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Fired up! Jobless unite at pink slip parties

As unemployment numbers hit historic highs, hundreds of axed employees are shirking traditional job fairs and online applications in favor of happy hour meet-and-greets where one can down a few beers and discuss career prospects with eager recruiters.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Lost your job? Join the club. Better yet, join the party. As unemployment numbers hit historic highs, “pink slip” parties are popping up in big cities around the country, and hundreds of axed employees are shirking traditional job fairs and online applications in favor of happy hour meet-and-greets where one can down a few beers and discuss career prospects with eager recruiters.

As thousands of e-mailed resumes crowd the inboxes of H.R. reps nationwide, people are finding creative ways to stand out from the pack. “As difficult as the economy is, it’s made people have to think outside the box,” said Beryl Smith, president and CEO of recruitment firm BCS Staffing, Inc. “In order to get a job, they really have to get out there now, they have to meet with people.”

Smith’s company is working with other organizations to co-host Pink Slip L.A., a series of pink slip parties in Los Angeles featuring recruiters from 14industries. While there are no guarantees of gaining anything more than good conversations with those in similar situations and a few contacts to add to your industry Rolodex, some pink slip attendees have had success in finding new employment.

Matthew Reno, 25, was one of the 1.9 millionCalifornians without a job. Reno, a Beverly Hills resident, lost his job working in wealth management at a bank after it was forced to downsize in January. After almost five weeks of applying for jobs online, Reno struck pay dirt when he connected with an interested recruiter he met at a pink slip party in Beverly Hills. Two weeks later Reno got a job offer,and he is now set to start his new job in administration and operations at a consulting firm in Century City. For Reno, working his way through a crowd at the pink slip party fared much better than more traditional job search methods.

Besides the booze, what’s the difference between a job fair and a pink slip party? For many, the appeal of the pink slip party is its casual atmosphere. “When you go, everyone’s got a drink in hand, people are eating and people are talking, but it is in a way your first job interview; you get down to business pretty quickly,” said Reno.

Bonding, drinking and moreIn New York City, where falling stocks have meant mass layoffs in the financial sector, the Wall Street Pink Slip Party offers those seeking new jobs a chance share memories of good times and bad times, network with company reps and hopefully to re-enter the workforce.

At the last pink slip party for Wall Streeters held in February, color-coded bracelets distinguished the 400-strong crowd from recruiters, job hunters and well-wishers. Drink specials at the bar featured $4 cocktails and $2 beers, with the money going to charity. Some who have shown up to these parties have gotten leads to possible jobs. “There have been many people who have gotten interviews,” said Rachel Pine, creator of the Wall Street Pink Slip Party movement.

Beyond meeting with recruiters, pink slip parties offer those on the prowl for jobs a chance to share information among themselves. “If you take your network and compare it to the network of a total group, you get access to more people … if you can help each other, it’s a win for everyone,” said John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Pink slip parties are just one extension of social networking, a growing trend in professional circles. Whether online through career networking sites like LinkedIn or in person at networking events, many agree that these one-on-one connections have stood the test of time as the most effective way to get a job. But the best way above all, according to some experts, is to meet someone face to face.

All about networking“It’s all about networking, no matter where you go,” said Smith. “It’s networking, it’s word of mouth and it’s getting in front of people.”

Roneisha Williams, 24, is hoping this theory will prove true for her. Williams will be attending an upcoming Pink Slip Party L.A. event and is looking for a position in the customer service industry.

“It gives me the chance to advertise what I can’t on my resume: my personality, my smile, my ability to be patient or work through a crowd,” said Williams.

With a shrinking job market and in an uncertain economy it can seem impossible to get a job. But some places are still hiring, and there are ways to get your foot in the door.

According to Challenger, following three steps while on the job search can greatly increase your chances of getting hired in a tough job market:

First, get a fast start. “Lots of people go slow [searching for jobs] for a while, figuring out what they’re going to do,” said Challenger. “It’s a tough market, so get started quickly.”

The second step is to try to meet as many people as you can who could become your next manager. “The best way to measure progress is by the number of people you have met in person that could be your next boss — maximize that number,” said Challenger.

And probably most important of all, be open to changing industries and locations, and to accepting an offer for a part-time job. “Don’t look for a perfect job, try to get back to work,” said Challenger.

Whether on the job search for the first time or looking to exchange your much-hated pink slip for a paycheck, don’t be afraid to network outside the box — your next job could be from someone at a pink slip party near you.