Companies, organizations and individuals who help people find jobs are "hot" these days. So is the entrepreneurial spirit. With new companies and "fresh approaches" to the job search rapidly emerging on the scene, there are plenty of opportunities to get "burnt."Aa_frog_8It's important to learn how to spot the frogs among us.

Today, I'm going to talk about how you can find those groups and individuals who have your best interest at heart. I am going to use as an example because I am a program organizer and facilitator.

Recently, the AP reported that over 2,000 job search groups had been created through in January alone. Many of the groups are hosted by professionals with industry experience similar to my own: They are career counselors, coaches, recruiters, former HR directors, etc. Some are created by enthusiastic volunteers. Others are hosted by entrepreneurs, recruiters or marketers who use membership lists to grow their businesses, and who rarely offer programs. A few run groups primarily for pitching you their product or service. (Tip: When joining a MeetUp group, don't just look at rankings--look at the last program date. This tells you how active the program is.)

If you are seeking to join a career support group or pay-per-premium access website, be savvy: if required to pay upfront for access to job listings, interviews, or "placement services," ask questions before you enter into any agreement. If it sounds too good to be true, it might be. Here are three acid tests you can apply before you sign anything.

1. Ask for two or three names of customers you can contact for references.

2. Ask--or try to figure out--how a company makes money. What's in it for them if you join? Shortly before the bust, there were companies with 50,000 resumes but only 15 employers. (The business model focused on advertising by number of resumes posted, not on the number of employers using the site.) Make sure your odds are good...and that your participation counts for more than helping someone "make bank."

3. On job posting sites, conduct general searches to assess the number of listings. If you are invited to upload your resume on a relatively new company website, ask how many unique employers they have reviewing resumes. Again, make sure the scales are tipped in your favor.

Finally, if you live in the New York metropolitan area, I encourage you to sign up for the MeetUp group that I facilitate. We offer regular programs on a diverse range of topics, from LinkedIn to using a "Six Sigma" approach to your job search. We have an active membership, and offer free online resources and weekly tips. Our members evaluate all of our progams, so you get objective feedback on how we're doing. We don't always get a five star rating, but that's what we aim for and the feedback helps us improve...

Speaking of feedback, we love comments. What's on your mind? And what topics would you like to see next on this site?