“When’s the last time you congratulated yourself for investing…in yourself?”

That question, posed by Site Administrator Nicki Woods on a sunny Friday afternoon, shines brightly among the smiling faces of the recently-completed Professional Networking Group at PA CareerLink® Suburban Station, operated by JEVS Human Services.

Conceived of and directed by Jamaine Jackson, job developer, and Nathan Schlingmann, workforce counselor, the Professional Networking Group (PNG) complements the traditional job-seeking and career management services offered by the PA CareerLink® Suburban Station by allowing participants a forum for sharing, learning, and relating to others, providing accountability, new perspectives, and motivation during a job search.

“We wanted to connect like-minded, ambitious, diverse professionals; people who are looking for that next job success, through both personal and professional growth,” said Jackson. “We attach our sense of self to our employment, so often, that when that employment ends, there can be a question of who ‘We’ are; PNG is a good way for us to self-reflect on who we are, all the skills we individually know and things we’ve done, and what our career goals are—while making a plan to get there.”

For six weeks, each Friday morning, participants come together to discuss their search, role-play scenarios, define their goals, manage stress and build resilience, and get expert tips and advice about personal branding, marketing and networking. The results are self-affirming—and also externally represented in newfound confidence.

When’s the last time you congratulated yourself for investing…in yourself?

“I’m being honest, I don’t know where I’d be without this class,” said Aaron, who previously worked in the nonprofit world. “I never had to really search for a job before, and I didn’t know the extent of all there was to know now. The job hunt is not necessarily based on talent, it’s largely based on who you know, but even with that, I never had a digital footprint for people to find my skills online.”

“This has been helpful to me on two levels,” said Danielle, from Center City. A policy expert by trade, she noted “the one-on-one assistance” as a huge help, but also cited the group makeup itself. “There is such a diverse range of ages and experiences here, that it feels like it’s tailored to our expectations and goals. I really appreciate the support and friendships made here, it’s kept me motivated, being in a new city.”

That diversity, according to Jackson and Schlingmann, is both structured form and function. With professionals ranging from the 20s to their 60s, and from the insurance, nonprofit, finance, scientific, administrative and retail worlds, participants are able to step outside of their own ‘inner circles’ in a safe, welcoming environment—“planting seeds” in an ever-changing job market.

“We have such an experienced, professional workforce here in Philadelphia,” said Schlingmann. “This helps grow everyone’s world, including ours. I’ve been told a few times, ‘I didn’t realize how good it would make me feel to just talk to someone new about who I am and what I’d like to do’ or ‘I think I can talk about my transferable skills differently now.’”

Membership in the group is selective. PA CareerLink® Suburban Station staff refer eligible participants to PNG, but so long as there’s benefit to it, group leaders plan to continue its goal of building confidence and skills.

“In basketball, people always remember who took or missed the last shot,” said this cohort’s commencement speaker. “Because they remember who had the courage to take it.”

Program graduate Gloria smiled at that. With a job lined up, she was ready to go. “This has been fun. But I can’t wait for my computer login. I already have an assignment on my desk.”

Learn more about PA CareerLink Suburban Station here, or call 215-557-2592 for more details.

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