Collaboration and Community Bringing Job Seekers Success!

By Sara Porcaro | December 3, 2019

In Providence, in a quiet building off the main road, snacks and drinks are passed around to smiling members of the local Job Seeker's Club--one that unites individuals seeking employment and provides resources on how to land jobs they love. Members of the club chat together as they review the activities of the previous meeting before they dive into a card game called "It Starts With You": an icebreaker game that encourages players to answer and ask questions about each other. The atmosphere is friendly, the mood cheerful--and everyone is excited for another meeting to learn new skills and celebrate the success of their peers!

For a year now, the Job Seeker's Club has met on the second Wednesday of the month to share employment resources and tools to help develop the skills necessary to secure jobs they love. The group is facilitated by Associate Director of Employment Services Tracey Cunningham, and Associate Administrator Jay MacKay, both officials of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH)--professionals who love getting to come to meetings and hear from individuals on their experiences in the working world. The club has been a way for Direct Support Professionals and other professionals from various Rhode Island service agencies--including Perspectives and West Bay RI, among others--to come together and share experiences, tips for job coaching, and more.

"We get to be the liaisons between job seekers and BHDDH," says Tracey. "We don't come to 'fix' things, either, but just to listen, offer help, resources. Every moment is a teachable moment, and it's always fun."

At this meeting, Jacob, Zach, Diane, Erin, and others enjoy asking and answering each other's questions--everything from who they'd like to have an hour-long phone conversation with to who their childhood heroes were. The cheery atmosphere only grew as they also celebrated the success of club member Zach, who was recently hired at JCPenny. With the skills learned at the Job Seeker's Club, like community mapping, where Zach was able to identify connections he had and build his professional network, he found out about JCPenny's National Hiring Day and seized the opportunity to go in for an interview. In November, he was hired--and he also presented on the Job Seeker's Club panel at the Advocates in Action conference to discuss his experience in searching for a job.

"I gave it my best, and my best paid off," Zach says. "There's nothing I don't love about JCPenny; working there has been great so far."

Other skill-building lessons include resume preparation, mock interviews, dressing for success, and career planning, as members discuss their dream jobs--including jobs in retail, food service, and more. Several individuals have gotten jobs with the skills they learned through the club, and like Zach, keep coming to the meetings to share what they learned through the hiring and orientation processes at their new jobs--a boon to individuals still seeking employment.

Jay says, "This club came about from our interest in hearing directly from individuals receiving services in Rhode Island, and it's a fun, casual environment." He smiles and adds, "This is my favorite part of the month, getting to do hands-on work in key service areas through the club."

It doesn't take long at this meeting for conversations to bloom--or for the hour-long session to race by. In such an inclusive, welcoming environment, even the shyest participants are at ease opening up to their peers. With the holidays coming up, they get together to plan a party for their last meeting of the year, aiming for a festive potluck. The peer-to-peer support, encouragement, and advice shared between the group is one of the many benefits of the Job Seeker's Club, and it shows in the sense of camaraderie between everyone!

If you're interested in joining, reach out to Tracey at Tracey.Cunningham@bhddh.ri.gov for more information!



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