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Job ‘Angels’ Look After Victims Of Downturn

They are the recession’s version of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Like the angel who aids a depressed banker played by James Stewart in the movie classic, JobAngels are people volunteering to help today’s pink-slipped souls get back to work.

The grass-roots movement, which is growing quickly on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, promises to give a boost not only to out-of-work individuals but also companies eager to do more with less, says Dan Kilgore, a recruiting consultant with Riviera Advisors who has watched the JobAngels momentum build. Kilgore has noticed professional recruiters becoming Angels, which means corporations should find job openings easier to fill.

Companies “now have free agents working on their behalf,” he says.

JobAngels dates to January, when Washington-based HR consultant Mark Stelzner suggested that each of the 700 people following him on micro-blogging site Twitter help just one person find a job.

“The response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive,” Stelzner said in a blog post. He proposed the name JobAngels and the group began to take off.

In early April, the JobAngels Twitter site had more than 6,200 followers. JobAngels also has a presence on social networking sites Facebook and LinkedIn.

It’s unclear how many jobs have been landed thanks to Angels, says Deirdre Honner, a JobAngels leader. But Honner, who also is associate director of human resources at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, can cite anecdotes of success, including the case of a person she helped get a job at Ohio State University.

The camaraderie alone counts, she says.

“When someone loses his or her job, it is possibly the loneliest feeling in the world,” she says. “Just to have somebody there with you is one of the best things we can offer as people.”

Andrew Farley, a 29-year-old graphic artist, has felt some loneliness since getting laid off several weeks ago.

“Things have looked a lot grimmer these past couple weeks,” says Farley, who lives in Seattle with his wife.

On April 8, he asked for help from JobAngels, and later that day his request appeared on the Twitter site.

He figures JobAngels can’t hurt. And once he gets a position, he’s already planning to pay it forward by doing some Angel work himself. “That gives me the opportunity to maybe help someone else out.”

It’s hard to help people find work today. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March, the highest level since 1983. The number of job openings in February was 3 million, down nearly 30 percent from a year earlier.

Still, the volunteer leaders of JobAngels are pushing forward. Honner says a Web site is in the works that will provide various resources, such as a service to match job seekers with Angels in particular geographies and fields.

Honner estimates she’s spending 20 to 25 hours per week on JobAngels, in addition to her full-time job. But just as Clarence stuck with the troubled Jimmy Stewart, Honner says JobAngels isn’t going to disappear.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” she says.

—Ed Frauenheim

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