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Tampa Bay Chapter Launches “Back to Work” Group

By Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, PRSA Tampa Bay member 

With national unemployment claims topping 40 million, job seeking members of PRSA Tampa Bay gather weekly to exchange resources and job tips, expand their connections, and strengthen their professional networks through the “Back to Work” group

The group’s Zoom gatherings began in early May, with the full thrust of the coronavirus upon Florida, the nation and the world. As the pandemic’s grip tightened locally, employers large and small initiated new work routines, activated remote work practices when possible, and instituted recommended public health guidelines. Ultimately, the virus toppled the labor market, workers were furloughed, and errors in April and May jobs reports likely means that May’s unemployment rate is 16.3 percent.

Amid this unprecedented crisis, PRSA Tampa Bay's Membership Committee, chaired by Bart Graham, reached out to as many of the 237 chapter members as possible. The committee wanted to engage with members, especially any who had been furloughed or laid off. They found there were many who were impacted.

“Before COVID-19, I was working as a communications consultant for a small business,” said Beth Chernes, a PRSA Tampa Bay member whose contract with a small business ended when Florida shut down. “I saw friends and former colleagues in public relations and marketing lose their jobs and opportunities dry up. Through the Back to Work Group, I've made connections in PRSA Tampa Bay that will last beyond my time in this group and into the next chapter of my career.”

During each Back to Work Group meeting, job seekers share resources with each other, celebrate victories and offer support for current challenges. They share tips such as resume building, preparing for job interviews, and using the latest job finding tools. Using a private Slack channel, members post information designed to build skills and increase knowledge, including podcasts and videos about navigating career transitions.

“PRSA Tampa Bay members have always been an incredibly supportive group of professionals,” said Kelsy Long, president of PRSA Tampa Bay. “This Back to Work group is just another example of how our chapter can come together to form a mental and professional safety net during troubling times."

Some members have buddied up, which adds accountability and motivation to the process.

“The weekly meetings with my accountability buddy are encouraging and motivating,” said Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, who recently relocated to Florida. “We share ‘to do’ lists on Monday and then check in on Fridays to report our progress. I’ve really benefited from her knowledge, and since I’m new to Florida, she’s helping me better understand the PR environment here.”

“The collaboration and support of the Back to Work group has been so helpful with a great exchange of ideas and suggestions,” said Beth Hardy, APR and former member of PRSA Tampa Bay’s board. “It’s very helpful and good to know that we have each other’s backs.” 

“I truly look forward to the weekly meetings with everyone,” said Muffy Lavens. “Having a group of professionals going through the same thing reminds me that I’m not alone in this. We’re all talented people supporting each other as we navigate this tough time.”

PRSA Tampa Bay's Back to Work Group meets every Monday at 10 a.m. It is open to all Florida chapters.

“We see it as another benefit of PRSA membership,” said Graham. “We don’t want people to suffer in silence. These are tough times, and PRSA professionals understand the value of communication and connection. This is just another way we can offer that to our outstanding members and continue to support their career journeys.”

For more information, or to join PRSA Tampa Bay's Back to Work Group, contact Shannon Burch, Beth Hardy, or Muffy Lavens.

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