FYI: A Job Search Program I Facilitate

As I pen this blog, it is 7 p.m. on a Sunday night. Tomorrow is Monday, and with the dawn twelve unemployed people will make their way to a classroom for 9 a.m. sharp where I’ll be awaiting them. All of them share certain characteristics: they are recipients of social service, they are unemployed at present, they have been making attempts at improving their chances of employment and in the process of doing so, have been identified as an individual who has a good shot at securing employment.

This group will be attending a workshop which I initially created with the assistance of a colleague. We both facilitate a number of workshops on resume writing, interviewing, basic computer skills, how to conduct employer research, career decision-making etc., and we both felt the need to create a workshop where all those skills get put to use actually doing the job of job searching. Now some years later and as the sole facilitator of this program, it has stayed true to its original purpose which is to move clients forward with support and corrective instruction, obtaining interviews and offers of employment.

So each time the program runs, I scour the list of people my colleagues have referred to me, review their files, note their barriers and progress, and see what they’ve been up to since the initial referral. They have to be self-motivated, self-disciplined, have some basic computer skills, a resume, know the work they are looking for, come dressed for an interview for ten straight days, and more than anything, want it more than I want it for them. That’s why a phone call to them is such a good idea. I can measure their suitability, level of interest, and make sure they know I’m no miracle worker and not promising to do anything they couldn’t or shouldn’t be doing on their own. But I do offer a structured setting.

I also offer them a full-time Employment Counsellor who is enthusiastically committed to them in a 1:12 setting for two weeks. Going from person to person, I can help with cover letters, targeting resumes, employer research, phone scripts and interviews, communicating their value, mock interviews, emotional and financial support for travel, grooming and clothing, and above all, keeping them focused. Not bad when you consider for them my services are 100% free. Of course, you’d have to be on social assistance in the first place to be offered this opportunity so it isn’t something I’d wish on someone.

What is interesting to me however is the level of hope and renewal that a phone call can often bring them. Just imagine you are a job seeker yourself and the level of frustration you’d be feeling with little to show for all your efforts. The year is ending and with it your hope for employment in 2013. Then, you get a call out-of-the-blue giving you a chance to get some help. It is something I try to listen for and gauge their reaction to when I call.

So here’s how it is set up in case you are interested as a colleague in the field. I’m happy to share this with you in case you are in a position to possibly duplicate this or morph it into something that better addresses your client’s needs. Oh and you may already be doing something like this so I don’t promise it’s anything totally unique! That would be conceit!

Each day for two weeks, participants come into a classroom at 9:00 a.m. sharp and no later. (It’s like the real world) Each is assigned a work desk as they’d find on their first day of a job. I provide paper, pen, highlighter, a plastic file organizer for paper copies of job search material. They also get a daily agenda, my business cards for support, and a USB flash stick. The stick has spreadsheets for job search tracking, references, networking contacts, monthly budgeting, tips on interviews, dealing with the subject of age, background articles on support while job searching and both resume and cover letter advice.

The day commences with a 30 minute group presentation on some topic of mutual interest to job seekers. Then it’s time to get busy. Each person has access to a PC and a phone. Each person decides for themselves how best to be productive. Some will pick up the phone and do cold calls, or research a company, revise a resume, write a cover letter, go knock on some businesses, sit down 1:1 for a mock interview; and I go from person to person non-stop for the 10 days. At day’s end, we debrief for 30 minutes on what is frustrating them or to share some good news. If they get an interview, they go, and if they get a job, they are done with me. It may be that at the end of the two weeks some are left, because job offers don’t always come up in a short period of time. The success rate for a group of 12 on average in my groups is 5 of 12 hired with the best being 9 of 11.

The name of the program is WORKSMART. Job searching is work after all, and going about it in a smarter way can be more effective, less frustrating, and ultimately more successful than going it alone. It’s a chance to receive support, identify and correct some issues, feel connected again, network, and of course, hopefully land a job in the near future.

My intent in sharing is just to provide something you might find of interest.


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