We're in our third year of the RiseSmart Madness Challenge, which has grown more popular each year as thousands of laid-off workers have gotten a chance to share in the fun and camaraderie of an NCAA tournament bracket contest, featuring friendly rivalries and great prizes. It's our answer to the office pools that have become a ritual for tens of millions of American workers — but can leave the unemployed feeling left out.
The Challenge concept has been a big hit with participants in our RiseSmart Transition outplacement program. It's also been well-received by the news media — at least until a national sportswriter this week characterized it as the "saddest NCAA pool in America."
Granted, most people don't want to be unemployed and looking for a job. And being laid-off can evoke strong emotions -- not only sadness, but anger, grief and other feelings as well.
But our job at RiseSmart is to help laid-off workers move past those initial feelings of shock or loss and to focus on getting on their feet and landing that next job — maybe a much better one than they had before. And our proprietary system works, as the hard data shows: Unemployed Americans in RiseSmart Transition find new jobs at a pace more than 50 percent faster than the national average.
One thing we've found is that people in our program are able to be more successful if they can relax a little — if they can approach the job search as an engaging challenge rather than a stressful burden. The RiseSmart Madness Challenge is just one of many activities, large and small, that RiseSmart offers to help add a sense of fun for workers in the RiseSmart Transition program.
We started the Challenge in 2012 exclusively for RiseSmart Transition participants. One of last year's winners said she took part "for the love of the tournament and bragging rights. Getting an iPod Touch was a bonus." As a RiseSmart Transition participant, she received a new resume and cover letter, job-matching services, access to informative webinars and other career content, and ongoing one-on-one guidance from a personal career coach. This set of services is designed to keep jobseekers energized, focused and more effective in their job hunts.
Because the RiseSmart Madness Challenge has been a success with RiseSmart Transition participants, this year for the first time we decided to open it up to everyone looking for a job, and the response has been great. We look forward to announcing our third-annual RiseSmart Madness Challenge winners on Monday, April 7!