Strategically Virtual: Lessons Learned from the New Jersey Career Network Job Seeker Community

by Liana Volpe and Savannah Barnett

In 2020, the immense upheaval and turmoil in the labor market prompted researchers at the Heldrich Center to rethink what constituted job seeker support and how virtual interaction could foster a sense of community. With these ideas in mind, researchers created the New Jersey Career Network Job Seeker Community, an online home for New Jersey job seekers looking for help and support along their unemployment journey. The community was designed to allay the far-reaching challenges and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, employing more holistic supports that touched on the needs of the whole person dealing with job loss, physical isolation, shame, and fear, just to name a few. The importance and value of human connection during a time of intense loneliness and anxiety cannot be understated. The community offers a safe haven for job seekers to connect with similarly situated individuals to confirm the message “You are not alone.”

The community’s operation is foremost centered on community building, namely the creation of a safe and welcoming environment for people to ask questions, share their vulnerabilities and challenges, and give and get support from others. There is also great focus paid to well-being during the job search and a number of resources and events are targeted toward providing supports in this area. In operating the New Jersey Career Network Job Seeker Community, researchers have piloted a new manner of interacting with job seekers on a more regular basis to create a virtual community with a steady stream of supports. From this innovative manner of job seeker interaction, researchers have learned many lessons about job seeker needs and supports.

To learn more, please read a new research brief, Strategically Virtual: Lessons Learned from the New Jersey Career Network Job Seeker Community.

For more work in the Strategically Virtual series, see our Medium page.

Liana Volpe is a Research Project Coordinator, and Savannah Barnett is a Researcher at the Heldrich Center.

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Outlines how the public workforce system can use technology and community partnerships to expand services, address job seeker mental and emotional well-being, and ensure that a broader range of the public is able to access supports.

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