By: Mary Ellen Slone
Virtually “every Monday morning at 9 o’clock sharp,” a new group of vastly diverse individuals will assemble for an orientation session at the Jubilee Jobs offices on North Broadway, across from the Legends’ Stadium, in Lexington. Most of these folks hope to be able to transition from some form of public assistance; to qualify to secure a decent entry-level job; and to be able to perform well after being hired. Yet, while each is thankful to have been offered this opportunity to better his or her life situation, 70-80% of these individuals are ex-offenders, and will have to overcome the challenges of on-the-record criminality which that fact presents.
Typically, who ARE these folks?
Often, this Monday conclave can include military veterans, former teachers, used car salesmen, child care providers, moms and even grandmothers with babies in tow, recently unemployed food service workers, part-time cab drivers, self-proclaimed country musicians, unemployed house painters, delivery truck drivers, ventriloquists/entertainers, auto service guys, part-time nannies, graphic designers and copywriters, and college-age students, many of whom at one time have been homeless. They typically represent different ethnicities, varying age groups, and a different level of commitment to work toward self-betterment.
Cary Plummer, Jubilee Jobs’ Executive Director noted, “Statistically, there are estimated to be 17,000 unemployed individuals (men and women) in our Greater Lexington Metropolitan area. What we offer is an opportunity (not a guarantee) for those who are sincere in bettering their current situations, to qualify for gainful entry-level employment by completing our challenging, but proven-to-be-successful multi-step program. It’s regimented, it’s demanding, and truthfully, it’s not successful for everyone.”
Why? “Because breaking the cycle of being unemployed and the likelihood of having to overcome a criminal record, along with a commitment to hard work requires honing, re-tooling, expanding ‘skill sets’, perseverance, and a significant amount of faith. Last year Jubilee Jobs of Lexington touched the lives of over 550 people, and in the process helped 155 men and women to secure new jobs – enabling each of them to better care for their families and to “Work for Sustenance, Dignity and Hope.”
Each of these steps has been designed to help enable qualified, sincere individuals to obtain gainful employment by presenting themselves in a positive manner as they interview for jobs. The staff members’ commitment to investing energy and building confidence in these candidates is impressive and appropriate, since several Jubilee Jobs ‘team members’ have successfully completed the rigorous program themselves. Worthy of mention–because ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’, the organization maintains racks of appropriate ‘interview apparel’ for both male and female candidates to wear as they present themselves to prospective employers.
“Our program offers a hand-up, not a hand-out; it’s a partnership between our team and our clients. Our goal is to help our clients become educated about the job search process, assist them in getting a job as soon as possible, and then help and encourage them to stay employed.“
Director Plummer’s input on these area-wide challenges includes the following, “As you are reading this article, ‘let’s say’ that you not only need, but you really want a job. You attend one of our Monday morning ‘briefing sessions’ and you determine that our Jubilee Jobs’ proven, sequential program to help you get hired is worth your time and commitment to try. “We know that although our initial sessions for job seekers are well attended, the number of individuals who return the next week for personal assistance is often significantly smaller. That’s because a portion of our ‘first time attendees’ come expecting our team to ‘do the heavy lifting’ to facilitate each of them getting hired, which is simply not the case. We are poised to give these individuals every possible opportunity to get a job and start to earn a decent living, but they must complete the rigid requirements for success.
“Typically, we begin the process by asking each candidate to bring in both a photo ID and a Social Security card. Concurrently, our trained counselors (who are also successful ‘graduates’ of our program) interview each of these attendees to ascertain what their expectations are. In exchange, we are blatantly honest in our estimations of whether or not these goals are realistic or not. Next, we begin a series of workshops focused on interviewing preparation and conflict resolution, we work to create each person’s resume—a huge step for some who have never even seen such a document. As our association with these individuals continues, we work with them on numerous important issues: how to best present themselves to a prospective employer; what, and what not to do or say. This information is important – and is sometimes forgotten when overridden with anxiety in an interview.”
“What do we teach our interview-bound clients?
1) Practice what you’re going to say.
2) Be on time for the interview and be candid, when asked about your possible criminal history.
3) Be prepared to answer questions as to your work history and your actual interest in the job for which you’re applying.
4) Ask the interviewer to explain exactly what the open job requires.
5) Sincerely thank the interviewer for sharing his or her time with you, and politely ask ‘when will the hiring decision be made’?
6) The next business day, be sure to contact the interviewer (or his or her assistant) and re-iterate your interest in obtaining the position. Ask if any further information from you is requested, and if there are any other questions that they may have that you’d be able to answer.
7) Recognize that it may take several interviews with prospective employers before you receive an actual job offer. Keep your name ‘in play’. If possible, write a note of thanks to the interviewer for sharing his or her time with you. If you learn that for whatever reason you did not get a job offer, always thank the interviewer for his or her time.
8) Above all else, recognize that there may be many individuals applying for these same jobs, and you may not ‘get the nod’ to become employed by the first, second, third or even more places you interview. Always remember and repeat as often as is necessary, “Discouragement is not my friend—hope is!”
At Jubilee Jobs of Lexington, the staff members will share their own successful personal stories with candidates working toward job placement. They will confirm that exiting public assistance status (which, although not a panacea, is often virtually the only ‘way of life’ some of these individuals have ever known) is often a really difficult adjustment.
According to Plummer, “ With determination and faith in God – lives have been significantly changed for the better through interaction with the Jubilee Jobs of Lexington organization. We’ve been doing this for over 5 years, and our goals for 2014 are first, to positively affect the lives of at least 600 people, and to hopefully help at least 170 individuals to obtain and keep new jobs.”
“Obviously, it takes funding to run this ministry that God has charged us with, based on our expenses to run our program this past year, the cost to provide committed clients with a personal Job Counselor and initial program workshops is approximately $493 per client, $760 to get them through most all of our program steps, and slightly under $1000 to get them through the entire program and into a new job. On the average, these new jobs will produce an economic impact back into the community of about $18,000. We can only carry out this ministry we believe God directs, when those in this community support us.”
“Consider volunteering some time to help our clients, to financially support our ministry, and certainly praying for the work we do. Learn more about how you can make a difference through Jubilee Jobs of Lexington!”