Looking to Keep Your Job? Keep Yourself Employable

Today I got an email from Job Market Weekly. I don’t know what it means but I figure it means something — in this case a big something. Are you prepared for the future?

I get at least one email a week from someone who has lost a job. Rarely do I get emails saying, "What should I do to update my career or my resume?"

With unemployment statistics what they are, it’s frightening. The key is to keep yourself employable. How do you do this then? Ask yourself if the skills you have today will keep you relevant in your job in 2, 5, 10 years. Take a look at your resume and ask whether you would want to hire you. What have you been doing  with your schooling since high school or college?

Maybe you love your job, and you’re doing great and you’re not worried. But business is a partnership; just as you want the owner to keep on top of trends, products and the bottom line, it’s your responsibility to keep up your end. Suppose the business gets sold; would you look as good to the next owner? Or do you look good now because you're related to the present owner?

A good friend of mine just lost her job. It  started me thinking about someone I know named Janice. Ten years ago, I volunteered with Vocation and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID), a New York State agency dedicated to helping people with physical problems get back into the work force. Having been an employer, I thought this would be a good place for me to use my skills and help others.

Although the agency gave me some guidelines for reporting and a budget for incidentals and transportation, they didn’t prepare me for Janice — a 38 year-old, 6-foot tall woman with a master’s degree in criminal justice and arthritis so bad that some days she couldn’t hold a glass of water or a wash cloth. She had no family, was living on welfare, had not held a job since struggling and graduating from grad school five years prior. She had pretty much given up, was depressed, and some days could barely stand up straight. And did I mention her anger?

Long story short, it took us one year to get Janice a job. The thing is, nothing conventional really worked for Janice. We got plenty of job interviews because of her schooling, but some how nothing clicked.

Here's what we did to change things though. We got Janice some new clothes. Where? At the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other places that supplied clothing for those returning to the workplace. We looked for marked-down stuff, bought it on sale, went to churches and yard sales, etc. It was a great start, and Janice started to look better.

We went to Macy’s and the cosmetic counters, told them Janice was returning to the workplace and got lots of freebees. Shiseido offered makeup and other work tips. At first Janice was uncomfortable with the charity. But then it became fun and she realized she was a valuable member of society. Everyone we met wished her luck and knew someone who knew someone. If you can believe it, we found there was even free plastic surgery available!

We looked for free classes on computer skills, sales skills and more job training. Janice was smart, but we decided to make her smarter and well rounded. She knew police work, but those skills were getting old.

We went to not-for profits, Planned Parenthood socials, the library, the health clubs, the jails, the local prison, the state police academy, the city police — no jobs! It got pretty depressing for me too. Although looking and feeling better than she had in a long time, Janice had to work very hard at keeping her spirits up.

Okay, so what worked? Interestingly, it was her desire to volunteer with the city police. It wasn’t easy getting them to take her in — even for one day a week — but they finally agreed. Eventually she worked her way up to three days a week. And she was good! She knew the police stuff backwards and forwards, she was from Brooklyn and had worked with the police there for several years. She knew the “customers” — she was both tender and tough. After six months she had made herself indispensible, so they created a job for her.

I saw Janice six years later. She yelled to me from across the street and I hardly recognized her. She stood straighter, even with her cane. Her hair was braided and pulled back. She had on lovely makeup and was getting into her car. She said it was the first car she had ever owned, which went along with her first  driver’s license.

I smile when I think of Janice.

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