CHICAGO (CBS) — Looking for a new job can be discouraging – and even more so when you add a pandemic to the mix.

CBS 2 is Working for Chicago, connecting you with resources to get you back on your feet. We reached out to members of a networking group who all landed new jobs within the past couple of months.

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They shared their tips and success stories with CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas.

A lot of the people in the group have never actually met in person. But while they may be strangers, most people on the recent networking call have a few things in common.

“Losing my last job was a punch in the gut,” one participant said.

“I was part of a handful of folks that were let go,” another said.

“On good terms, but nevertheless we separated,” a third said.

They recently found themselves looking for work, and finding it, in the midst of a pandemic and a gloomy job market.

They are also members of the NorthShore Executive Networking Group, which usually meets in person. But now, they do job search coaching and workshops online.

It’s led by Marty Gilbert.

“They all have such great stories to tell about how they landed their next job during the most troubling of times,” he said.

Take Amanda Harasti. She was getting ready to submit her résumé and realized she knew a few people who had worked at the company where she was applying.

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“I asked them to introduce me to folks on the team that I’d be working with and say: ‘Hey, this sounds like a great person that I’d be working with. Are you willing to ask them if they can make time to talk to me?’” Harasti said.

She said that led to direct conversations between her and her now-coworkers that gave her a leg up.

Mike Loquercio shared a similar story about one conversation leading to another, and then a job offer.

“Connections, connections, connections – do not be afraid to talk to anybody,” he said.

Of course, it’s not easy to network when everyone is stuck at home.

Gilbert recommends messaging people who might be able to help on LinkedIn, or if you can find their email address, use that.

He said rather than applying for everything you see online, you should make a list of companies and positions you’re interested in and focusing on those, which is similar to Marc Lessem’s approach.

“I looked back at what made me happy throughout my career, and then that’s the type of position I’m going to look for,” Lessem said.

It’s not an option for everyone, but Lessem even offered to work pro bono for a couple of months before his company officially hired him in April.

Thinking outside the box could be what gets you the job.

“What the hell do you have to lose by trying things that nobody else is doing?” Gilbert said.

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Gilbert said his NorthShore Executive Networking Group is helping people land jobs every week. Their webinars or workshops are available at their website.

Tim McNicholas