Monday, August 29, 2011

Sharon Morgan, LA Fellows Cohort 1, shares invaluable job search advice

I really took the advice of the LA Fellows instructors to heart. What I was doing clearly wasn't working...for almost 2 years I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. The particular tips that helped me the most were:

1. I stopped spending so much time replying to job ads, and really focused on networking. But my networking was with small groups of people who I could build relationships with, not those large networking events where people hand out tons of business cards. If people can meet with you a couple of times, they are more likely to remember you and think of you when they hear of job leads. And they can be great support when you need a pep talk.

2. Network with unemployed people, and particularly with employed folks. Those who are unemployed can give you a heads up on jobs they hear about, but you're much more likely to get leads for unpublished job leads...and get a leg up in the interview knowing someone on the inside.

3. Be very clear about what you're looking for. If you can't concisely explain the type of job you want, how can anyone help you? Even if you'll take anything, ask for what you want first. Then say "but I'm interested in any position in x area". I met a woman this weekend at a party who is job hunting. I asked her what she was looking for. She said "anything". I asked her for more specifics, and she told me, but I can't remember what she said. I just remember the "anything" part.

4. Everything is a job interview. How you behave, whether it's during volunteer time, networking meetings, or parties, is a chance to make an impression on someone who could potentially be a help. If you're a whiny mess, you're not making a good impression. Save the whining for behind closed doors, and when you're around others, be your best self...that bright, shiny penny. Your friends aren't going to recommend you for a job if they don't think you're up for it; how you perform is a reflection on them, too.

5. Get to work!!! It doesn't matter what you do, but don't do nothing. It's important not only to have something current on the resume, but for your mental health as well. Your best bet is with a non-profit, as you know. They are grateful for the help, and you have at least one special skill that can be very helpful to them. If they won't pay you, volunteer. If it doesn't look like it can be converted into a paying job, find another non-profit where you can at least get experience or learn a new skill that will make you more sellable in the job market. If nothing else, you're getting your butt off of the couch and networking with people who are working. You'll probably get a great recommendation, too. And you'll have a chance to impress the people who are working at the non-profit, who can recommend you to their friends when they hear of job opportunities.

6. Don't be picky with job offers. As wrong and terrible as it is, people are more likely to hire those who are working vs. those who aren't working. I don't care if it's not making as much as you were making, or it's not using your skills as effectively as possible, or it's not geographically desirable. As Lynnette says, it doesn't have to be your job for the next 10 years. Maybe you'll be there for 6 months. Maybe a year. But at least you'll be working, and making yourself that much more desirable when the perfect job opens up. And you won't appear nearly as desperate during your interview for that perfect job, either.

In my case, I took full advantage of my LA Fellows volunteer experience. I networked with everyone I could at the non-profit, and made sure they knew what type of work I was looking for, and that I was open to any opportunity. I also continued to network with my LA Fellows, which turned into a job offer at another non-profit. Turns out the experience I had during my volunteer internship was exactly what they needed help with, too. It didn't pay a lot of money, but the job had benefits (woo hoo!) and gave me the chance to feel productive again. There's a lot to be said for having to get up, get showered, and go someplace every morning. I also picked up a couple of consulting jobs by networking with a small group at my university alumni group, too.

Within a couple of months the perfect consulting job offer came along...because of networking...and I nailed the interview. I was confident (thanks to my not-perfect but perfectly respectable job), didn't smell of desperation (again, thanks to my job), and even felt like I could negotiate with a little bit of confidence...or at least fake a little bit of confidence. Once I got in the door and was able to prove what I could do, I was able to transition from consulting to a full time job. It wasn't easy, or fast, but I finally feel back to normal again. I've got a great job, with a good salary and benefits. I'm even starting to accrue time off toward a vacation! It's taken me more than 2 1/2 years to get to this point...but if I can do it, anyone can! So stop reading this email, and get to to find an organization who can benefit from what you have to offer. Good luck!

Sharon Morgan
LA Fellows Cohort 1

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cohort Four's Cara Eichorn's graduation speech

Cara Eichorn, a member of LA Fellows Cohort Four was chosen by her fellow participants to give a "class perspective" about her experience in the LA Fellows Program in a speech at graduation and Cara has generously allowed us to post a copy of her speech here on the blog: 

Good Morning – Los Angeles Valley College Job Training team, our esteemed instructors, members of participating non-profits, distinguished guests, friends and families of the LA Fellows and to LA Fellows Cohort #4.

Before I get into the heart of what I'd like to share, a heartfelt thank you is extended to the Job Training staff, faculty and administration of LAVC and program partners for conceiving, creating, and implementing the LA Fellows program.

My name is Cara Eichorn and I am proud to be an LA Fellow. I am immensely grateful to be here and to represent Cohort #4.

To start, I'd like to read a quote that resonates deeply within me from Moliere. (Mole E Air) "It is not what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable." This ties in directly with my belief about responsibility for all of my actions. Moreover, the role of accountability helps me stay in integrity with my good intentions.

Establishing an open support system, communicating openly, being vulnerable, showing empathy, and establishing trust happened quickly and seamlessly for our group. Let me share a story that is very powerful that illustrates these ideals.

On Day 2 of our program, we were asked to stand up and tell the class who we are, what field we were in and what we were looking to do next. Everyone with some level of nervous anticipation, including yours truly, stood up, shared and sat down. Then, it was Matt's turn. He started, was on a roll and then it got unquestionably quiet in the room. He was at a roadblock and was doing his best to filter and process what he planned on saying. As one could imagine, if a pin were dropped, it would have sounded like a blaring horn. In the next moment, Matt was getting emotional and the room was absolutely silent, doing our best to give him the space he needed. We knew as a group--that this was a pivotal moment for Matt and ultimately for the entire class. After a period of silence, Victor showed empathy by sharing some things he had learned about Matt. This gave Matt an opportunity to regain his composure and for him to realize he was in a supportive environment. Then, Matt finished what he had to say in an eloquent style. This one example set a precedent and a foundation which opened the group up to being vulnerable, including Alicia who made a point when she shared to personally thank Matt, as this allowed her to share opening and freely. The tone was set--LA Fellows Cohort #4 was off and the fast lane.

Throughout our entire job search journey, we have shared many personal and professional stories through our course materials. We have learned about a multitude of different topics, including, advanced job search techniques, career growth, and volunteerism. All of us worked and have re-worked our resumes and cover letters, ad nausea, so that these documents would stand out favorably and get us the interview. And ultimately, the goal was and is to differentiate ourselves from our competition. Before the interview, we practiced answering interview questions as a class and even had a few mock interviews. These prepared the "lucky" ones who chose to participate in the mock interviews and hopefully gave them another dose of confidence. It was suggested to have 30 stories ready to tell, as these stories would most likely answer many interview questions that we could be asked during an interview.

The program was designed to thoroughly cover these topics and many others to give us a plethora of resources to use in order to have a potential advantage in this job market. As each classroom module was learned, we each gained more confidence and the knowledge that we could do “it”, whatever the "it" was. Through hands-on collaborative exercises to working independently, we each had a chance to test drive our new knowledge base.

In short, our class had a fun time learning new material. Often times, we were motivated or inspired to change our behavior or “conventional” way of thinking. In fact, come to think of it, we were often challenged to think and do things differently which was a breath of fresh air for many of us. We definitely had quite a few laughs and sometimes a few tears. Interestingly enough, the laughter would happen spontaneously when one least expected laughter to erupt. One hysterical example comes to mind is when we were asked to select a theme song that keeps our attitude upbeat and positive when we’re headed off to an interview. Rosie enthusiastically announced “Brick House.” The entire group was caught off guard and burst out in roars of laughter. Once again, our expectations, or at least mine were put in check---quite quickly.

Through applying skills that were reinforced through the LA Fellows program, it helped me land a consulting role with VCA Animal Hospital. Incidentally, VCA is one of my target companies. I am proud to say that I am passionate about my new role in training customer service to their IT department, so I am very eager to make a contribution that will impact their morale and their bottom line.

Concurrently, I will be doing my internship with the Los Angeles Valley Foundation, located right here on campus. My main focus will be to raise funds for the President's Circle initiative which provides funds for academic scholarships and other Foundation events. Who knows....some of you who are present today, may receive a phone call from me, so kindly, please take my call. It is for a great cause.

For all of us, we know this is the beginning and not the end. We have heard this all before, although now this statement probably resonates more loudly and with greater sincerity. I am elated we all have been on the same bus for our journey. The “bus” analogy does come into play once again. There have been many stops along the way and rest assured, there will be many more. Now, each of us is faced with knowing that the LA Fellows bus is heading to the main station for re-fueling, in anticipation that there will be a Cohort #5. Although I am very loyal to Cohort #4, we are breaking barriers, being fearless, rebuilding our confidence levels, and most of all, we are being vulnerable and willing to go the extra mile -- to land our next job. I sincerely wish everyone the best on your journey. I am rooting for you and I know you are rooting for me.

It is now time to board another bus, as the job search journey continues for many of us. Remember to take proactive action steps, to stay on course, and to remain positive with a stellar attitude. Now, we each must ask ourselves, “What is next?” For some, this answer will be simple and intuitive; for others, time is of the essence and Cohort #4 as well as the rest of the LA Fellows extended family is here to help.

I would like to leave you with the following quote by Gilda Radner. She said: “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I have learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

It has been an honor to be one of the speakers for Cohort #4. Thank you and I will see some of you on the next bus.

Cara Eichorn

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gail Soffer, LA Fellows Cohort 4, featured in The Soldiers Project newsletter!

Gail Soffer, from LA Fellows Cohort 4 was recently featured in The Soldiers Project newsletter.

They wrote, "I am thrilled to announce that we have hired a full time Development Director: Gail Soffer. She is a recent graduate of the Los Angeles Valley College LA Fellows program. We are fortunate to have found her as she brings to us a wealth of knowledge and skills from her many years of working with non-profits. She is passionate about the work of The Soldiers Project and has already attended several Veterans Events, made new contacts for us and expanded our visibility via Facebook and Twitter."
To read more visit:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Big Thank You from LA Fellow, Bill Papoutsis

I’d like to send a BIG THANK YOU to everyone at the Job Training Program for putting together a GREAT graduation event!  It was really inspiring to see all the people who are responsible for the creation of this program there.

It was great that the LAVC administration was there along with Councilmember Krekorian, all very supportive of the LA Fellows program. I now know that people care.

A big part of the success of the graduation was the fact that our two fellows, Cara and Victor, were very honest about their/our challenges trying to get back in the workplace and becoming productive citizens.

I have never seen better cooperation, generosity and honesty in a large group like that before, it may never happen again! It speaks volumes of Allison's and Keri's abilities in recruiting all of us as well as their leadership and help they provided us from the very beginning. I hope that we will get the funds so this program can continue on.

Today was the first day without attending an LA Fellows class in two months! It will be an adjustment.
We now have to apply what we learned in the class and just as our Program Director Lennie said, FIND WORK!

Again thank you for the opportunity to participate in this program and from now on we will always be connected with LAVC !!

Bill Papoutsis