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.

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