Victoria Felson hadn’t had to look for work for a long time. But several years after the tragic loss of her young husband, and for a variety of reasons, she knew she had to enter the job market to better support herself and her family. An active congregant of Temple Beth Am in Framingham, she saw Ready for Success, a job placement program for professionals, advertised in her temple newsletter.
“I knew that I had to do something,” Victoria says. “Ready for Success was there for me exactly when I needed it.”
Ready for Success was developed by Jewish Family Service of Metrowest (JFS) with Jewish Vocational Service (JVS). The program is funded by CJP, which works with its local agency partners to help those who are in economic difficulty. The program, which is also part of the JFS Family Assistance Network, assists mid to late career professionals by offering customized job development and job search services, as well as skills training, and assistance with money management and financial planning. For those struggling with family issues, or those affected by disability or other circumstances, case management is also available through JFS.
“Our Ready for Success clients are coming from the recession, and they are in financial trouble. They are dealing with unemployment and their savings running out, or they have been using their retirement and sometimes even their kid’s bar mitzvah money to keep afloat,” says Diana O’Brien, Director of Family Assistance at JFS.
How It Works
Program applicants must be Metrowest Jewish community residents and:
Victoria contacted Ready for Success and completed an online application, and then met with Diana O’Brien and Beth Squires, a Career Navigator for JVS, who works at the JFS office in Framingham.
“When I meet with clients, I assess their resume, LinkedIn profile, interviewing skills, networking, and job readiness,” says Beth. “I help them to focus on what they need to do to be successful in their job search.”
Victoria left that first meeting with a direction and a plan, and a clear understanding that while Ready for Success is a great support, the responsibility for a successful job search was hers. In fact, she signed a memo of understanding that required her to commit to regular check-ins and report on her job search activity. Beth encouraged Victoria to use her existing networks, while she also reached out to her contacts.
“At a minimum I would confer with Beth on the phone at least once a week and give updates on the results of my job search and what my actions were. Additionally, emails went back and forth several times per week. Beth was always good about asking what she could do to help,” says Victoria.
“I push them to succeed.”
For Victoria and others in similar situations, the obstacles to returning to work can feel overwhelming: many applicants haven’t had to look for employment for as long as twenty years, and resumes, networking and interviews have changed.
“It’s a completely different landscape, and it’s hard for them,” says Career Navigator Beth Squires. “But I push them to succeed. I make it clear that this isn’t always going to be comfortable. That’s probably why they love me and they hate me sometimes.”
Beth makes sure her clients are getting out from behind their computers because face-to-face networking is so important, particularly in this market. She challenges them to go to lunch with former colleagues, to make calls, and to be vocal about what they’re looking for and what they need. She even talks to them about getting some new skills or keeping their skills up-to-date by doing some strategic volunteering. Both informational interviews and strategic volunteering are extremely effective steps in the job placement process.
“Beth was very patient and she tried very hard to help me. She was very determined,” says Victoria.
Seeing – And Meeting – A Need
Jews with college educations are finding themselves without jobs mid-way through their careers. Diana explains that many clients could be embarrassed to ask for help; perhaps they don’t know where to go for re-employment assistance, and maybe their neighbors, friends, and temple don’t know that they are unemployed.
“There’s a huge need and people are looking for this type of service,” Diana says. “Nobody is immune from being in this situation.” She encourages everyone to keep an eye out, talk to their neighbors, and reach out to people that they know.
To date, 39 people have contacted the program, 10 are currently job searching, and five have been placed in new jobs. Victoria is one of those success stories, and is now working full time at Brandeis University as the as senior department coordinator for the VP of alumni relations.
Victoria has recommend Ready for Success to several people she knows. “I think the program is a wonderful community resource, and I’m grateful that CJP, JFS and JVS have been able to collaborate,” she says.