Not having a job or being underemployed often brings with it additional stress. How will bills be paid? Will my children have health care? How much should we say to people who might be able to help? Recently, we sat down with Lenka Berkowitz, Community Resources Advisor at JEVS Career Strategies, who was able to give us some insight into how a total approach can help bridge the gap when someone is transitioning back into employment.

First, who are you and how long have you been with JEVS Human Services?

My name is Lenka Berkowitz, and I’m the Community Resources Advisor with the JEVS’ Career Strategies program. I’ve been here for 2½ years.

What is a Community Resources Advisor?

In my role, I work with our Career Advisors and our clients in Pennsylvania. When a client meets with their Career Advisor and there is an additional need for help – maybe there are financial issues, or additional support is needed beyond cover letters and resumes – that’s what I help with. I’ll assist clients in applying for public benefits, matching them to debt management help, healthcare options, childcare, language classes, budgeting or housing issues – you name it.

I know that you also connect people to counseling.

Yes. We have a holistic approach at Career Strategies – some of our clients come in knowing exactly what they want (for instance, interview practice or someone to look over their resume). But for others, being out of work or making the decision to go back into the workforce, can be difficult and stressful. If you’ve ever been out of work, it can be disorienting; sometimes finding clothing for a job interview, or thinking about how to pay bills (and in which order to pay them), where to get food, where to get your health needs taken care of, are all temporary challenges where someone could use some friendly advice or assistance.

You sound very passionate about this!

I really am! There’s such a stigma around the idea of public benefits. Many times, I see clients who are struggling, but they are embarrassed and don’t want to be viewed as “takers”. There is nothing wrong with needing assistance – we all pay into the system – and sometimes it’s important that people do what’s temporarily best for their family, which allows them to focus on the skills needed for the job search.

What would I need to have when meeting with you?

To use the services of the Community Resources Advisor, you’d need to become a client of Career Strategies – and all the benefits that come with that: computer training, the community resources, the job placement assistance, are then yours. I am as hands-on as someone needs me to be; anyone can give you a phone number to a government office or agency, but I will help make the call with you and create a plan to get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Do you have any great stories to share?

There are so many! I’m still in touch with clients from when I started – people who were here temporarily, found the tools they needed, and are now doing very well for themselves. I’m usually there when someone first comes in – at a more discouraging point, sometimes, in their lives – and the goal is always that eventually we at Career Strategies want to be less important to an individual client as time goes on, because our clients are able to succeed and blossom.

This seems so personal to you.

I’ve always wanted to help people, and it’s important to me to be working for a company with a mission I can relate to – making a difference. I moved here from Europe – went to school in Prague and Amsterdam – and I can tell you that changing careers and relocating to a different continent can be very difficult, like all career transitions can be! Selling your experiences, not having domestic references – employers had to take a chance on me when I started. I see this role as a way to help others who are working hard to make the most of their chances.

Posted in Blog JEVS Program: Career Strategies