By Noreen Farooqui
Special to The Sun
Technology has provided the unemployed, underemployed and employed a medium to commiserate about their job situation, discuss workplace issues, rejoice in successes, network, ask about employment issues, learn about industry trends, and get information on unadvertised employment opportunities.
| SHAHZAD ZAHID
Joined online forum
For the freelancer or self-employed, online job discussion forums create a network of virtual coworkers.
Almost every industry has one, and like the workplace, conflicts arise with people who post anonymously being "outed" (having their real names revealed), threats of lawsuit, harassment, arguments, etc.
Because these forums provide the opportunity to post anonymously, many people are able to voice their views on workplace issues without fear of reprisal from employers.
One of the more popular Canadian online discussion boards is Journalism Jobs in Canada. Members comprise a vast array of communications professionals including public relations people, publishers, editors, freelancers and broadcasters.
The site is recognized industry-wide; in fact, when Shahzad Zahid came from his native Pakistan six months ago and started looking for work in media, he says someone at broadcaster CTV suggested he check out the site.
"There are very limited forums in the world like this. It helps to go there," Zahid says.
South African Mark Els says he experienced difficulty with entering the journalism field in Canada, despite his 15 years experience in the industry. He joined the board in March 2003.
"I joined mainly to find a job," Els says. "Not that I hoped to be hired from the site, but indirectly I needed to find insight into the mindsets of Canadian journalists. If I could build some sort of network from there, then that would be a bonus.
"For me, it was all about keeping up to date with what journalists were talking about."
While both Zahid and Els agree that the board consists of mainly new journalists with less than five years experience, aspiring journalists and new immigrants, both find value in the messages.
"Tips and tricks are offered on job hunting, resume writing and interview skills," Els says. "The forum does have some interesting debates."
For new immigrants trying to enter the field in which they have been schooled and have worked, these forums have an added benefit in learning about how industries vary from country to country and the attitudes towards foreign-trained workers.
"The forum did confirm a number of ideas I had played with, the most pressing being my disadvantage as a newcomer to Canada," Els says. "Despite the official workplace policy that everyone is equal, there are some very closed minds in this country."
The forum also provides opportunities for networking that can lead to work; after two and a half years of searching for a full-time job, Els got an offer thanks to a contact he made on the forum. In a few weeks, he starts his new job as senior editor for a technology magazine in eastern British Columbia.
Zahid also made some contacts from the board that have proven to be helpful. A few experienced journalists have contacted Zahid via e-mail offering him hope in his pursuit of a media job in Canada.
"Three managing editors from the board gave me telephone numbers. They suggested to me good things about finding a job in journalism," Zahid says.
These forums don't always radiate positive energy, however. Because of the anonymity afforded to them, members aren't always on their best behaviour.
"So many members get so worked up. It's all rather hilarious most of the time," Els says. "I think they forget how anonymous they're able to be. As anonymous members, who really cares about the 'who' in who says what. Also, the anonymity safeguards members from legal liability. Problems start when identities are revealed."
In order to combat some of the negative aspects of these online job discussion forums some professional forums have a moderator who watches out for "outing," fighting and other misdeeds. Some sites even have an application process where proof of professional status is required before membership is granted.
Whatever the case may be, online job discussion forums are a valuable asset for workers at any stage in their career.
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