“You consider these people friends, because you’re in this together,” he said.
Kennedy created “BYC Fest” with a live meetup last November near Penn Station, and others followed throughout the country.

“On the 100th call, she [Romboletti] gave me the nickname, ‘Mayor Mike,’ because I network with everyone,” said Kennedy. “I never want to be in the [unemployment] position that I was in ever again . . . I’m constantly networking. That’s why I’m still in the group. It’s not just for people looking for work.”
Madigan, Meller and Romboletti are all paying it forward by preparing weekly content for their free calls while offering separate, fee-based consulting and coaching services.

“I’m a big believer in karma,” Meller said. “What you put out to the universe comes back to you. If we help people who are in career transition, we are investing when the market is down. When the market is up again, they will be back in amazing roles. They’re going to help other job seekers. They were the recipient of that goodwill to pay it forward. Creating this situation creates more goodness coming out of it.”