Professionals exchanging handshakes and business cards fill the room with loud chatter. They are engaged and enthusiastic. They are also unemployed. Most of them had been laid off from their jobs, making them part of North Carolina’s 7.9 percent unemployment rate.
Most of the job seekers heard by word of mouth about a networking group called Colonial JobSeekers (CJS) that meets at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary on Monday mornings. Here they can find a sense of community, accountability, networking and job search skill development in a confidential and professional environment.
Colonial is experiencing the largest turnout since 2001, said Paula Bryan, director of Colonial JobSeekers.
Recently, the number of job seekers in the networking group has more than doubled, mostly due to area layoffs.
“Many have said that their time of unemployment has redirected their lives. If it wasn’t for this transition, it may not have happened,” said Bryan, as she spoke to 145 members Dec. 8. “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28),” she said.
The group meets on Monday mornings to help job seekers get ready and motivated for other job search activities throughout the week. “Networking is about building relationships,” Bryan said. “Come with the objective to encourage someone else. The more you reach out and help others, the more it will strengthen you.”
“Unemployment can drain your hope if you let it,” Bryan said. “The No. 1 way to find a job is networking.” Someone who knows you may be the one to open the door to your next job, she said.
After devotions, the professionals split up into special interest groups consisting of individuals with common professional backgrounds and skill sets. Here they exchange job leads and discuss upcoming interviews.
“Colonial JobSeekers supports professionals from a personal level,” said Kevin Hackney of Cary. Hackney is one of a number of job seekers who attends and volunteers at Colonial as a way to give back and to help others.
Developing relationships during the career transition is very important, Hackney said. Colonial provides a place for professionals to meet others and network. Colonial is Christ centered, and makes the point that the job seekers’ ultimate relationship needs to be with Jesus.
Sharon Cox, a career coach for Career Directions/Resume Writing, assists with forwarding job leads and leading a small group of job seekers in career transition at the weekly meetings.
“JobSeekers is not just a networking group, said Cox. “It provides spiritual and emotional support, accountability, and job seeking skills” such as resume writing and interviewing skills.
“Colonial differs from other groups as this is the group with heart,” said Cox. The work gets done by a dedicated group of volunteers, many of whom are job seekers themselves. Some volunteers from the community dedicate their time to serve as speakers, counselors, recruiters, etc.
“It is important for community employers to be made aware of the available pool of qualified candidates through local networking groups like Colonial and to list their job openings with these groups,” said Bryan.
Many job seekers suffer disappointment from losing their job, but they can choose two different paths: despair or hope. “If you don’t have anything to hope for, you will despair,” said Hackney. “We try to give job seekers hope by sharing the gospel with them. We encourage them by letting them know that they are not the only ones out there looking for a job. Others are getting interviews and jobs.” Hackney said. “There are things to be joyful about.”
Financial health package
Across three issues of the Biblical Recorder and numerous postings online, the BR staff compiled stories dealing with financial health, budgeting, teaching children about money, stewardship issues, etc.