Everybody at the Neighbors Helping Neighbors meeting had the same reason to be there: they needed help finding work. They had differing circumstances; some had been laid off, others were underemployed. Some had been out of work only a few weeks, others, much longer. At Neighbors Helping Neighbors, the brainchild of John Fugazzie, ’77, they hoped to build connections with peers that would revitalize their job searches and get results.
In January 2011, Fugazzie started the peer-led job search networking and support group. The first meeting was held in River Edge, New Jersey. Since then, it’s expanded to more than twenty chapters and over 850 members! In these meetings, professionals help each other by networking, reviewing resumes and sharing advice, such as how to use LinkedIn effectively and how to continue their professional education. Professionals from all career backgrounds have benefitted from Neighbors-helping-Neighbors, and Fugazzie hopes this will inspire them to further his mission and refer others to the program. He refers to this mission as “pay-it-forward,” after the 2000 movie that launched the philosophy that small, anonymous acts of kindness toward others can lead to a better, happier society.
John recognized the difficulty of finding a job in today’s market, especially for those just entering the workforce. “The Baby Boom generation was our biggest generation ever at 79 million people. Now their children are very close in population to another 72.7 million, that are now entering the workforce, and essentially competing with the Baby Boomers for jobs.”
This and the very upbeat younger members that have come to regular library based NhN meetings led him to consider bringing Neighbors-helping-Neighbors to college campuses. In this setting, Neighbors-helping-Neighbors would focus on mentoring recent graduates as they learn mores of the professional world. Seniors and Alumni would have the opportunity to lead meetings, giving them experience in leadership roles while acting as accessible role models for soon-to-be graduates. Montclair State University is the first school he’d like to partner with and get this concept started.
“It’s a great school,” Fugazzie said, recalling his days at a Montclair State student. If the program does well at Montclair State University, he hopes to bring it to other college campuses.
Neighbors-helping-Neighbors is rapidly expanding. For more information about starting a chapter or attending a meeting near you, visit nhnusa.org.