FAQs about Job Search Councils

Read below to get answers to the following frequently asked questions (FAQs):

  • What exactly is a Job Search Council (JSC)?
  • How does it work to sign-up and get placed on a JSC?
  • How does the matching work?
  • Is this hard to do yourself?
  • Who is behind this?
  • Who is Phyl Terry?
  • Where does the Job Search Council concept come from?
  • What is the five-step Social Search method?
  • Why are you matching people in JSCs for free?
  • What is Never Search Alone?
  • Do you have to buy the book to participate?
  • Are JSCs only for extroverts?
  • Who runs the JSC?
  • How do you manage the JSC over time?
  • How is trust built on a JSC?

What exactly is a Job Search Council (JSC)?

A Job Search Council (JSC) is a mutual support group made up of peer job seekers who agree to search together.

You can set up and create your own JSC.

We also offer a free matching service that will connect you to peer job seekers.

How does it work to sign-up and get placed on a JSC?

  • You register
    You register through our confidential Google Form and tell us more about yourself.

  • We match you
    Our volunteers then work behind-the-scenes to match you with peer job seekers. We’ll match you with people at about your same level – and “speed.” Speed means “slow seekers” (people in full-time jobs who are looking) or “fast seekers” (people out work of working and looking). We also help college and graduate students find jobs.

  • We introduce you to your JSC
    Once our volunteers have assembled a good group of 4-6 peers, they will introduce you to each other and to your volunteer moderator (moderators are peer job seekers who volunteer to moderate and run your JSC).

  • Your moderator uses our tools and templates to run your meetings
    To run your individual meetings and help you with our job search, your volunteer moderator will use our set of free tools including agenda templates and the five-step never Search Alone method.

How does the matching work?

We mention this above, but here’s more detail.

  1. We look for people with same level of tenure in their careers
  2. Then we split them into sub-groups depending on whether they are unemployed (“fast-seekers”) or working while looking (“slow seekers”), or students
  3. Then we assemble councils of 4-5 job seekers with similar tenure and speed (i.e., fast or slow) with a volunteer moderator who also meets the same criteria

Note: we do NOT put people together in the same industry or even the same function (though we try to have at least 2 of the same function – so it might be a mix of 2 product managers, 2 ux folks, and 2 marketers…all with the same tenure and speed (i.e., “fast” or “slow” seekers).

Is This Hard to Do This Yourself?

Some people find it easy to put together their own JSCs. Many do not.

It depends on how wide your network is and how comfortable you are making that happen.

But you definitely do NOT need to use our free matching service.

It’s just there for those who want to take advantage of it.

Who is behind this?

Phyl Terry is the lead organizer working with a talented team of volunteers.

The volunteers are typically people who are working full-time in the digital world, and are members of Collaborative Gain. They have experienced the power of asking for help and being on a Council and want to take their learnings and help people who have been laid off or let go find a good job.

Who is Phyl Terry?

Phyl is the Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain and has a long history in the digital world.

They were part of the first startup that Amazon bought back in the 1990s, and then were the 15-year CEO of Creative Good, the pioneering customer experience and product management firm. At Creative Good, Phyl led the development of the methodology, evangelized customer experience and product management, and oversaw 400 client projects for companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and many others.

Phyl also started the first private leadership community for digital leaders back in 2002/2003 – known as the Councils or Collaborative Gain.

This was in the aftermath of the dotcom bust and because we – Phyl and colleagues – wanted our friends — fellow executives in the Internet world — to understand and benefit from the power of asking for help as a leadership discipline.

Many people were out of a job and we thought that those that still had jobs needed to really help each other. We launched this community designed to help digital executives ask for and give help to their peers. 

It worked.

Early Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and many other companies joined and really helped each other.

And then the Councils grew.

When we hit the next crisis — the Great Recession — members really stood with each other and helped their peers lead through those tough times.

2023 is the 20th anniversary of that first meeting and now more than 2,000 leaders from almost every tech company out there have participated – and grown their careers.

And many of these people want to give back, especially now in this moment of crisis in the tech world.

Where does the Job Search Council concept come from?

Phyl’s mom – “Chic” to her friends and family – started the first Council in 1960.

Learning from her, Phyl launched their first Council in college (for progressive student leaders) and then in graduate school worked with McKinsey to launch the first Council for Internet CEOs back in 1997.

Then, as noted, Phyl started CG Councils in 2002/2003 for digital leaders, and then over the last 20 years, Phyl and team have helped thousands of leaders stay longer in their jobs (and then find good jobs if they are laid off or let go).

So, Job Search Councils come from decades of experience running these kinds of forums.

Phyl lays out in detail the concept of Job Search Councils and the whole five-step Social Search process in their highly acclaimed new book, Never Search Alone.

What is the Five-Step Social Search Method?

In Never Search Alone, Phyl lays out a structured five-step approach to finding a *good* job.

This approach is based on working with thousands of job seekers over the last 25 years and breaks some of the ‘conventional’ rules of how to look for a job.

The five steps are:

  1. Form a Job Search Council
  2. Conduct a Listening Tour (research to figure out your “candidate-market fit”)
  3. Set your Candidate-Market Fit
  4. Networking/Interviewing
  5. Negotiate all Four Legs of the Negotiations Stool

These five steps come from a process of significant iteration and learning.

First, Phyl and colleagues coached more than 2,000 job and promotion seekers over the last 20 years.

Then, five years ago, before Phyl started to write Never Search Alone, they conducted 200 in-depth interviews with college students, entry-level employees, mid-career leaders, CEOs, and Board members.

After that, as Phyl began writing, they asked more than 200 job seekers to read and put into practice early versions of this book. Along the way, those readers provided more than 2,500 pieces of feedback, which Phyl then used to iterate through more than 400 major and minor drafts.

As a result, the five steps represents lessons and input from thousands of job seekers, facing the same challenges and fears — and with the same hopes — as you.

It worked for them.

That’s why we know Social Search will work for you.

Why Are You Matching People in JSCs for Free?

To honor Phyl’s mom, Chic (pictured below in high school in the 1950s), Phyl and a group of CG members and friends decided to build this free community around the concepts in Never Search Alone – to help many more people, especially in this time of tech layoffs.

As noted, Chic started the first council in 1960 for elementary school teachers in the San Fernando Valley. Throughout her life, Chic helped as many people as she could, especially those out of work.

What is Never Search Alone (NSA)?

Never Search Alone is Phyl’s latest book, which lays out the five-step Social Search method explained above.

Based on 25 years of experience working with thousands of leaders – from early-career product managers to CEOs – Never Search Alone gives readers a time-tested, multi-step process (with exercises, tools, and templates) to find the right job now.

In addition to the five steps, Phyl notes that three breakthrough ideas animate Never Search Alone:

1. Job Search Council – Because your emotional balance is the most important thing you need to manage in the job search, you need a support group of fellow job seekers that will help turn your insecurity and anxiety into hope, motivation, and accountability.

2. Candidate-Market Fit – You are the ‘product’ in a job search. Thus, before you begin networking and interviewing, you need to identify precisely what you want and what the market wants. This key step will help you figure out the intersection of your hopes, dreams, and market realities.

3. Four Legs to the Negotiations Stool – Never Search Alone shows you how to interview and then negotiate for the four key things that will set you up to succeed in your new job: salary, budget, resources, and support.

Do you Need to Buy Never Search Alone to Participate?


The book provides the foundation for the free community, but we do not require that you read it.

Many do read it and find it to be a helpful guide to their search, but it’s not mandated that you get it.

Are JSCs only for extroverts?


About half of the members of JSCs (and of Collaborative Gain’s Councils) are introverts.

The reason is this is not networking.

It’s a small private group of people who commit to helping each other.

Who runs the Job Search Council?

JSCs are run by a volunteer moderator – a fellow job seeker – who uses the agenda templates and five-step job search method outlined in Never Search Alone (these templates are available free).

How do you manage the JSC over time?

People often ask how is this managed over time since people will get jobs at different speeds and people might leave the JSC.

We ask every JSC to form a charter (the charter template is part of the free tools package), and in the charter the members decide how they will handle this – i.e., if they will all remain active until everyone gets a job, or if people will drop off as they get full-time offers.

We recommend that people stay on through the offer negotiations and pre-start preparations. Then remain as “alums” on a Slack channel or email list but otherwise step out of full participation.

At that point, if a JSC needs new members, then the moderator can fill out our Google form and ask for new people to join.

How is Trust Built on a JSC?

Part of the power of a JSC comes the power of bringing strangers together – strangers bring benefits, as Phyl explains in Chapters 1 and 2 of Never Search Alone.

Because of something called – jargon alert – ‘cognitive empathy’, strangers can often build trust quickly, especially if they are in a shared context (like, for example, all looking for a job).

We have run over 100 Job Search Councils bringing strangers together and seen this work nearly every time.

What if There’s a Problem with a Member on a JSC?

Of the 100 JSCs we’ve run, only one has had a problem with a member.

So, first off we find this to be rare.

Having said that, JSCs should first try to handle any internal issues themselves (and the moderators can get advice from the volunteer team).

But if the problem persists – and again we’ve only had this happen once – your moderator can reach out to the volunteer team and trigger a process to investigate and provide assistance.

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