United in the effort to find a job
One year out of high school, Edrin Reynoso is ready for full-time employment. But like many others, he can’t find a job.
That frustrating fact drove the 21-year-old to the newly formed ‘Job Club’ at Springfield Housing Authority’s John L. Sullivan Apartments in the Liberty Heights section of the city.
Every Wednesday afternoon since the club formed in April, Reynoso attends the 90-minute sessions that include mini-workshops on things like resume writing, interview skills, proper dress, and the all-important reviews of available jobs in and around the city that are suited to members.
“I know this will help me,” said Reynoso, who is a graduate of the High School of Science and Technology in Springfield.
“Here, I can focus on what I need to do to find work. They explain a lot of things here, things that I know I need – how to dress for a job interview, how to say the right things. Stuff like that. This makes me feel hopeful that I will find a job,” he said.
The group sessions are run by Daisy Gomez, SHA Housing Retention Program Coordinator, and Zenaida Burgos, Outreach Coordinator for the Talk/Read/Succeed! family-based early literacy program which operates at Sullivan and Robinson Gardens Apartments.
The Job Club is working successfully at Robinson Gardens, where members have found jobs at a fairly good clip. At Sullivan, the group runs in both English and Spanish, a reflection of the make-up of the membership. That also presents a challenge for those with limited English in their quest to line up interviews and be chosen for jobs in a competitive labor market.
“Many of them are learning English, so we always make time to work on that,” explained Gomez.
“Our main goal is to get them ready for jobs,” she added. “We help them work on their resumes, fill out job applications, and get ready for interviews.”
Every week, participants get homework, always centered around finding employment, and often focusing on scouring the Internet for any jobs they may qualify for. One week’s homework: Bring in a list of job hunting vocabulary words that they are not sure about. The group used the lists to hash out meanings of terms like ‘curriculum vitae’ and ‘transferrable skills.’
On a recent Wednesday, Gomez reviewed a handout called ‘The 31 most common interview questions.’ Members discussed how to best answer questions like ‘How did you learn about this job’ and ‘What do you know about this company,’ and the others.
Another big part of the Job Club is networking, both Gomez and Burgos agreed. Members share any information they have found about available jobs, and tips on the interviews they have been on. So far, some members have gotten interviews and are waiting to hear back on whether they have landed jobs.
“They have to submit at least three applications each week, and then come back and talk about that,” Gomez said. “It allows everyone to see what’s going on.”
Burgos said the ultimate goal is to help residents achieve self-sufficiency, and all the good things that come with employment.
“It’s all about supporting them through the process,” Burgos said. “This gives participants encouragement to know that they are not in this process alone. We are here to support them and help them to acquire the skills they need to feel empowered to apply for jobs, go to interviews and hopefully find a job that is fit for them.”
The rewards are shared among all around the table each week, and that includes Gomez and Burgos.
“I rejoice every week; when I see them coming in prepared to learn, ask questions and leave feeling confident about themselves. They leave, ready to embark a new week to do their job search,” Burgos noted.
Job Club members like Sandribel Figueroa agree they learn important things at each session. They also appreciate the camaraderie that is a natural outgrowth of the Job Club.
“I know I want to find work,” said Figueroa, who is a certified pharmacy technician and hopes that will help her.
“I like this because we come together and talk about things that will help all of us. We’re becoming friends with each other. It’s like a family,” Figueroa added.
Robert Davila is another Job Club participant with a certification in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), a field he would love to break into but is having a hard time due to his lack of experience.
“Every HVAC job I see says you need five years of experience, which I don’t have,” Davila said.
But he likes the Job Club and believes it will lead him to some type of employment.
“It’s pretty good here. I come every week. They help prepare you for interviews, get you ready for the interview questions, and keep you focused on finding a job. That’s exactly what I want,” Davila said.
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