Friday, November 5, 2010

Americans Stepping Up – The Power of One in Helping Job Seekers

An Interview with Kathy Bernard, Creator of “Get a Job! Blog & Workshops"
Photo Credit - Flickr Creative Common

We all know the power of one. We are in awe of it when we think of Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, and the anonymous man who stood his ground in front of tanks at Tiananmen Square.

Each of us has also seen the power of one in everyday life, whether we realized it or not, in the teacher who inspires a child to achieve his or her dream; in the teenager who stands up to bullies to protect a friend; and in the mom who tirelessly gives her all every day to her children. These are just some of the everyday people that step up and are the power of one hero making a caring difference in someone else’s life.

In today’s tough economic climate, there are millions of unemployed Americans. For the first time in their lives many of them can not find a job. Some are lost and need help in finding a path back to normal. They are not hoping for a hand-out. They are searching for a hand-up in the form of direction in finding a job.

As the politicians fight over how best to create jobs, individual Americans are stepping up to give immediate hope and effective help to those seeking jobs. It is their way of giving back. They simply want to make a difference that matters. Kathy Bernard is a corporate communications leader based in St. Louis, Missouri. She is also the creator of "Get a Job! Blog & Workshops". She is making a difference.

BKH: What was the motivation in wanting to give back?
KB: I have always enjoyed trying to do something to make the world a better place. Usually I try to do it through a paying job at a nonprofit, but since I am in a more corporate type of position now, I figured out a way I could help others in my free time at little or no cost to me or them. I started writing a blog, leading workshops, and offering one-on-one lunches.

I believe we all have a higher purpose on this earth than to just live and die. We should each look for our own personal way to help. We all have different gifts and interests.

BKH: What made you decide on helping others by doing the "Get a Job! Blog & Workshops" specifically?
KB: A little over a year ago I wanted to gain some experience in blogging and social media. I knew so many people that have lost their jobs, and I had always been tenaciously good at finding work. I was always giving friends advice about how to tweak their resume and cover letter, and I knew how to maneuver around the online job application. So I put all of that knowledge into the blog.

BKH: Explain how you starting doing the workshops and how they evolved from the blog.
KB: Local people who read my “Get a Job!” blog began asking for in-person help. To meet this need, I began offering “Career Launch Lunches”. Since many job seekers just don’t have the money to pay experts to help them, I saw this as an alternative to costly career coaching for them. We meet at a fast food place, and for the price of lunch, about $3.75 for my fast food meal + their meal; they can ask me for whatever guidance they need. If they need more in-depth help, like say to improve their LinkedIn presence, I can offer them additional personal assistance for $25 per session.

Also, within a month of starting my blog, a person who had seen one of my blog posts asked if I would put together workshops for his church. I enjoyed hosting two workshops with his church so much; I started promoting my availability to lead employment workshops on my blog. I usually charge a nominal fee for conducting a workshop or workshop series, but I work with host organizations on options if money is an issue.

After those first workshops, the church surveyed the participants; and one wrote that they had seriously considered suicide before my workshops. They wrote the workshops made them feel that things would turn out OK and that they had renewed strength to keep going. I felt like “Wow, what a blessing it is that I can help someone like that who really needs a little hope in their life.”

I love the interaction of the workshops. I enjoy seeing people's eyes light up when they realize that effective job seeking isn't as hard as they feared and that they are capable to seek and find a job.

BKH: What type of help do people seem to need most?
KB: Most people want help with their resume and building their networking. Sometimes they want to know how to approach certain companies or how to word being terminated from a job. Those who have not applied for a job in 20 years have often let their technical skills go, and they need help in creating a resume document and in applying online. It is a very scary world for people who avoid anything technical. They've got to push past their fears and learn online communication skills.

BKH: Who is the average person that comes to you for help?
KB: It’s equally male and female. Generally the most responsive to my offer of help tends to be the professionals and American baby boomers. But, I've helped all kinds of people from all over the U.S. and Canada. I’ve also helped people overseas through InMessages and e-mail. I meet a lot of people locally at my "Career Launch Lunches" and my local workshops. Typically, the people I work with have been out of work for several months and have grown weary trying to go it alone. They are frustrated by the lack of response to their job applications.

The people I help range from people who haven't applied for a job in 20 years, and they have no clue how to fill out an online application; to those who are extremely tech savvy, but they have difficulties dealing one-on-one with recruiters or other less technical people. The type of work they are looking for varies, but the largest group is communications and marketing professionals. I also hear from general business job seekers, recruiters, sales representatives, project/production managers, trainers, and IT professionals.

BKH: What have you gotten out of this work that validates it the most for you?
KB: I love to hear from someone who has been struggling with unemployment that just landed a job. I want to jump out of my seat and yell, "Yeah!", like I just got the job myself. I have been unemployed and know what it feels like. You worry you won't be able to provide for your family. You fear that you won't have proper benefits to care for a family member who may have a catastrophic illness or accident.

It is terrifying, sad, and demoralizing for most people to be unemployed. If you are used to working, unemployment suddenly thrust you into a situation where you aren't sure you can contribute to a company in a meaningful way any more. It’s a hard pill to swallow if you are told to go away, because you are no longer needed. So what I get the most out of doing my blog and workshops is helping one less person being stuck in feeling this way, and that is awesome for me!
BKH: Kathy can be contacted directly through her LinkedIn profile.

Check out the "Topical Archive" section of the "Get a Job! Blog & Workshops" website. It offers an in-depth resource list for job seekers from resume and job application advice to interviewing tips to networking help to social media use expertise.

Gloria Buckman has attended a couple of Kathy Bernard’s workshops and reads her blog. She sums up the power of one difference well in her thank you note to Kathy, “I want to remind you how much your help with unemployed people means to folks. It is scary, not just the lack of income, but tackling the whole job-hunting process seems daunting, and you make it human. The fact that you donate your time is amazing, and I pray God richly blesses you for that."

Kathy Bernard is one of the many quiet heroes that have always made America stronger in its most difficult times through the power of one reality. There are many in America right now quietly making a big difference. Perhaps you are one or could be.

For additional individual Americans stepping up to assist job seekers with free help see my AXcess News article “Job Hunting? – JobAngels Networking May be an Answer to Your Prayer”

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