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Bayside’s Career Coaching Program aids job seekers

More than 400 participants have found employment since program began
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Melody Gardner spent 33 years at Hewlett Packard before being "workforce reduced" and sent out into unknown territory.

How was she going to find a new job? It had been a long time since she'd last looked.

Gardner turned to the Career Coaching Program at Bayside Church in Granite Bay for assistance and support. Two months later, on March 1, she was hired as the part-time coordinator for the previously all-volunteer run operation, making her the program's 400th success story. Now, it's up to 407.

"I went through the sky is falling, what I am going to do now?" Gardner said. "So I can identify with the people coming through here."

About 1,800 people have been through the program since it began three years ago in March 2009. In the past six months, 316 new people have registered, said Director Dan Lott. They pay a $20 one-time fee and scholarships are available.

On a recent morning, about 85 people gathered in a conference room at Bayside for the weekly "Job One Monday" meeting. Most participants were middle aged and dressed ready to impress. Program organizers urge attendees to come clean-shaven, or with their hair and makeup done ready to meet someone who might help them find a job.

Holding the program Monday mornings prevents unemployed people from the easy alternative - to wake up and give up. This offers a reason to get dressed and get going, which is especially critical for someone freshly unemployed and feeling vulnerable.

"All it takes is one phone call, one word and you don't just fall off the chair, you fall in the canyon," Lott said.

Many participants don't attend Bayside Church, although the program emphasizes the Christian faith and God's role in finding direction in life. Sometimes, attendees bow their heads in prayer. But Lott doesn't want non-Christians to feel out of place. They're welcome, too.

At the recent Monday meeting, job seekers could participate in an interviewing workshop or attend a session about using social media in the job search. Attendees also do one-on-one mock interviews.

"It's called practicing so that you're better," Lott said.

When nervous, an interviewee often spills everything, Lott said, which isn't effective. Instead, he should pinpoint five success stories he was involved with that illustrate overcoming a challenge.

Lott leads a skills workshop based on strategies from the book, "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Dick Bolles. He has participants write down five stories and identify skills used in each anecdote to determine a common collection of skills. Lott urges people to be confident and not minimize their experience.

"When we're without a job, we think we're less valuable than everybody else," he said.

Lott retired in 1999 after working in sales and marketing for the technology industry, most recently Cisco Systems. In 2008, he visited Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in southern California to learn from their job program.

"I came back and realized if we had this program, I'd be the one leading it," Lott said. "It was as simple as that. ... Our mission is to equip, encourage and support job seekers within a Christian community."

One way the program does that is through regular networking events. Lott said the majority of jobs are in the "hidden market," and not openly advertised. That's because managers want the lowest risk in hiring - they want someone recommended by a trusted source.

"You have to build relationships through the people you know ... those who can help you find jobs that are open," Lott said. "What happens when you network, you hear about jobs. What happens when you sit at home - nothing."

Roseville resident Donna McClure was laid off from a consulting firm in downtown Sacramento where she had worked for two years when the company downsized in late-December.

"It was very shocking," McClure said. "I was not prepared for that ... I was just so overwhelmed with the thought of even looking for a job."

Her confidence was low. But her brother had got a job offer with the help of Bayside's Career Coaching Program, so she decided to check it out. She's come away with tips to improve her resume, online training ideas to boost her skills and opportunities to network.

"I'm very excited now," McClure said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Five tips for finding a job:

  • 1. Take the job search seriously
  • 2. Attend networking events and build relationships
  • 3. Use social media to connect - LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
  • 4. Focus on description of skills, not job titles
  • 5. You can never be over-prepared for an interview

Source: Dan Lott, director of Bayside Church's Career Coaching Program