Getting Ready for Work

Posted on August 23, 2012
From mid-April through early August 2012, anyone who walked by the Employment Unit at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month could see that the five Fountain House members seated around the rectangular conference table were hard at work.  They were the first participants in the Employment Unit’s pilot course, “Interview Preparedness,” self-selected by their willingness to attend the series of hands-on workshops regularly and to do the homework too.

Led by Fountain House Human Resources Director, Jennifer Rivera, and facilitated by Employment Unit Leader, Nancy Young, the pilot’s curriculum covered a lot of ground. Starting with writing a cover letter and preparing a resume, the comprehensive program focused on interviewing skills and concluded with how to follow up after an interview. Other sessions included interview etiquette and attire, networking, and honing an “elevator pitch” to use when you only have 30 seconds with a potential employer to summarize what you bring to the table.  Informative handouts tailored to each session were a valuable takeaway, enabling the participants to reinforce at home what they learned in the workshops.

Several sessions were dedicated to mock interviews; each participant had two during the pilot program.  Most were led by Jennifer, but one interview workshop session was led by a surprise guest, Ernst & Young HR Manager, Jean Clark. (Thanks, Jean!) The mock interviews were based on advertised job descriptions that members had identified at the first workshop: real opportunities for which they were already qualified, or would be with additional training.  Job goals were fine-tuned, as participants gained insights about their interests and skills and the work environments that would best play to their strengths.  All the workshops were videotaped by Fountain House for training purposes.

As a new volunteer to Fountain House this year, my interest in assisting the Employment Unit happily coincided with the launch of the Interview Preparedness pilot program.  As the “semester” progressed, I was privileged to witness the participants thrive as they gained confidence, smiled more, and took steps toward their personal goals.

Graduation day was August 7.  Participants received a personalized certificate of completion, talked about what they had learned during the pilot, and offered suggestions for possible future topics related to employment.  Darvin reported that he had just been called back for a second interview; Nora expressed thanks for awareness she gained during the mock interview process; and Jasmine shared that she has recently spent time assisting others coming to the Employment Unit.  Maisoun reflected the sentiments of the group when she accepted her certificate: “Now I have hope.”  Keisha, who had attended most of the workshops, couldn’t be there for that last session -- she had already gotten the full-time employment she prepared for.

Priscilla Lundin
Volunteer, Fountain House

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