Like many others this year, Briana Campbell lost her job to the ailing economy. Months ago, the 33 year-old Greenpointer, who had been working as the operations manager for a start-up cosmetics company, got laid off, along with the other employees. “It felt very personal” she remembers, “but I understood it. I didn’t cry or anything like that.”
But months after losing her job, Campbell would discover that from small disappointments sometimes spur great projects. In July, as she was listening to WNYC, she heard of the buddy system—a new support system for the unemployed seeking a job. Its concept is as simple as it is revolutionary: teaming up with another unemployed friend or creating or network of them, to brainstorm about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and where each other’s skills would be the most desired, and effective. No need to pay huge fees for a coach or a career counselor: the system is easy to implement, free of charge and fun. Today, Campbell wishes to implement the system in North Brooklyn. “A lot of times when you are unemployed, it’s difficult to motivate yourself or you don’t see skills or qualities in yourself that other people see,” she explains. “Basically the buddy system can be compared to going to the gym. If you’re alone, you’re like: ‘eh, I probably won’t go to the gym today.’ But if you go with someone, he’s going to kick your butt.”
The buddy system is a clear departure from the traditional forms of job searching characterized by a lengthy and often unfruitful scrolling of listing on Craigslist. The recession has motivated job seekers to learn new skills or developing existing ones, and initiate more personal contacts with employers through networking. A point of entry into this fresh look at job searching, the buddy system represents an unheard-of collective job hunting effort. “I’ve heard a statistic according to which only 4% of jobs are gotten through listings. When you think about that, you can’t be solitary in your job search, especially in this economy,” Campbell says. “The only way to find a job in New York and in the rest of the world is to know people.”
In the buddy system, up to four “job search buddies” meet up every week to improve resumes and cover letters, examine sets of skills, and assign missions to each other such as sending out resumes, enrolling in a training program or attending a networking event. The following week, the group meets again and discusses whether the missions were carried, out and further brainstorm their options. To work, the system implies a good group dynamic – teaming up with friends is recommended – and a great level of commitment: each pair or group has to meet up on a regular basis to ensure that the assignments are done.
“When you’ve worked for a long time in the same sector, you know that your skills are A,B,C,D, and you’re not going to think outside the box,” Campbell points out. “If you meet someone who is not in your field, he can probably tell you: ‘hey, why don’t you do that?’ And move your job search in another direction.”
Given the success of her brainchild, Briana Campbell says she is now looking into creating a buddy meet-up group for Greenpoint and Williamsburg. She had her first meet-up at the beginning of August, and was pleasantly surprised by the turnout: there were nearly 20 attendees.
At 4 pm on Sept 30th at Greenpoint’s T.B.D. bar (224 Franklin St between Eagle St & Freeman St), she will be organizing a more “formal” meeting to introduce the buddy system to the North Brooklyn unemployed and ramp up a support system for the local jobless community. “Right now, that kind of stuff doesn’t exist in North Brooklyn. But our communities have so much to offer.”
To learn more about the Buddy System: Come to T.B.D (224 Franklin St
(between Eagle St & Freeman St) on Wed. Sept 30th at 4pm.