Networking is oldest and best way to find a job. And these days, when there's about one position for every 5 people looking for work, the need for that skill is more important than ever. But, for some, that process can be daunting. An area church is helping to demystify the idea. As part of our series What's Working, Emily McCord visits Fairhaven Church for their bimonthly jobseekers group.
8am on the first Thursday in June. More than a dozen people are gathered around a table, some dressed in their professional best, others more casual. They're here because they're unemployed, and the stress of that is worn on Terry Holcomb's face. She's holding back tears. What worries her most, she says, is the well being of her teenage daughter.
"This being her senior year at Centerville, they have a big trip in November that they go to Florida, and unfortunately she probably won't be able to go," says Holcomb.
She says her daughter even offered to take off school to help make some money for the family. But that's not what Terry wants for her.
"Being out of work is kind of stressful...um, but knowing that this is here now. Hopefully this will help my find something that will help support my family," says Holcomb
So, that's what brings her to a group called job seekers here at Fairhaven Church today. After the orientation, nearly 100 people gather in a large gymnasium, and she's standing in front of them. As a newcomer, she is asked to give a quick "commercial" about herself.
"There's a whole new procedure on how to get jobs"
Pam Walker runs the Job Seekers group. What happens next is the real meat of their purpose here.
One by one, people offer suggestions to Terry, like "I know a guy who is an accountant here" or "my sister's husband knows this person, I'll put you in touch". And they do this with every newcomer. Pam is a professional job counselor. She knows there's a need for this in her community, where it's not unusual for people to be out of work for a year or longer.
"It's so lonely and hard to be at home alone and to not know whether you should get up in the morning because you're so discouraged. You've sent dozens of resumes out and nobody's responded, and there's a whole new procedure on how to get jobs," says Walker.
Like going online to submit resumes, or web sites like LinkedIn. This group is open to the community, and Pam hopes that anyone feels welcome getting help navigating this new job search process. She's a person faith. She doesn't think that getting a job is something that magically happens while you're sitting on the couch at home. Pam sees god working through this community.
"This is not by chance, this is god working in your lives, and so I want to encourage you to open your eyes to see that god has a plan and a hope for you, but you have to participate," says Walker.
This isn't about conversion; this is about service to the community. Pam says she hopes it works so well, that there won't be a need for this group anymore. That day could be on the horizon. She doesn't keep statistics, but she says can gauge the success of the program through doughnuts. That's what people bring in when they land a job.
"In the beginning when we first started this last February, there were no doughnuts, because the job market was so dismal. But we've seen a change. Now it's a routine basis to announce 5 to 6 landings every time we get together," says Walker.
"Hopefully it will be my time soon"
There are some positive signs that the job market may be getting better. The Labor Department shows that job openings are at the highest level they have in been in over a year. That's good news for people like Bob Winfree. He's been out of work for over 13 months when he lost job at AAA, where he was the director for IT. He's a regular at the Fairhaven job seekers program.
"I'm seeing a lot more activity than I saw even back in the first of the year. I've seen quite a few more friends that have landed positions. I'm pleased for them, and hopefully it will be my time soon," says Winfree.
Bob didn't have to wait too long. A fellow job seekers group member tipped him off about a software development company that might be hiring, and shortly after the workshop he was offered a position in early June. He started the new job on Monday.