MID-CITY — As local residents continue to feel the crunch of the national economic recession, small community groups are making big differences in the lives of those who have fallen on hard times.
One such ongoing effort, organized by Beth Shir Sholom, holds weekly meetings at its recently established career center, teaching attendees the skills and methods necessary to find a job in an unfavorable employment market.
While no two job-hunters are completely alike, one feature tied together all the attendees of Thursday’s workshop at the career center: not one was under age 25.
With, among others, two finance and accounting specialists, an attorney-turned-artist, a handful of former therapists and social workers, and a man with a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology all in attendance, the mix was not one to be expected at a job-seeking tutorial, but the gamut of experience, education and training on hand was a testament to the nature of today’s financial troubles.
“I’m finding that I’ve got lots of job offers, but they’re just for commission. For anything people are willing to do for free in this economy, and it’s exploitation,” said Archana Daniels, a former attorney and pharmacist in Britain and a full-time mother who has recently began searching for a job to help support her family. “My husband started up his own business and so there’s no extra income at home for me to retrain and find another job. In this economy you simply can’t. But it’s me, and everybody’s looking at me at home saying, ‘you should be able to get a job.’ And it’s so depressing.”
Daniels explained that even if she had the time or money to retrain for a new position, she is unsure about her ability to compete with younger, recently-trained professionals.
Her concerns were echoed during the meeting with many attendees interrupting group discussion with shouts of “I applied for that position but was turned down because I’m overqualified,” or “How can I be expected to work for free for several months for just the chance of getting hired?”
To these concerns, it seems, there are but few answers, since many were not in a position to relocate and could not afford to work at entry-level positions for little or no pay.
Many of those who turned out for Thursday’s meeting were in need of basic instruction on topics such as resume design and networking, and for these problems, assisting resources were available.
The meeting’s speaker, Steven Keleman, Ed.D of the consulting outfit Keleman & Associates, provided information about where to look for jobs, how to match skills and interests to fields of vocational interest, and gave some fundamental tips on how to prepare a resume and develop a relationship with potential employers.
Organizers for the event said that approximately 80 percent of those in attendance were members of the Beth Shir Sholom congregation, but stressed that the center and its resources are open to non-members as well.
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels and Cantor Ken Cohen, both of whom were instrumental in developing the new program, were enthused about the potential of the group sessions, expressing their pride in the turnout — 12 on May 7, 17 on May 14 — and involvement of individuals from the community.
“This is a very unique community. We’re not the type of community that’s here to simply educate your child in religious education or perform a wonderful wedding or confirmation service. It’s really about people reaching out to other people, getting to know other people; it’s about relationships,” said Cohen, who moved his family to Santa Monica from Connecticut in order to be a part of the Beth Shir Sholom community. “The community gives, not only to its own, but it gives to those around it. I am thrilled, not only with the people who have been showing up, but in the spirit of it all.”
The center’s organizers have booked speakers for the next three months on topics ranging from job search and acquisition methods to management approaches for the stress of unemployment.