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Supporting Long-Term Unemployed Citizens in Philadelphia

March 22, 2017
Supporting Long-Term Unemployed in Philadelphia

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, long-term unemployment is a category of unemployed workers that includes those who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks (6 months). Recently, Penni Gould joined our JEVS Career Strategies team, as the new Career Support Coordinator. Penni will be responsible for a variety of tasks, but she will be particularly focusing her attention on the support needs of the long-term unemployed jobseeker.

Q. Hello, Penni and welcome aboard! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A. Thank you, I’m glad to be here.  Working in Career Strategies is a natural fit for me – I had previously created a supported employment program for another supportive services organization, and in fact have spent most of my career in the employment services field.  I’ve been a case manager, a social worker, an English teacher, you name it!

Q. What will you be responsible for at JEVS Career Strategies?

A. I’ll answer your question with a question: Did you know that a person can be burnt out from a job search? I’m here to help provide motivational and emotional support to our clients, as well as create group workshops and peer seminars that build community and address all the other issues that come along with looking for work. I see my role as supporting the accountability of our clients – putting people in a positive mind-frame and keeping them engaged in their own track to their own success.

Q. Burnt out? What’s that mean?

A. Job searching is way more complicated now! In the past, you might see an ad in the newspaper, you’d call the number, maybe be invited to come in, and possibly even get the job on the spot. Today, the U.S. employment system can be difficult – there are biases and barriers and false perceptions that exist, and it can feel like a minefield.

You may feel that you have to have a perfect resume, but you know that if you don’t mention the right keywords, your application won’t even be reviewed. Even if you have the right experience, what if you dress incorrectly? Or mess up the answer to a single interview question? Is your social media presence correct? What about your picture? Does it make you look too old, too young, are you overqualified, underqualified…it’s never-ending. And the whole process can leave people feeling isolated and alone and overall, terrible.

Q. But what about unemployment numbers?

A. Economic data can make people feel even worse, especially those who are seeking work. So I say the same thing to my clients that I say to my family, which is “You are not alone. You are not the only one going through this awful feeling – you can’t blame yourself if there’s a layoff or a job loss or it’s taking you a bit longer to find something that is right for you.”

The way the employment system is set up, it can stigmatize people: those with employment gaps, for instance, or those needing further training, or those who are returning to the workforce, or those who have been out of work for a while. And to feel rejected over and over substantiates these beliefs that we’re not good enough. And that’s just wrong.

Q. So how does this work? How does someone meet with you and what does success look like?

A. At JEVS Career Strategies, it’s a team approach. A jobseeker will be assigned an appointment with one of our excellent career advisors and will work through the nuts-and-bolts of the process with them (e.g. career assessment, resume review, reference know-how, etc…). If they need access to community resources or information, Lenka Berkowitz, our Community Resources Advisor, is available to help. If someone needs emotional support or motivation – maybe the job search has led to depression, or anxiety, or a general feeling of blue – I can help with that. And finally, when someone is ready, they work with our Job Developers to find their next great position. And if they’re not being accountable to themselves and their own search, well, that’s where I keep engaging them throughout the process. This whole team exists to help you succeed!

Success then means (at least to me) that someone has their motivation back and is positively re-engaging with the job search process, but without the emotional pain or anxiety. They’re reinvigorated and can do what needs to be done without giving up. We should never make people who want to contribute and who need to find work feel like giving up.

You’re very passionate about this!

A. A lot of this is just plain life experience. Maybe it comes off a little angry at the hiring systems that are now most frequently used – but I think in our job you have to be passionate to help our clients. We have to know what’s going on in the job market – and if you haven’t been out of work for 20-30 years and then suddenly are – we know what that can feel like. You’d be surprised how many families, friends, even spouses don’t understand the nature and challenges of today’s job search! That adds to the stress that someone who is out of work might feel. Through the years, I’ve learned so much from my clients – maybe more, even – then I’ve given to them, and I’m grateful and excited about the opportunity to share my experience for such a good purpose.

JEVS Career Strategies would like to extend special thanks to The Justin P. Allman President’s Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia for their financial support for this initiative.

For more information on our weekly job search workshops or to schedule an appointment with the Career Strategies team, visit jevshumanservices.org/careerstrategies or call 215-854-1874.

Posted in Blog JEVS Program: Career Strategies

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