When local insurance agent Debra Baker decided to change careers, she suddenly found herself looking for work in a tough economy.
The 48-year-old wasn't sure where to begin until she found a free support group specifically designed to help experienced professionals like herself find a job.
The Professional Resource Network was created for displaced managers, technicians and other white-collar workers to make contacts and learn tips on braving a hostile job market.
"It's like a family, we help each other out," said Baker, who is on the hunt for employment in training or management fields.
In the three months since she joined the group, Baker has seen its membership increase, she said.
The Professional Resource Network is sponsored by the California Employment Development Department. The group serves as the San Joaquin chapter of Experience Unlimited, which rents office space, provides computers, phones, copiers, fax machines and Internet access to its members at no charge.
The group currently has 41 active members. The Professional Resource Network has had 131 members since it was established June 19, 2002, and has found jobs for 40 people, said Lodi resident Colleen Martin, Experience Unlimited coordinator.
"It's a lonely pursuit looking for work these days," she said. "We provide some support."
To join the club, members must sign an agreement to work at least 16 hours a month to promote the group.
Members can fulfill roles in three different categories: Operations, marketing and training.
George Parrish, a marketing director who has been with the group for three months, is helping to promote the club while simultaneously looking for employment.
Members can use the group's facilities for everything from polishing off their resumes to printing out business cards, Parrish said.
"We are all working on a common goal: Building a career," he said.
Most of the members have degrees and considerable real world job experience, Parrish said.
"It's not just for the unemployed, it's for the underemployed," he said.
Prospective members can visit the center at 9 a.m. Wednesdays for an orientation program or drop by the office.
The club meets in the San Joaquin Delta College WorkNet center, 5405 N. Pershing Ave. in Stockton, Suite A. For more information, call 473-6963.
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