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dot life Monday, 4 June, 2001, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Speed your job to me
Job hunting
Silicon Valley's job market may have slowed down, but there's a new way to get work fast that applies the principles of speed dating to job hunting, writes Maggie Shiels.

Nothing counts more than speed in Silicon Valley, from the chips that drive your computer to the broadband system that helps you download information off the internet.

How it works
One table, 10 chairs, 10 Post-It notepads
Two minute pitch from each job seeker
During which, others jot down possible contacts
Now that same ethos is being applied to the tight job market that has resulted from the major downturn in the high tech industry.

The Karma Club is a new concept in schmoozing for the "pink slip brigade", the thousands of workers laid off in the past year as dot.coms bomb and blue chip companies fail to meet sales expectations. Pink slips are what people in the UK would call P45s.

According to the Industry Standard's layoff tracker, internet-related firms have reached something of a milestone, with more than 100,000 job cuts since December 1999.

Billed as a hybrid between speed dating and a job fair, the Karma Club is all about networking and trying to get a job.

Your time starts now

At the club's first mixer in Silicon Valley, 10 tables dot the sun-soaked terrace of a San Jose hotel.

From left, Nina Boswell, Karen Gharakhanian, Scott Hogg
Nina Boswell, left, collars recruiter Scott Hogg
In the centre of each are stacks of Post-Its for job seekers to write names and numbers of people in the industry that might be able to help someone at their table.

Organiser Kelly Perdew works the tables, encouraging everyone to abandon their shyness and swap information.

"Sixty-five percent of people find work through networking - not meeting recruiters, but by talking to other job seekers. Remember, what goes around comes around."

Nina Boswell, 24, takes this advice to heart, wasting no time in introducing herself to her fellow job seekers.


It gives me the one thing you don't get on a piece of paper, which is 'who is this person'

Recruiter Scott Hogg
As she explains to one person that she's looking to move into the wireless industry, another jots down a useful name and a number.

As per club rules, Nina makes full use of her two minutes in the spotlight and leaves the table with six possible leads. She's also passed on a host of contacts to those who helped her.

She hopes the event will throw up some useful contacts.

"I'm hoping to meet some hiring managers in the industries I'm interested in; and network with some more job seekers and maybe band together and keep our eyes open for each other."

All change

After 20 minutes, Kelly sounds the bell and everyone swaps tables to mingle with a new set of people.

Making a pitch while others rifle their contact books
Making a pitch while others rifle their contact books
The contact swap is just one part of the evening's networking frenzy. Also on hand is a speaker to give the "pink slippers" advice about how to play the current job market.

Kitty Wilson, of Promatch, an agency matching organisations with people looking for work, tells the group that such events are starting to normalise unemployment.

"In Silicon Valley, being out of work is a state-of-the-art condition."

You CAN hurry work

But with more than 150 people in attendance, the focus is very much on trying to land a new job. The number of job seekers far outweighed the recruiters, who are identified by red stickers on their name badges.

Networking
Serious business: This ain't no boozy schmooze
Scott Hogg, a recruiter for Wollborg/Michelson, is one of the most popular people in the room, with job-seekers lining up to thrust their CVs into his hands.

"Events like these are excellent for people like me. I meet so many individuals. It gives me an excellent opportunity to drill down to a person's resume.

"And it gives me the one thing you don't get on a piece of paper, which is 'who is this person and how well will they fit culturally?' And I like to be able to watch people and see how they interact with each other. This is a great tool."

Which is heartening news to the organisers, a group called the Layoff Lounge. It claims to be the latest offline destination for the Valley's online casualties.

And while Pink Slip parties have been running for nearly a year in San Francisco, San Jose and New York, the Layoff Lounge runs events across the country.

Chief executive Kelly Perdew says unlike Pink Slip parties, the Layoff Lounge and Karma Club aren't about boozing and cruising.

"We're really focused on finding people jobs, not throwing a party. You'll notice that there's no loud music playing, it's a very business-like atmosphere."

After all, finding work can be a full time job when times are tough.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Kelly Perdew of Layoff Lounge
"We saw a real need in the marketplace"
Weely guide to getting buttoned up

See also:

05 Jun 00 | UK
Links to more dot life stories are at the foot of the page.


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