Bradley Brooker has been unemployed twice. What sticks with him most about those two periods were the people who kept in touch with him.

"If you hear of a friend who has lost a job, then reach out," Brooker said. "Let them know you sincerely care and will do whatever you can to help."

Organizers of job loss support groups note that the unemployed sometimes seem invisible to the employed.

The churches and colleges that house job transition groups often lack any formal networking structure to connect job hunters with business owners and other employed members of the congregation.

Yet "networking is key," Brooker said. He suggests organizing meetings in which job-hunters can let people know what positions they're interested in.

But here's the deal:

Those who have jobs need to show up. Too often, job transition assistance consists of job-hunters talking to each other, guided by one or two good-hearted job-club conveners.

Brooker was especially grateful that a former boss at Sprint, Joanna Redding, reached out to him and provided lists of job opportunities and helped him land an interview.

"Pay attention to the signs for help," Brooker advised.

Don't wait for job-hunting friends to call you "because they most likely won't - and they do want help," he said.

Brooker believes it's our responsibility as members of our community to provide referrals and emotional support to job-hunters.

Job-hunting these days, especially for mid- or late-career professionals, is hard work. Firing out applications over the Internet rarely results in job offers.

It's people contact that counts.

Each of us can use our business connections and friendships to recommend a job-hunter. Employers value referrals from people they know and trust. So here's the challenge for us all: Pay attention to those who need help. Listen to their needs. Then act.

Diane Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at The Kansas City Star. Her "Your Job" blog at economy.kansascity.com includes daily posts about job-related issues of wide interest. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or by e-mail at dstaffordkcstar.com.
(c) 2011, The Kansas City Star.
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