If you’re unemployed, underemployed or simply considering a career change, instead of channel surfing between television crime dramas, try out the free Career Crossroads ministry sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church in La Verne every last Wednesday night of the month.
In the two years that the jobs ministry has been active, about 40 community residents have found work.
Conducting the workshops are the Rev. R. Barrett Van Buren, the church’s deacon who also serves as a full-time college career counselor, and Vashri Bliss, a sales director for a health and nutritional company.
“We put our career skills together – well, God actually did – and we found we have helped over 38 people and 54% have gotten employed,” Van Buren said.
For curriculum, they gleaned many of the best practices taught by leading outplacement services that they have been personally exposed to over the years and combined them into a formal program for the church’s employment outreach program.
“We found that many people simply didn’t have access to these services,” Bliss said.
The Crossroads Career ministry contains many different pieces, including resume writing and interviewing techniques, but perhaps the most valuable lesson they teach is spiritually based.
“When people are unemployed, they really feel as though they’re not valuable, so the spiritual piece helps them to see that regardless of whether you’re employed, you are still a child of God and you have value,” Bliss said.
Bliss and the deacon put a solid floor under the feet of their job aspirants. “Once they get that foundation, they can really start building on that,” Van Buren said. “They begin to realize their calling. A lot of people need to come to that understanding that we all have a calling – that God has a purpose for us, that He has a vision for us.”
To help people plug into their purpose, Van Buren and Bliss assist workshop participants in identifying their strengths and goals, which they then help them craft into a resume format, as well as a powerful 30-second elevator speech.
“We help you refine your resume so that it reflects your gifts in a way that communicates and differentiates who you are right off the bat,” Bliss said.
In the interview section of the three-month course, Bliss and Van Buren prepare participants for the most frequently asked interview questions, including the standard, but very revealing, “Tell me about yourself.”
“Many people get that deer-in-the-headlights look when they get that question,” Van Buren said. “We help them overcome the fear factor of that question and many others.”
Bliss added that too often job candidates show their desperation during interviews. She counsels them instead to engage in a conversation and showcase the real value they can bring to a company.
“When you take that position, when they don’t see your desperation, the dynamic changes,” she said. “They’re thinking, ‘If I don’t get this person, my competitor will.’”
Perhaps, the best advertisement for the program is Bliss herself. When she was laid off earlier this year, she literally had to put into practice what she preached. Within three weeks, she landed two job offers.
Part of that successful practice is following through on your job search.
“A lot of people go ahead and make an application and they sit and wait and wonder why the employer is isn’t calling me,” Van Buren added. “You need to do investigative work on the company where you’re applying. You need to take that initiative to show your interest and desire.
“It takes work to get work,” he added. “Yes, it’s hard, but we can show you that if you really follow through, you can get a job offer within 30 to 60 days.”
Bliss and Van Buren welcome all comers, young and old alike, ranging from students fresh out of school to widows, widowers and retirees waking up to the reality their income is no longer keeping up with their bills and inflation.
“They are in a situation to find a new job to take care of themselves and they don’t know how to do it. That’s why they’re coming,” Van Buren noted.
Older job seekers, however, have one advantage. “More companies are taking more mature people because of their work ethic,” he added.
Whatever, your employment situation, the doors to St. John’s Crossroads open every last Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m.
The sessions are free. Donations are not required or expected. The only thing you need to bring is a willing attitude to improve your current situation and a belief that people working in partnership can achieve more than always trying to go it alone.
St. John’s is located at 4745 Wheeler Avenue in La Verne. For more information, please call (909) 596-1321.
St. Augustine (354-430) said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”