Monday, September 29, 2014

10,000 Hours of Practice, or 600,000 Minutes of Saying "I Can Do This."

At the recent graduation of LA Fellows Cohort 10, two speakers were chosen by their classmates to represent the group at the podium. One of those speakers was Sara Lamog, whose last position was in the Peace Corps, and who aspires to serve humanitarian causes on a global level. Here are the words of inspiration she shared with the audience who assembled to celebrate the day: 

Good morning, everyone -- Mr. Lennie Ciufo, our dynamic coach and Job Training Director; Allison and Mary, our dedicated program leaders. Good morning Marcos, Doni and Barbara, our representatives from the Canoga Park WorkSource Center who so generously made funding for this program possible.

Good morning to all of our immensely giving instructors -- I know you must be happy to see us all in our seats on time! Hello to all of our families and friends, whose support and strength have played a big part in us being here today.

And finally, good morning to my dear colleagues and friends in LA Fellows Cohort 10. My, how far we’ve come.

It’s been said before that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something. 10,000 hours. That’s almost 60 weeks of non-stop determination and continued momentum. That’s 416 days of constant effort and learning. That’s 600,000 minutes of saying “I can do this” and truly believing you can.

Those may sound like some daunting statistics, but not to us LA Fellows in Cohort 10. Why? Because we’re already more than half-way there. As a cohort made up of 32 tenacious individuals, we’ve collectively blazed through 8,960 hours of training. That number includes 19 all-day classroom training sessions, 5 weeks of optional computer classes, and about a dozen days dedicated to personalized job search, networking and nonprofit exploration. That leaves a little more than 1,000 hours left to become an expert LA Fellow. And if you split that between 32 of us and add in each of our 100 volunteer hours at a local nonproft -- that’s a done deal.

Then again, for as close as we all are, why stop at that 10,000th hour? Although today may mark our graduation, who says we need to stop our own training and practice for becoming a full-fledged LA Fellow expert? I say, we keep marching -- but more on that in a little bit. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how it all started.
On July 28th, Cohort 10 began its journey of chipping away at those 10,000 hours. It was in a room in the Engineering Building of this very campus we all sat, not knowing each other’s names and each of us curiously wondering where the people sitting around us had come from. What brought us here? What jobs had left us behind, or rather, what jobs had we left behind? Where did we come from?

At the time, the one thing that tied us all together was our commitment to the LA Fellows program. Nine weeks of rigorous, paradigm-shifting training that lay ahead of us--challenging us to put our best foot forward in our renewed job search efforts, step out of both our pasts, as well as our comfort zones, and onward onto that next step of progress and advancement.

And for nine weeks, that’s exactly what we’ve done, Cohort 10! We learned how to meet opportunities with sharp, narrow, focused approaches guided by our strong values, interests, and areas of expertise. We learned how to adapt and embrace change when someone moves our cheese. And in the event we have to confront a fight or flight-inducing situation, we learned how to control our fears with the emotional intelligence of a Navy Seal. Even better, as we learned how to tackle the dreaded interview questions like, “Can you walk me through your resume?” or my favorite, “Can you tell me about yourself?”, we learned how to captivate our audiences and walk them all the way to the answer (and Canada!) in 90 seconds or less.

All the while, as we perfected our job search strategies, we also had the opportunity to learn so much more about each other. Not only could we never go back to being mere strangers, especially after we all learned each other’s names by Day 2, we learned who among us were the direct Eagles of our group, who our wise, systematic Owls were, who the lovable, spirited Roadrunners were among us, and finally, who the considerate Doves were that we could turn to.

We also learned how to be there for each other, day in and day out. Whether it be in partner or group setting, together we learned how to perfectly craft a bullet-point and add it to our updated resumes. We uncovered who to share insights with about similarly targeted companies. We found out the tricks of the trade to mastering public speaking and we all learned how to become a drum band!

After 9 weeks, the LA Fellows program took us, a group of 32 diverse individuals, and molded us into true fellows, in every sense of the word.

Now, when I looked up the word “fellow” in the dictionary, I was surprised at what the definition is. It defines a fellow as a person in the same position, involved in the same activity, or a member of a group of people who have shared interests. To me, that definition connoted a very casual familiarity, one seemingly more based on happenstance, on chance -- and not so much by a conscious commitment or bond.

It was when I dug deeper and looked at all of the synonyms for “fellow,” that’s where I found words that more realistically conveyed the bond that LA Fellows truly have. Those synonyms are: colleague, friend, comrade, partner. Companion. That’s more like it! Wouldn’t you agree, Cohort 10?

As we sit here today, not only have we gained new insights and tools to the job search, we also leave here emboldened with a strong, lasting, and capable camaraderie. And to think, so much of that had to do with how we all took to heart one of the simplest requests from Allison and Mary on the first day: sit next to someone new every day. And as a result, I think it’s safe to say that our original wondrous curiosity of where we all came from has now become, “Where are we going?”

So my dear fellow Fellows, where are we going? More importantly, where are you going and where do you want to go? As today’s graduation may mark the culmination of our formal training, let’s take a moment and look at this ending from another angle.

I propose we see today as another first day of an adventure, just like July 28th was for us 9 weeks ago. Let’s continue to change seats everyday from here on out, only now that we’ve graduated, let’s change those seats metaphorically. Let’s promise to continue putting our best foot forward and stepping out of our comfort zones by challenging ourselves (and each other) to say Yes when we are inclined to say No.

Most of all, let’s continue the precedence--the lifestyle--of an expert LA Fellow, long after we’ve achieved our 10,000th hour. As we part ways today, let’s promise to continue dedicating our time and effort to preparation, opportunity, service, heart, and success. Together, let’s continue to seek out and explore the pathway to meaningfulness when we want to so easily cling to comfort.

Cohort 10, let’s continue marching onward to that next step of personal and professional growth!

Thank you.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"LA Fellows Has Been All I’d Hoped For and More"

LA Fellows Cohort 10 chose two of their members to represent them during the graduation ceremonies held Friday, September 19, 2014 at Los Angeles Valley College. The first speaker, Derrick Clemons, is a writer and Marine Corps veteran with a long career in entertainment who is seeking to leverage his writing and interpersonal skills to transition to a job in the human services field. These are the thoughts he shared on the process of going through LA Fellows and how it changed his life:

LA Valley College Job Training staff, LA Fellows advisory board members, Canoga Park Worksource center, our valued nonprofit partners, family and friends. Greetings on behalf of the fellows of the mighty COHORT 10!

My name is Derrick Clemons and I am honored to have been asked to speak to you today. One of things I’ve been asked to speak to you about, is why did I want to become an LA Fellow.
I had become so disenchanted with my job search that to be honest, the only reason I attended the LA Fellows orientation was to be able to say that I have tried everything. After the TV show I was working on moved to Atlanta, I had been out of work for the entire year and my job search had really become very poor. 
I would spend hours on the Internet even though I knew that applying online was a complete waste of time. I employed some of the tactics that had served me well in the TV business like tracking down hiring managers and contacting them directly. This lead to a few call backs from various HR personnel, but strangely, those calls were all to tell me not to call them again. Ever. I also went to the orientation because my mom suggested it to me and I really didn’t want to hear about it later if I didn’t go.
As soon as Allison addressed the orientation and told us that she had made the transition from working in the TV business, because she was looking for something more stable, I knew that I was in the right place. It was at that moment that I went from being skeptical, to feeling determined to be a Fellow. I now viewed LA Fellows as my pathway out of the TV business and into a more stable rewarding career in the nonprofit world. When the orientation ended I immediately went up to Allison and told her my name and suggested that she put a gold star on my resume. I told her how our backgrounds were similar and that I wanted to follow in her footsteps.

I remember there was a lot of nervous energy in our first class, when our instructor Lynnette asked us to take turns describing ourselves to each other. One by one we all took turns saying how we used to be this and we used to be that. Lynnette told us (in a very matter of fact way) that no matter what has happened and no matter how long we have been PRE-EMPLOYED, that we are still professionals in our fields of expertise and that the circumstance doesn’t change that. This kind of instruction and self-esteem building started on day one and has lasted the entire cohort.

It is such a wonderful thing to see the broken, discouraged and frustrated people we once were, start to get a piece of ourselves back slowly but surely one class at a time. The instruction that we have been given has proven to be very valuable and we have learned the value of being the “known candidate” and the shiny penny. We want to thank you Lynnette, you have given us so many tools to use moving forward not just for our resumes, job search and interviews, but useful knowledge to be a successful person in everyday life. The LA Fellows program is lucky to have you.
All of our instructors have been amazing.
I really appreciate the wisdom and personal stories Dr. Arora shared with our class.

I didn’t know how to use a strategic marketing plan for a job search before Larry taught us. Larry showed us that the job search requires focus. We need a sharp object and certainly not a blunt instrument.
My thanks to Keri for bringing all of us up to speed on the ever changing world of social media. I’m still not ready to tweet, but at least now I see how it can be a valuable tool. Keri even managed to make me look good in our class photos.
I want to thank Kim for giving us the inside information on what the hiring managers are really concerned with and how to better be prepared. I know now that when asked what have I been doing in my time off not to respond “what in the world do you think I’ve been doing?!! Don’t you know that the economy is bad and jobs are hard to come by?!!"
I think about team building exercises like the drum circle. Thank you Roberto, we came oh so close to being on the same beat.
Andrea Mitchel has been remarkable. Not only has she given us wonderful instruction on grant writing, she has challenged and inspired me to believe that this is a path that I can follow… so much so that she has become a professional reference of mine. To say that I appreciate her would be an understatement.

The real beauty of this experience has truly been getting to know my fellow Fellows. The job search can be a confusing and isolating experience. The last few years of my professional life have been very challenging to say the least. Having worked in a very stressful, cutthroat environment followed by a prolonged period of unemployment had really begun to take a toll on me. The LA Fellows program has restored me and given even more confidence to handle the challenges that lay ahead.

Meeting such a diverse group of people who are talented in such a wide variety of fields lets us all know that the loss of a job is not an indictment of one’s character. Surely if these thoughtful, intelligent, hardworking, decent people can find themselves unemployed then it really can happen to anyone.
I think that this was an important lesson to realize. Over the course of the last few weeks we have gone from individuals, alone in our job search without the necessary tools, to a highly focused, skilled community group supporting one another.
I think about the moments in class where we exchanged ideas, told stories and challenged each other to move beyond our comfort zone. Seeing everyone come out of their shell really brought us closer together.  I think of Sara singing a song for the class and Nancy making everyone wristbands and classmates shedding tears when revealing intimate details of their lives. Most importantly, I see my classmates going to job interviews and nonprofit work with their newfound confidence.
Most things in life are not as advertised, but LA Fellows has been all I’d hoped for and more. I will never forget the great people I’ve met here. I wish the very best to everyone associated with this wonderful program.

May God bless you all. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cohort 10 Graduates!

The cameras were clicking and flashing with a fury on Friday at LA Valley College's Monarch Hall where the LA Fellows program graduated its latest class of 32 highly skilled job seekers. By all accounts it was one of the nicest ceremonies yet with laughs, tears and more than a few pleasant surprises. We'll post more soon, but here's a photo of Cohort 10 on their day of honor to tide you over:

Free Workshops from LAVC Job Training & Team Business of Burbank

Valley College has teamed with Burbank’s Team Business to present another series of free workshops designed to increase productivity in the workplace.

In the first offering, entitled “Providing Excellent Customer Service,” guests will not only learn some of the best ways to deliver professional, helpful, and high quality assistance to customers, but will gain insight into diffusing situations with those confrontational individuals who inevitably show up in front of the counter or on the phone, and turn them into returning buyers.

Delivered by popular speaker Doug Marriott, this complimentary workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, October 1, from 10:00 a.m. – noon. To learn more, see the flyer below or contact Dale Beck, Event Coordinator at 818.947.2927.

Again, there is no charge to attend this workshop.

To reserve your seat, contact Team Business at their website,

Below are the subjects and times for the remaining three:

·         Mastering Effective Communication (Tuesday, October 21, 2:00)

·         Preventing Computer Viruses (Tuesday, October 28, 10:00)

·         Creativity and Innovation for your Business (Tuesday, November 4, 2:00)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Another Cohort of LA Fellows Nears Graduation

Every cohort of LA Fellows is told in the first week to take advantage of the time in class to connect with the diverse group of professionals there. For every group of LA Fellows, the training time passes quickly, and Cohort 10 has been no exception. As they finish the on-campus instructional portion of the program, start working on the nonprofit piece and prepare for graduation next week, here's a quick snapshop of some of the activities that have been preparing them for their return to the workforce...  

Many of the Fellows took advantage of the optional
computer classes which help them to brush up on their
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint skills.

There were numerous opportunities for practicing their interview skills
and to brainstorm tweaks on cover letters and resumes.   

Fellows from previous Cohorts came by to give encouragement and first-hand insight on how to take their training and apply it to real-world situations.
They had lots of opportunities to exercise teamwork...


...And more teamwork! (Who says it all has to be serious and dull to be informative?)

The LA Fellows also got many opportunities to practice their presentation skills
and get comfortable speaking in front of a room full of people.

Most importantly, Cohort 10 has embraced the greatest lesson of the LA Fellows program: the power of a network. They share ideas, resources, and support. The hardest part of unemployment can be the isolation and uncertainty that comes from sitting alone in front of a computer hoping someone responds to a resume. LA Fellows learn the skills to make that a tiny part of the search and instead focus on effective strategies that connect experienced workers with real employers. Cohort 10 has proven that they are strong enough to step out of their comfort zones, smart enough to say yes to opportunity, and have the fortitude to follow this training to their next success.

We can't wait to see the wonderful things they achieve.