by David Madison, Ph.D.
The Five O’Clock Club launched its Virtual Branches several years ago, in response to increasing demand from around the country that our weekly strategy sessions be made available to job hunters everywhere. Now professionals, managers and executives anywhere in the country can dial into their small group meetings each week to brainstorm with peers and receive guidance from certified Five O’Clock Club counselors.
We asked three of our Virtual branch leaders—highly seasoned members of our Guild of Career Counselors—to comment on this experience of coaching clients “long distance.” Helen Scully heads one of our West coast Virtual groups, Louis DiSclafani directs an East coast strategy session, and Ellis Chase has a group that spans the continent.
“One fellow,” Helen recalls, “reported to the group a few weeks ago that he was on the verge of a major offer. What was his strategy at that point? He told us, ‘I really need to get a few more things in the works. I’ve got 5…I’d like to get that up to 6 to 10’—even though he was confident he was about to get an offer. I thought, ‘Now, that’s the Five O’Clock Club attitude!’ He wasn’t just going to sit there, waiting to see what happened.”
There would seem to be no question, therefore, that Five O’Clock Club methodology is the backbone of the virtual branch experience. “If we were trying to do this without the backup materials,” Louise observed, “I don’t think it would work. The methodology validates what we’re doing.”
“They listen to the tapes over and over—and, of course, they refer to the books as well.”
The First Hour Lecture: In the Car or at the Gym
And, for the clients who participate in the Virtual Branch, a set of taped lectures provides a vital anchor to the methodology. When the Virtual Branches were launched, it was felt that a two-hour teleconference was too unwieldy—would people really want to listen to a 45-minute lecture on the phone? Hence the eight audio tapes were created: 16 talks by Kate Wendleton on all aspects of the Five O’Clock Club methodology. Before dialing into the weekly teleconference, people can listen to the tape for that week whenever they wish.
“The world of the Virtual Branch,” Helen points out, “is commuting, working, fitting things in—for the last few months almost everyone in my group has been job-hunting while employed. For these folks the tapes are really good.” “The people in my group master the concepts,” Louise says. “They listen to the tapes over and over—and, of course, they refer to the books as well.”
“I start the weekly session,” Ellis notes, “by asking ‘What did you get out of the tape? What was new to you—that you’ve never heard before?’ I want one minute from each person in the group. This helps get everyone engaged—everyone has a take on it.” Helen asks at the start of her sessions, “How is the tape relevant to your search right now? How are you using the information?”
“We stick to business. It’s very intensive strategically.”
Moving the Job Search Forward
But the weekly strategy sessions are just that. Whether at the physical or virtual branch, the groups are not for general chatting about job search topics. It takes an average of only ten Five O’Clock Club sessions for people to land new jobs because they receive proactive coaching based on the methodology. Ellis’ question to everyone is, “So what have you done during the last week to make it move?” Louise finds that, after the quick review of the tape, “no one is hard to draw out—we move to the individual reports. People are read to jump in.”
And the medium of the teleconference seems to present no impediment to jumping right in to counseling. Any initial reservations about career counseling working by this method were soon dispelled. Managers and executives are accustomed to doing business by teleconference—and the business of managing a career or getting a new job is no different. “I find that virtual branch counseling is very focused,” Ellis says. “We stick to business—it’s very intensive strategically. We have tasks to do and we’re getting them all done.” “Most clients have worked hard at it between sessions,” Helen observes. “The notion of having to report about doing something, and receiving another assignment is welcomed. They understand that they’re supposed to stay focused.”
“I find that members of my group bond right away.”
Benefiting from the Wide Perspective
“And it’s actually a plus that people are from different geographical areas—they’re getting different perspectives,” according to Louise. “…right now there are people in my group from New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Wisconsin.” Ellis’ strategy sessions include executives from Vancouver, Denver, southern California, Texas, Ohio and New Jersey. “It’s fascinating—the diversity makes it very interesting.” Helen also senses that the long-distance aspect actually adds to the dynamics: “Being a thousand miles apart can facilitate the process. People share networking contacts that the others are very unlikely already to have accessed. To those who are making long-term plans, making contacts with people outside their regions is very beneficial—and it’s a plus for those who are looking to relocate.”
“It’s actually a plus that people are from different geographical areas—they’re getting different perspectives.”
“Although the people aren’t meeting each other face to face, they’re extremely supportive,” says Ellis. “One guy in my group had a search that was far too narrow. But he pursued the methodology, he started working at other targets—he was disciplined and relentless—and was finally able to generate more action where he wanted it. The group was very helpful in helping keep his morale up.” “I find that members of my group bond right away,” Helen added. “They phone each other outside the sessions—they’re very anxious to give each other help.” “The people remember one another as much as they would at a physical branch—even if a person has missed several sessions,” Louise says. “And if someone is looking for a resource, others dive right in with suggestions.”
Why Does It All Come Together?
Helen notes that the typical Five O’Clock Club client is highly motivated and goal driven. “The folks in my strategy sessions are looking for immediate and long-term solutions to their careers. They’re very concerned with doing work that suits their natural talents and will position them well for future opportunities.” The small group supervised by a career specialist provides an ideal setting for moving forward. As a consultant, Helen has advised corporations on team-building, and she sees parallels between the Five O’Clock Club Virtual Branches and high performance teams. All of the necessary ingredients are present. “Everyone knows what the core values are, and what the shared mission of the team is. There is also a defined way for new members to become acclimated to roles and responsibilities, to share the mission and the vision. And you have a leader who is an expert.”