Meetup.com can be a valuable resource for people dealing with a period of unemployment.
But first, what is Meetup?
Meetup is a social networking website that’s a little different from what most people picture when they think of social networking.
Social networking usually means interacting in cyberspace. It’s a way of enabling your cyber self to mingle with other people’s cyber selves via text, photos, video clips, and so on. Through MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, gaming sites, etc., you create a persona for the Web, to join the millions of others who’ve done likewise.
Meetup, though, uses the Internet to facilitate real life interaction. Much like you might use the Yellow Pages to find out about a restaurant, but then you go in person to that restaurant when you want to eat, Meetup members use the Internet as a tool to facilitate non-Internet activities.
With Meetup, you organize a group in your local area around a given theme or activity-people who like to hear live jazz, people who enjoy rock climbing, dachshund owners, gardeners, people who want to watch Dancing with the Stars together, etc.-and put a notice up on the site so people can find you. Fees are minimal for the organizer of the group (and refundable for the first 30 days, so you don’t have to worry about paying if your group gets no interest) and zero for other members.
One important use that folks have found for Meetup in tough economic times is to organize groups for the unemployed people in their area. There are many advantages to participating in such a group.
Some of those advantages are practical. You network, you find out about opportunities: Marcie the unemployed paralegal has friends who’ve mentioned needing to hire a reasonably priced plumber. Vic is a handyman with good plumbing skills who hasn’t had enough jobs come his way lately to get by. Marcie and Vic strike up a conversation at the Meetup group meeting. As a result, Vic gets some work.
Or you learn skills. Maybe the first meeting is focused on writing resumes, the second on conducting oneself in a job interview, etc. It’s not a flashy, paid seminar with self-proclaimed experts, just a bunch of real people trading tips to help each other out.
But much of the benefit, probably the bulk of the benefit, is psychological. When you are unemployed, you are at greater risk of falling into depression, losing hope, feeling ashamed, becoming socially isolated, etc. A Meetup group for the unemployed can function in part as a support group for just these kinds of issues. People bolster each other’s spirits, and keep each other updated on what they’re doing to find work. They congratulate each other for any progress they’ve made, and assure the member feeling rejected and hopeless that that HR weasel who shot her down in her last job interview was completely unfair to her and she’s better off without their lousy job anyway.
Meetup is popular, but not phenomenally popular enough to ensure you will be able to find a suitable group for the unemployed in your area, or that if you start one you will get enough response to get it off the ground. Currently there are 134 Meetup groups for the unemployed in 91 cities in 5 countries, with a total of over 14,000 members. But there are over 5,000 people who’ve registered that they would be interested in a group for the unemployed but there isn’t yet one close enough to them. Add to that that a lot of those 14,000 are members of groups that haven’t reached any kind of a critical mass yet to really get going-groups of one, two, or three members-and it’s clear that there are as many people looking for a suitable group as have found one.
So it’s hit or miss. It’s certainly worth checking the Meetup site to see what might be available in your area, and perhaps organizing such a Meetup group yourself. You may find-or create-something that can do you and others a lot of good in difficult times of unemployment.
“Meetup.com: Strength in Numbers for the Unemployed.” Fired For Now.
“Unemployed Meetup Groups.” Meetup.