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Job Search Council Platform Playbook

Creating a sustainable and values-driven community platform for a global market of working professionals in transition
Prepared by and

Overview

This document explores challenges and opportunities for the Never Search Alone peer career guidance community known as Job Search Councils. It evaluates potential solutions, and outlines a future vision to increase impact through improved engagement, operations, and sustainability.

1. Business Context and Vision

Foundational aspects of Never Search Alone, detailing its mission, core values, and long-term vision for impacting the job-seeking and career development landscape.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this project is to understand the current state of the Never Search Alone community, including its operations, challenges, and market landscape. Through research and analysis, we will identify problems areas and metrics, assess market opportunities and trends, and explore potential solutions to create a more sustainable, impactful and value-driven community experience aligned with the vision of peer-supported career development.

About Job Search Councils

Never Search Alone is a free, volunteer-run community that helps job seekers through a method called Job Search Councils - small peer support groups that meet regularly to provide accountability, advice, and emotional support throughout the job search process.
The community was created by Phyl Terry and is operated by volunteer moderators who facilitate the Councils. Members are matched to Councils after signing up on the website.

Strategic Goals

Impact & Value: Deliver a high-impact experience that significantly improves job outcomes, growth opportunity, and emotional wellbeing for members.
Accessibility: Enable access, including financial barriers, to peer-supported Job Search Councils.
Volunteer Engagement: Develop a thriving base of skilled, motivated volunteer moderators to facilitate Councils.
Funding Model: Build a mix of funding sources to provide sustainability without compromising the organization’s principles.
Market Penetration: Increase awareness and membership within target demographics.
Optimized Operations: Efficiently manage and allocate resources, ensuring maximum impact and sustainability.
Fostering Community: Reducing friction and increasing the probability of relationships that serve us in life and work.

Desired Future State

Proven Value: Quantifiable metrics demonstrating improved job search outcomes for members. Testimonials validating support experience.
Volunteer Support: Scaled programs for moderator recruitment, training, motivation, and retention. Automation to match members.
Funding Streams: Grants, corporate training partnerships, premium tools/training offerings, public funding, member-based revenue sharing.
Targeted Growth: Focus marketing on high-opportunity demographics, diversity, and partners. Listen to evolve the model.
Member Experience: Intuitive platform and tools that connect members to Councils and resources.
Operational Excellence: Effective systems to support volunteers and core operations to enable scaling.

Benefits of Improved JSC Platform

For Job Seekers:
Opportunities for “finding your people” in work and life
Improved probability of job search success through peer accountability and support
Impactful candidate-market fit discovery, aligning abilities and outcomes
Increased emotional resilience during a challenging period due to community
Development of self-advocacy, interview, and negotiation skills to obtain better job offers
Expanded professional network and insider job market knowledge
Access to a wealth of resources, including personalized career advice, industry insights, and job search tools
For Volunteers & Moderators:
Opportunity to pay it forward and make a meaningful impact in others' lives
Development of leadership, coaching, and facilitation skills
Expanded professional network by interacting with members
Potential future job opportunities through member connections
Formal recognition and rewards for volunteering efforts
For The Company (Never Search Alone):
Fulfillment of mission to provide accessible career support at scale
Increased reach, awareness, and social impact
Improved organization and systematization of operations
Ability to quantify and demonstrate member outcomes
Sustainable and profitable business model
Strategic partnerships with leading institutions and businesses
Valuable data and insights on job market needs and trends
Recognition as an innovative leader in career development and employment services
In summary, successful execution of the strategic goals will create a dynamic ecosystem where job seekers are empowered, volunteers and moderators are enriched, and the company strengthens its position as a pivotal platform in the career development and job-seeking sphere.

2. Problems & Opportunities

Key challenges faced by the platform and potential opportunities, setting the stage for strategic improvement and growth.

Problem Statement

The Never Search Alone community faces challenges in delivering value and scaling impact in a sustainable manner. While the peer-supported Job Search Council model has shown promise, issues exist around member engagement, volunteer support, and operational effectiveness.

Problem Breakdown

Member Engagement and Retention: Inconsistent member engagement. Member dropout rates indicate problems with value delivery and council experience.
Networking & Relationships: Vast and growing network of motivated and generous professionals is underutilized in terms of fostering broader connections and opportunities.
Volunteer Engagement: High moderator turnover rate shows lack of support. Open councils/members caused by insufficient volunteers. Infrequent council meetings undermine effectiveness.
Operational Effectiveness: Long member wait times to get matched. Low training completion rates. Tool adoption issues. Lack of metrics to track performance.
Content Relevance and Quality: Challenges in producing and updating content that is both high-quality and aligned with the evolving needs of the job market and members.
Volunteer Training and Support: Unstructured training and support for volunteers.

Opportunities for Exploration

Strengthen Value Proposition: Evolve model to better address "jobs to be done" and pain points through research.
Improve Member Experience: Optimize touchpoints and community-building. Leverage technology tools.
Support Volunteers: Develop training, incentives, and automation to grow/retain volunteers.
Refine Operations: Implement systems for matching, training, and analytics.
Funding Model: Explore mixed funding model to provide sustainability.
Increase Reach: Focus marketing and partnerships to drive awareness. Identify new market segments, expand demographically and geographically.
Community-Driven Innovations: Leveraging community feedback and ideas to drive innovation and improve service offerings.

3. Market Analysis

The market dynamics, including trends, competition, and the platform’s positioning, providing insights into external factors influencing its success.

Market Forces

Headwinds:
Fluctuating labor market and uncertainty of job prospects in growth industries
Potential economic downturn on the horizon exacerbated by technological disruption
Growing competition from numerous career development platforms and job-seeking tools
Job searching stigma and barriers to asking for help
Tailwinds:
Increased openness to remote work expanding opportunities
Growing acceptance of adult learning and career shifts
Mainstreaming of community learning, peer support, and coaching models
Adoption of technology improving job search and career development activities.

Trends & Data

Increased Demand for Personalized Guidance: Job seekers increasingly seek personalized career advice and mentoring.
61% of job seekers want customized career advice (ZipRecruiter)
33% of job seekers lack guidance on career development (Forbes)
US spending on career counseling expected to grow at 4% CAGR to $19B by 2025 (IBISWorld)
Growing Importance of Soft Skills: Rising awareness of the importance of soft skills alongside technical expertise in career development.
92% of hiring managers say soft skills are equally or more important than hard skills, with critical thinking, collaboration, and communication topping the list of desired traits (LinkedIn 2022 Global Talent Trends report)
The World Economic Forum predicts demand for social and emotional skills like leadership and managing others will rise by 24% by 2025.
Digital Networking: Networking has become predominantly digital, with a focus on building connections online.
70% of job seekers say online networking is essential to a successful job search (Jobvite 2021 Recruiter Nation Survey).
The top digital networking platforms used by job seekers are LinkedIn (92%), Facebook (51%), and Twitter (34%) according to Social Talent.
Virtual networking events on platforms like Gather saw 6X growth during the pandemic.
Mental Health Challenges: Job seekers are recognizing the need for added support beyond traditional job search services.
77% of job seekers report anxiety and depression in process (American Psychological Association)
68% of job seekers value emotional support during transition (Pew Research)

Market Sizing

Total Addressable Market (TAM):
The global market for career coaching and job search related services is estimated at $19 billion (IBISWorld).
Serviceable Available Market (SAM):
In the US alone, the addressable market is approximately $15 billion. This includes services like career counseling, job search assistance, resume writing, interview prep, networking platforms, and more.
Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM):
Target market is the approximately 5 million Americans unemployed and actively job seeking at any given time; beachhead will be college-educated professional segments with established careers.
Focusing specifically on services addressing the emotional, community, and relationship aspects of job searching, the current obtainable market at $5 billion.
This is based on data showing 33% of job seekers lack career guidance and 68% value emotional support.

Market Positioning

Address unmet needs through free, peer-to-peer model vs paid coaching/counseling
Leverage relationships and community vs impersonal online platforms
Focus on career transitions and emotional support vs skills-based training
Build a brand and resource that starts from college students and entry level professionals

4. Stakeholder Analysis & Hypothesis Exploration

Examination of the needs and behaviors of different stakeholders, coupled with hypothesis testing to validate assumptions and inform strategic decisions.

Profiles of Stakeholders

Customers (Job Seekers)

Goals: Seeking efficient and effective ways to find job opportunities, build relationships, acquire career advice, and navigate career transitions.
Methods: Utilize online platforms for job searching, networking, and accessing career development resources.
Motivations: Desire for career advancement, financial stability, and personal fulfillment.

Moderators (Community Facilitators):

Goals: Facilitate productive discussions, ensure community guidelines are followed, and support a positive environment for members.
Methods: Monitor interactions, provide guidance, and mediate discussions.
Motivations: Commitment to supporting others, building a vibrant community, and personal satisfaction from contributing.

Administrators (Platform Managers):

Goals: Oversee the platform's operations, strategize for growth, and ensure the platform meets its objectives.
Methods: Coordinate resources including documents, manage teams, and analyze platform performance.
Motivations: Ensuring the success and sustainability of the platform, achieving organizational goals.

Employers:

Goals: Find qualified candidates, promote company culture, fill vacancies efficiently.
Methods: Post job listings, engage in community activities, utilize platform tools for recruitment.
Motivations: Hiring the right talent, reducing recruitment time and costs, enhancing employer branding.

Entrepreneurs:

Goals: Network building, resource acquisition, market insight.
Methods: Leverage community for networking, advice, and market trends.
Motivations: Growing their business, finding collaborators or customers, learning from peers.

College Students and Entry-Level Professionals:

Goals: Seeking internships, apprenticeships, and entry-level jobs; building networks; gaining career guidance.
Methods: Participate in college-specific councils, attend career development workshops, use platform resources for resume building and interview preparation.
Motivations: Transitioning successfully from academia to professional life, securing early career opportunities, building a strong foundation for future career growth.

Hypotheses & Testing Approaches

Hypothesis: A dedicated platform will improve engagement and operations.
Assumptions: Platform features will facilitate community interactions. Automation will assist moderators. Centralized learning resources will improve knowledge sharing.
Stakeholders: Job seeker members, moderator members, administrator members
Interview Questions: How could a specialized platform improve your community experience? What features would help facilitate your role? How could a platform assist with learning and development?
Approaches: Demonstrate Circle.so platform capabilities to stakeholder focus groups. Survey on potential improvement to experience. Pilot platform with sample of councils and members.
Hypothesis: A peer-to-peer model provides more relatable and cost-effective support than paid coaching.
Assumptions: Members value relatability over expert guidance. Peer exchanges are sufficiently personalized.
Stakeholders: Job seekers, Moderators
Interview Questions: Do you find peer exchanges or expert coaches more helpful? What makes peer exchanges more relatable?
Approaches: Survey members on helpfulness of peer councils vs. expert coaches. Interview former members who dropped out.
Hypothesis: Enabling members to offer each other services increases engagement.
Assumptions: Members have demand for each others' skills/services. A structured exchange system is valued.
Stakeholders: Job seekers
Interview Questions: What skills could you offer other members? What services would be helpful to you? How could we facilitate valuable exchanges?
Approaches: Survey members on skills/services they could offer and demand. Pilot a service exchange program.
Hypothesis: Focus on community improves engagement over transactional models.
Assumptions: Members highly value relationships and belonging. Strong communities increase participation.
Stakeholders: Job seeker
Interview Questions: How important is community and relationships vs. transactional exchanges? How does a sense of community impact your engagement?
Approaches: Survey member satisfaction across councils with varying sense of community. Correlate community strength to participation rates.
Hypothesis: Structured training expands value offering.
Assumptions: Self-paced courses address unmet needs. They complement peer councils.
Stakeholders: Job seekers
Interview Questions: What training needs are unaddressed? What format preferences? How would courses complement councils?
Approaches: Survey members on training interests. Research training best practices. Develop pilot courses.
Hypothesis: Paid offerings will not compromise core value delivery.
Assumptions: Free council access remains unchanged. Paid value-adds increase sustainability.
Stakeholders: Job seeker, administrators
Interview Questions: If premium features were available, would you still use the free council experience? How could paid offerings expand value?
Approaches: Survey willingness to pay for supplemental features. Test introducing premium tools/training in small samples.
Hypothesis: Proper support enables volunteers to scale.
Assumptions: Automation assists with operational tasks. Training and incentives improve retention.
Stakeholders: Moderators, administrators
Interview Questions: What tasks could be automated to help you scale? What incentives would improve your experience? What additional training would help?
Approaches: Identify tasks to automate. Test training programs and incentive structures with moderator focus groups.
Hypothesis: The community can serve as a talent pipeline.
Assumptions: Members are open to job opportunities. Screening and matching can be systematic.
Stakeholders: Job seeker members, employer members
Interview Questions: Are you open to job opportunities identified through the community? How could we best connect you to relevant openings? What value would the community provide in your hiring process?
Approaches: Survey member openness to community job matching. Develop pilot screening and matching process.
Hypothesis: Providing business formation guidance expands impact.
Assumptions: Significant need exists for this support. It aligns with existing capabilities.
Stakeholders: Job seekers
Interview Questions: Do you need support turning a business idea into reality? What aspects are most challenging? How could the community help with this?
Approaches: Survey members on business formation needs. Research market demand. Pilot a business formation track.
Hypothesis: College-specific resources and networks significantly improve job placement for students and entry-level professionals.
Assumptions: Educational institutions are not aligned with the needs of the market; students not equipped with necessary skills.
Stakeholders: College students, recent graduates, apprenticeship participants, entry-level professionals.
Interview Question: What did you wish you knew about the job market when you look back at your college experience? What kind of exposure would you like from prospective employers?
Approaches: Conduct surveys among college users before and after their job search to identify pain points and opportunities.

5. Evaluation & Exploration of Ideas

Assessing various innovative and conventional ideas, evaluating them against critical criteria to determine their potential impact and feasibility.

Evaluation Criteria

Impact - Number of members supported and career outcomes improved
Feasibility - Effort required to implement given existing capabilities
Cost - Budget and resources required for development and rollout
Distinctiveness - Uniqueness of value proposition compared to existing solutions
Sustainability - Ongoing revenue and resources generated after launch

Ideas Exploration

Platform & Process Ideas

Implement a dedicated community platform (e.g. Circle.so) providing tools for moderators, centralizing resources, enabling peer-to-peer connections, and facilitating measurement.
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