Tuesday, April 29, 2014

That Something Extra

A recruiter called our office recently asking if we knew of any job seekers that knew shorthand for a position that she needed to fill immediately where the candidates would be taking notes for board meetings. She has a deep rolodex of contacts but was having difficulty finding someone who could take fast, detailed, accurate notes. I checked the resumes of recent LA Fellows and found that we didn't have anyone who included that in their skill set.

She related a story of a job she landed earlier in her career. As she sat in the interview taking questions thrown at her from more than one interviewer, she took notes in Gregg shorthand. The manager asked what she was writing. She responded that she was writing down not just the questions asked but her answers so that she could refer to them later. The manager asked her to read back the last question and answer, which she did, word for word. He was impressed. She was hired on the spot.

The moral of this story?

(No, the moral is not necessarily "learn shorthand" - although it is a handy skill to have.)

The moral is two-fold:

1.) Cultivate skills that are valuable to the needs of the employer, that make you stand out from the crowd. Think about your target career, the challenges of that industry and even the future of where it's going. Think about jobs that might be consolidated in the event of an economic downturn and who would most likely be kept to fill those. If you're looking to take classes to get into a new field, consider: if there are a flood of programs for a particular skill, and a flood of students for those classes, what will the market be for that skill by the time you finish and how will employers pluck YOU from that sea of new faces?

2.) Let employers know about your skills. Include it in your Additional Accomplishments section of your resume, and make sure it's mentioned on your LinkedIn page. If it's relevent to the type of work you do, make sure people know about it. Make it easy to answer the question "Why should we hire YOU?"

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Power of a Cohort

Another powerful component of the LA Fellows program is the cohort experience. Each of our classes, which we call cohorts, is chosen for a variety of factors including commitment to finding employment, willingness to get out of their comfort zone and try new things, attitude and an ability to work in a team environment.  The program is designed to not only give strategic and temporal structure to the job hunt but to also create a supportive diverse social structure to provide encouragement, accountability and inspiration far beyond the instructional portion of the program.

Members of LA Fellows Cohort 8 at a recent breakfast meeting at Corky's Restaurant in Sherman Oaks.
Cohort 8 is a shining example of how that works. They graduated in August of 2013 but despite new jobs and all the activity and responsibilities of day-to-day life, they keep in touch via email and phone and periodic get-togethers. They organized the first LA Fellows all-cohort mixer last Fall (http://lafellows.blogspot.com/2013/12/first-la-fellows-reunion-mixer.html) with great success. They pass on job leads and help each other with freelance projects, they touch base with where they are in life and in the career arcs that they are pursuing.
They took to heart an important part of what LA Fellows teaches: job search does not end when you sign on the dotted line and start you first day at a new job. The world has changed and jobs rarely last for decades any more. It's important to be ready for the next job when you need it, and an important part of that is the people in your network, the people who will support you in your journey.
LA Fellows will soon be looking for a new group of job seekers who are ready to change the way they see and prepare for the future and we hope that we will find a dedicated group like those in Cohort 8. You can find more information about LA Fellows, including how to apply, at www.lafellows.org.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Nonprofit Service Piece of LA Fellows

A big component of LA Fellows that sets it apart from other programs that help job seekers transition back into the world of employment is the 100 hours of service each Fellow contributes to a nonprofit organization of their choice. The program includes instruction on the nonprofit sector, optional grant writing classes, and conversation about how to make strategic choices on how and where to donate time in order to complement the goals of the job search.

 Adding volunteer work to the job search helps participants in several ways.

Let's face it: unemployment in 2014 can be a discouraging journey. Hiring managers, mindful of the cost of hiring the wrong person, often take longer to make decisions, taking candidates through rounds of interviews over months before settling on the one they want. Many employers, overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of resumes submitted, don't get back with applicants to let them know when they've received their application or gone with another candidate, even after interviewing. As the days and weeks and months go by it can be easy for a job hunter to start to question why they haven't gotten hired, and slip into depression. It can be hard to keep up morale but getting accepted as a volunteer by a nonprofit can definitely be the encouragement they need.

Upper right photo, L to R: Cohort 9 LA Fellows Victoria Kordysh, May Wang, Wil Walker and Phyllis Baginski contributed their time to Operation Gratitude, which provides much needed care packages to the men and women who serve our country's armed forces.

Meaningful volunteerism, using the skills that are exercised on a professional level every day to make a substantive contribution to the goals of the organization, can be a huge confidence boost, reminding the job seeker why they were so successful in their career in the past and that they still have those skills to contribute.

Working with an organization that the job seeker feels a connection to in some way and being able to further their mission can also be a source of pride and something that they can speak about in interviews with authority and enthusiasm as recent experience.

Terry Scott-Mitchell (center), LA Fellow from Cohort 9, with other volunteers
 working the information table for the Center for Nonprofit Management
Volunteering is great for networking as well. You meet a cross-section of people you might never otherwise come in contact with, and many times have the opportunity to talk and learn about each other as you work. It's not surprising that people who donate their time to nonprofit organizations tend to be involved, generous and caring individuals. These are the kinds of people that prove to be valuable assets to any network.

Finally, nonprofit organizations benefit from the experience
and skills developed by professionals
Terry Scott-Mitchell and Leroy McKinney,
LA Fellows from Cohort 9 who
volunteered at
the Center for Nonprofit Management
who have worked in the for-profit sector. As long as they are open to learning and respectful of the culture, job seekers may find that a career change to the nonprofit sector is a win-win situation, and a volunteer position can showcase their value and the kind of contribution they can make in this industry.

LA Fellows from Cohorts 1-9 have served a wealth of organizations across the Los Angeles area, many well beyond their time in the program. It's an important part of what makes the LA Fellows experience a valuable platform for helping job seekers move forward in their careers.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Training Opportunity

Not everyone who's unemployed can wait for the next session of LA Fellows to start. 

If you're unemployed in the Los Angeles area looking for that next step and training is the route, step aboard the next orientation for the Metro Bus Operator program. It's another program - free for participants! - run by LAVC Job Training and it has a very high placement rate for those who complete the course successfully.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Career Fair & Health Expo at Los Angeles Valley College

Los Angeles Valley College, home of the LA Fellows program, is hosting a Career Fair and Health Expo on April 17th in conjunction with the Valley Economic Alliance. This event is a great opportunity for job seekers to network and meet employers with a wide range of career positions and is open to all. Additionally there will be free health screenings and activities:

As has been our tradition in years past, LA Fellows will be on hand to assist exhibitors and guests. Look for them - they'll be the "bright shiny pennies" who are smiling, being helpful, and wearing the nifty lapel pin with our logo. (Sorry, those pins are not for sale - you have to earn them!) If you're considering joining our next cohort in July, take the time to meet them and learn about their experience first-hand.

Also, if you're doubting the value of job fairs and need some inspiration, read our previous post from LA Fellow Ara Easley, who got her position after attending this event a few years ago:  http://lafellows.blogspot.com/2011/09/ara-easley-shares-how-her-la-fellows.html  You never know which networking connection can lead to that next step in your career, so take a page from the LA Fellows philosophy and "Say Yes" to this opportunity!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Additional Photos from Cohort 9 Graduation

Lennie Ciufo, Director of Job Training at Los Angles Valley College addresses the room
at the LA Fellows Cohort 9 graduation ceremony March 21, 2014.

Sydney Kamlager, District Manager for
Senator Holly J. Mitchell, presents certificates
provided by the senator's office and expresses
her support for the program. 


Wilbur Walker receives his certificate from
LAVC President Alma Johnson-Hawkins
Class speaker Leroy McKinney works his
way through the receiving line 
Lennie Ciufo congratulates Cohort 9 graduate Terry Scott-Mitchell


Nan Karin expresses her thanks
to instructor Larry Braman

Lorraine Barton and Tina Mahdavian pose for a post-graduation photo

Cohort 9 LA Fellows CJ de Dios and Phyllis Baginski

LA Fellows Dulce Kelley and JJ Rodriguez enjoy the graduation festivities.

Lauren Yokomizo, Victoria Kordysh, Ruscha Robbins, Maysa Kafadarian
and Joyce Burrell Garcia of LA Fellows Cohort 9.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Distinguished Guests at Cohort 9 Graduation

In addition to our class speakers, there were a host of distinguished guests present at the LA Fellows graduation ceremony for Cohort 9. They expressed overwhelming support and confidence in the power of this program to assist mid-career professionals in gaining skills and moving back into re-employment faster. Joining us that day were:
Glyn Milburn, representing the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for the Office of Economic Development

Aura Garcia, Mayor Garcetti's East San Fernando Valley Area Representative

Lennie Ciufo, Director, LAVC Job Training

LAVC President Alma Johnson-Hawkins
Sue Carleo, Founding member of LA Fellows Program and
former President of Los Angeles Valley College 
President Johnson-Hawkins with Sydney Kamlager, who attended representing the office of Senator Holly J. Mitchell.
Senator Holly Mitchell sent certificates of recognition for each of the Fellows to commemorate the day.  The Fellows were also presented with certificates of achievement provided by Councilperson Paul Krekorian, who represents the 2nd District.
Several of our instructors took to the podium with advice and words of wisdom to inspire the Fellows as they move forward to the next step of the journey.

Instructor Lynnette Ward
Instructor Doug Card
Instructor Larry Braman
Instructor Jim Marteney
Instructor Keri Luna
There were 16 nonprofit organizations hosting LA Fellows this cohort and several attended the ceremony. We were priviledged to welcome guests from Liberty Hill, The Southern California Center for Nonprofit Management, Children's Burn Foundation, Senator Holly J. Mitchell's office, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Representatives from the WorkSource centers who invest not just funding but encouragement, case management, expertise, and effort to assist the Fellows through the program and beyond were there in full force. We had representatives from the JVS Northeast San Fernando Valley center, Community Career Development, and the Van Nuys and Canoga Park locations of ResCare Workforce Services.

David Fierro, Coordinator for the Veterans Community Employment Development program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who has been very generous in sharing employment opportunities and events with our office, joined us. Special certificates were awarded to our two veterans from this class, CJ de Dios who served in the Army, and Diana Offen who served in the Air Force.

LAVC President Alma Johnson-Hawkins (center left) shakes the hand of Fellows graduate Diana Offen as Lennie Ciufo and Sydney Kamlager, District Director for Senator Holly Mitchell, look on. 

Fellow Ruscha Robbins goes through the receiving line, receiving her certificate and handshake for completing the program and delivering one of the three gradute speeches of the day.
 We'd like to thank all of our speakers, supporters and guests for attending what was one of our best ceremonies yet. The LA Fellows program relies on the partnership of our network for its success and ongoing promise of empowering and enriching the workforce of our city. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Free Workshop

There's time before the next LA Fellows Cohort begins, so if you're in the LA area and looking for ways to keep your skills sharp while searching for that next step in your career, register to attend this free workshop. Great information and a great opportunity to network with other professionals!

Update: You can register for this free seminar by going to http://www.itsmyseat.com/TeamBusiness.html and clicking on the session or by calling 818-238-5198. Here is a schedule for this and other upcoming sessions available through Team Business:

Monday, April 7, 2014

LA Fellows Graduation Speeches Cohort 9, Part III

Our third and final graduation speaker of the Cohort 9 graduation ceremony was Leroy McKinney, a Customer Service professional. Leroy was asked to speak about the final piece of the LA Fellows journey, the training and how it moves the Fellows forward beyond the program. Here are his words:

Good Morning Everyone,

The Dictionary defines volunteerism as the practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational or other worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community.

One of the unique things about the LA Fellows Program is the partnership between career development and volunteerism.
Each Fellow is encouraged to meet with three nonprofit organizations.  The purpose of this process is to find a match between the nonprofit organization and the Fellow.  Once the match has been made, the nonprofit receives a qualified volunteer and the Fellow has an opportunity to use the skills learned in the LA Fellows Program at the nonprofit.

I gathered Fellows’ comments to describe their volunteer experience.  Allow me to share them with you.

“The interview process made me feel more confident each time. “

I am grateful for the opportunity to do good things. “

“It felt good to know that the nonprofit organization wanted me. “

My volunteer experience is providing me with new skills that I probably would not have acquired.”

“I feel great volunteering for an organization that helps nonprofits and I'm learning a lot at the same time. “
“I volunteer because I get more than I give and done that since I was in the 6th grade when I first came to the U.S.”

 “Volunteering is like riding a bike with training wheels because it gets you comfortable enough to ride off on your own and get back to work.”

The bike metaphor is a great description of the LA Fellows Program. 

(Bike Pantomime)

When I started the LA Fellows Program, I was a little wobbly riding my bike which I called Job Search.  My tool kit for my bike was adequate.

As the program progressed, I learned that my bike was called Career Development.

As I pedaled my bike, I saw a billboard on the left that said “Emotional Intelligence.”  On the right, I saw “Be the Bright Shiny Penny.” A voice went off in the back of my head saying “Don’t be the Debbie Downer.” I put these concepts in my tool kit.

Up ahead on the left was “The Blunt Instrument Won’t Open the Golden Door.”  “What was that about? Oh yeah. When creating your resume focus on specific and concise entries. Vagueness takes you further away from your goal.” On the right was Informational Interviews.”  I put those in my tool kit.

Next, I saw on the left a billboard that said “Networking” and another that said “Volunteer.”  Then I saw “Got Business Cards?” These were placed in my tool kit as well.

I was at the half-way point of my journey and a warning sign beckoned ahead.  The sign said “Change Ahead: S-Curve 5% downgrade.” “What do you mean S-Curve?  I don’t do S-Curves. I’m the straight guy! Why do I have to do an S-Curve?”

As I began my descent into the S-Curve, I heard voices in my head that said “Take deep breaths. Embrace the change.”  I hear these voices as I continued my ride.

About half-way down the S-curve, I noticed that I hadn’t fallen off my bike called Career Development. I thought to myself that I can do this.
Soon afterwards, I noticed there was unexpected road construction.  There were jack hammers and people everywhere.  “Can you believe this?  This wasn’t on the map!” So I began navigating these obstacles on the fly.

Before reaching the bottom of the S-curve, I saw a billboard for “Maximizing Your Social Media Presence.” I added this to my tool kit and continued on.

When I reached the bottom, a sign said “This Part of the Journey Has Ended.”  I moved my bike to the side.

That is where LA Fellows Cohort 9 is today. There will be obstacles in our path in the future.  But we can take solace that we don’t have to face these obstacles alone. When we need support or another opinion to face these obstacles, we can reach out to the other Cohort 9 Fellows through our Facebook Group and phone/e-mail directories.

We will not be afraid because we have Choices. We can choose to go around the obstacles or jump the obstacles.  We no longer have to crash into obstacles which knocks us off our course and kills our momentum. We can ride our bikes with confidence knowing that the LA Fellows Program has better prepared us for the future.

(End Pantomime)

At this time, I would like to thank those people responsible for the program.  Without them, we wouldn’t be here. 

Lennie, Allison, Mary, Keri, Roberto, Dale, Doug, Lynnette, Larry, Jim, Kim, Andrea, Helen, Kristi, Marcie, our local Worksource Centers, nonprofit organizations, advisory board and special guests; let’s give them a round of applause.

Lastly, could I have the LA Fellows Cohort 9 stand? Cohort 9 is gathered here today as those bright, shiny pennies ready for the next challenge! Thank you and God bless!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

LA Fellows Graduation Speeches - Cohort 9, Part II

Cohort 9 selected three members of its ranks to speak at the commencement ceremony held on Friday March 21. Unlike previous cohorts, they coordinated their speeches as a progression of 3 to tell the story of their journey through the LA Fellows experience. These are the words of the second speaker, Phyllis Baginski.

Many, many years ago the tribe was in great danger and the leaders did not know what to do.  So they went to the wise old shaman of the tribe.  But he too, was afraid, for he had no answers for the People’s fear.  He decided therefore, to go on a medicine quest to implore the Great Spirit for guidance.

He went into the wilderness and fell into a trance and when he awoke he had knowledge of a sacred place he must go to and a sacred dance he must dance and a sacred song he must sing.  So he went to the place and he danced the dance and he sang the song, and the people were saved.

Years later the People were once again in great danger.  As before, the leaders came to the shaman for guidance.  And he said, “I do not remember the place but I do remember the dance and the song.”  So he danced the dance and he sang the song, and the people were saved.

After that, the same thing happened, the danger returned and the leaders came once more for help.  The old man said, “ I do not remember the place or the dance but I do remember the song.”  So he sang the song and the people were saved.

Then it was the time of the last of the great shamans.  One final time the people were in danger, and the leaders sought the wise elder’s aid.  His memory was dimmed by his years and he said, “ I do not remember the place, or the dance, or the song, but I do remember the story.”  So he told the story – and the people were saved.

Stories heal.  Stories communicate.  Stories are swirling all around LA Fellows.  Stories were told in the front of the room by the instructors.  We told stories by the seat of our pants from our seats in the classroom.  We told silent stories – not a word being said.

Speaking of words.  There’s the resume. It’s factual, strong, important.  You fire bullets, load it with accomplishments.  You’re armed.

But that’s not all.  Its “Tell me something about yourself.”  On paper and in person.  Like a documentary.  The kind where the filmmaker follows the kid in 1st grade, then in middle school, college, marriage, kids, divorce.  A living, breathing documentary of you and me.

That’s when you’re ready to take the resume on the road.  We call this “networking”.  Where you tell somebody something about yourself and they tell you about themselves.  You’re LinkedIn.  After a time you have a relationship.  And through that relationship you may get to meet a hiring manager at the “interview”.  Here the stakes are higher.  You must persuade.  Be the one.  Be strong in your weaknesses.  

I watch “The Voice”.  A singing competition show on TV.  Adam Levine, one of the judges, turned to another judge at one point and said, “Please, let this one be the one.”  Be the one. They want you to be good. 

All the while this was going on, in the cracks and crevices of the day-to-day, were the stories we told each other. Caught moments at lunch under the trees or on the way to Parking Lot B.   We started out talking about ourselves as professionals. We talked about our families, our sons and daughters.  Soon we dropped down a little deeper and talked to one another about what we saw in each other.  “I really admire how you’re always willing to get up there.” “You know, I can see you as a CFO.” “You have an analytical mind.”  And so we became willing to be seen and became comfortable being the person on the resume with all the accomplishments.  As we dropped a bit deeper the stories got shorter.  A look, a smile of encouragement or a touch on the arm was all it took.  Deeper still, was the story of the donuts, until we devoured them.

We had musical accompaniment for our story.  We actually got to dance the dance and sing the song to the beat of drums.

Then move on we must, for we never got too comfortable in this program.  We took our story to the non-profits.  And would explore new worlds and new civilizations that Leroy will tell you all about.

And finally, there’s the over-riding story that goes on.  Whirring like an engine.  Sustaining and supporting us all as we made our way through the LA Fellows Program.  It’s the vision and structure of this program that supports a space that people are invited to enter and be transformed.  With deep appreciation to the creators and sustainers of that space.  You danced the dance and sang the song and the people were saved.  

Phyllis is among the first success stories for Cohort 9 beginning a new position with Home Goods the week prior to graduation.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

LA Fellows Cohort 9 Graduation Speeches - Part I

Cohort 9 of the LA Fellows was a uniquely creative and diverse group of professionals. When the time came to choose the two speakers who would represent their class at the graduation podium, they chose three instead and decided, unlike any of the previous groups, to collaborate on one three-part speech.

Ruscha Robbins, an author and soon to be grant writer who came to us from the real estate industry, was the first speaker. Her segment of the speech was about the phase of life before LA Fellows, "those dark bleak days where you think you are alone in unemployment, to the magnificent day when you finally hear ‘we want you’ that leads to that first day in class, and the beginning of something new and wonderful."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cohort 9 Graduates

On Friday, March 21st, the 24 members of the 9th Cohort of the LA Fellows celebrated the completion of their training in a ceremony in Monarch Hall at Los Angeles Valley College.  They are already well on their paths to new career horizons and putting the instruction they received to good use in that pursuit. We congratulate them on this achievement and look forward to hearing of their upcoming successes.