It seems like a standard evening in the dimly lit restaurant " a busy and positively boisterous evening crowd with clinking glasses, friendly faces and good food. Despite the suits and professional attire, attendants walk around casually with a drink in one hand and resumes in the other, juggling both to shake hands with as many people as possible in two hours.
At first glance, it's just another evening at an upscale Oklahoma City restaurant. But about half of the 30-plus in attendance are frantically searching for jobs. Some have been searching for weeks, some for months.
And thus began one of Oklahoma's first " if not the first " pink slip party. The gathering isn't exactly a new concept, however. The pink slip mixer appeared as early as November 2008 in New York and March in California. The success and low-pressure atmosphere of these get-togethers amount to a simple and fun way to extend and establish a business network. Hosted at Rococo Restaurant & Fine Wine, 2824 N. Pennsylvania, last week's OKC Pink Slipped enabled visitors to mingle with industry professionals and potential hires, who offered resume critiques and other job-search tips.
The professional Internet networking trifecta of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has worked well for many, but face-to-face interaction often gives the best results, one visitor said.
"I've been unemployed for about six weeks, but I'm finding the best way to actually get leads is through social networking," said Heather Helberg, a sales and marketing professional. "LinkedIn and Facebook are great for quick contacts and keeping up, but you get so much more out of the experience of a face-to-face interaction. People get to know you on a more personal level and are more likely to help you."
Helberg said of the several networking sites she uses, LinkedIn works the best for posting resumes and contacting prospective employers.
"I noticed when I post things on there, it's a lot easier to find people to talk to about interviews," she said. "It's nice to have a community of people who are trying to help each other find a job."
CHANGING JOB MARKET
Greg Welchel, owner of Trichology Salon in Oklahoma City, was among the business representatives at the party. He said he was helping visitors learn how to market themselves professionally in a changing job market.
"The faltering economy means more and more people are turning to social networking to find a new job through word of mouth," Welchel said. "It's great to see people creating a community and helping each other out."
Sure, a stumbling economy, pink slips and the fear of the job hunt are scary concepts, but that's the point of these parties. Attendants get a chance to truly relax while taking care of business, like tightening up an old resume.
Be advised: These mixers aren't a panacea for the jobless. There's no guarantee that a perfect position can be filled immediately. Helberg said she found several leads and successful interviews, but some were in fields which she doesn't hold interest. Another visitor, Theo Parker, said his next stop might be Dallas.
"I moved here from New York about six months ago, basically fleeing economic disaster," said Parker, a sales and project manager in furniture and interior design. "Oklahoma seemed to be the best place to go; the economy here was still pretty good shape."
Parker, however, said he hasn't found many leads in Oklahoma, and he was overqualified for the positions he has considered, but has contacts in Dallas that could get him back into the office.
Originally from Oklahoma, Parker said his industry is often hit first in a recession, and interior design is difficult to get back into " and he should know. Although he hasn't been in the job market for about 15 years, he said this is the third recession he's been through, but the first where he wasn't working. Parker works as a freelance designer now, but "it's getting down to the wire," he said with a laugh.
Missed out on last week's mixer? Don't fret. Jessica Miller-Merrell, human resource manager at Xceptional HR Consulting, said there should be another party in the next six to eight weeks. In the meantime, perfect that resume and start networking. "Jake Dalton