If experience is the best teacher, the staff at JEVS Career Strategies in New Jersey could write the book on job-seeking.
“I remember putting my résumés in envelopes, one at a time,” said Charlene Chicalo, Career Advisor.
Program and Outreach Coordinator Margery Dannenbaum agrees.
“I was fortunate to have an education, a good work history and volunteer experience, but when my organization lost its funding and I was suddenly out of a job, I had to figure out how to repackage it all,” she said.
“In my case, I had relocated – so on top of moving, I needed to take the opportunity to really think about what my ‘new’ career goals were,” added Marilena Von Rohr, Job Development Specialist.
It’s experiences like these – and the recognition that their story is the story of their clients, clients who may be in the throes of a career transition, underemployed, or even just looking for a better (or higher paying!) job – that motivate the efforts of the Career Strategies team. Now, just a few short months into serving the Cherry Hill and Southern New Jersey community, the staff has been providing “the tools and processes to help you find your next great career” for more than four dozen clients with one-on-one career advising, and has hosted more than a half-dozen workshops and events.
“We have clients of all ages and of all experience levels,” said Chicalo. “Some had been with a company for decades, and are suddenly on the job market; others are college students seeking their first ‘real’ job.”
“I was struck by the number of mature workers that I’ve met,” said Von Rohr. “It makes me sad that there are a number of older people with good skills who are quite capable and feel ‘tossed aside.’”
Client needs are as varied as the individuals themselves, according to Dannenbaum.
“People come to us who are looking for a résumé tune-up or computer skills, while others just aren’t sure what to do next. We help people determine what their specific plan should entail – maybe it’s interview prep, or some focused networking,” she said. “If someone is ready to put in the work and follow-through, it definitely shows!”
The enthusiasm and compassion that the ladies bring to each client is evident.
“We are just as happy for our clients as they are when they land interviews!” said Chicalo. That happiness is by no accident – each of the three team members faced similar career transitions in recent years; Dannenbaum was able to use her networking skills after a lay-off, Chicalo returned to the job market after several years of raising her children, and Von Rohr relocated to a new area with different career goals than she previously had.
“In my case, it was surprising how much about the job search process had changed,” said Chicalo. “It can be very isolating, and filling out form after form online – to sometimes not even get a response back – can be very depressing.”
“It can be a bit of a helpless feeling,” said Dannenbaum. “But having a plan and moving toward it – bit by bit, a résumé workshop here, a computer class there, some interview practice – provides a framework and structure, and we’re here to provide that support.”
Also supportive in this endeavor has been the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and the Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Partnering with JFSNJ and Samost JFCS has resulted in shared space at the Katz JCC Building on Springdale Road in Cherry Hill, as well as generous funding from the Saltzman Foundation to launch and operate the program. Samost JFCS also provides space and client referrals, allowing JEVS Career Strategies to offer an additional component to their stellar wrap-around social services.
“We’ve received feedback that this has been very welcome service in the community,” noted Dannenbaum. “People who are going through a rough time need to know that making the call is the first step – and that there are people here who care.”
Chicalo agrees. “Sometimes, all it takes is a little know-how and the right support. We always think that when someone leaves, we want them to feel empowered in their job search and career decisions.”
“One client told us, ‘Ever since I met you guys, good things have been happening to me,’ said Von Rohr. “It’s a great feeling to be appreciated – and everyone deserves to have a job or career where they feel the same. That’s our everyday challenge.”