This article appears in the February issue of 400 Life.
No matter who you are, looking for a new job can be scary, confusing and stressful.
Do you look for jobs online where hundreds of websites and services promise the moon and never seem to have just the right opportunity or do you go door to door and make cold calls to land the perfect gig?
You might be bouncing back from a layoff, recovering from a domestic violence situation or just trying to work your way to a better life, the result is nearly always the same, the job search will be a lonely road with no promises at its end.
But it doesn’t have to be like that, says Lynn Sennett, Workforce and Education Director for The Place of Forsyth County.
According to Sennett, over the last five years The Place has attempted to work hand in hand with job seekers in the Forsyth County area, offering a wide variety of workforce development programs and services to people of all ages, backgrounds and economic status.
“I always tell people that searching for a job online is like fishing in the ocean in a row boat with a cane pole; you might catch something, but you might not,” Sennett said. “Even the most educated and successful people can get stuck when it comes to looking for a job … The workforce development program teaches them how to fish.”
Since the Workforce Development program was piloted back in August 2019, Sennett said The Place’s offerings have expanded from simple networking help to a handful of people, to a catalogue of trainings, quarterly job fairs at Browns Bridge Church, and personalized career counseling for hundreds of people each year.
Sennett said that they are really proud of how well the quarterly job fairs have taken off. Their last fair in October had over 35 companies and about 100 job seekers.
“We have more and more jobs, more and more companies and more and more job seekers,” she said. “And that’s a really good thing for us.”
Each year Sennett sees between 250 to 300 job seekers and of those individuals, about 140 go on to get full time jobs through The Place.
In 2018, jobs with salaries totaling $3.3 million were created by the program, she said. In 2019, that number rose to $3.5 million.
For all the services the program offers, Sennett said that the confidence boost the program can give job seekers is crucial.
Most people come to them dispirited and as a last resort, she said. So in many cases it’s their mission to build back that confidence and “lift up” their clients.
“We see people who have the criminal background, who have mental health issues, who were victims of domestic violence and who have been in poverty, so confidence is a big thing with almost everybody I see,” Sennett said. “I really feel that making people feel good about themselves is about 60% of what I do, maybe even more.”
One recent participant in the program and local resident, Jonathan Burns, said that when he went to The Place looking for help he was “out of options and out of time.”
Last year, Burns moved to Forsyth County, where he works full time at a local Walmart, and quickly realized that one full-time job wasn’t going to be enough to pay the bills, while also still having enough time to spend with his kids on the weekends.
Like many participants in the workforce development program, Burns had difficulty finding additional part time work from the very beginning, and usually wasn’t even considered for positions when employers learned about his availability and employment at Walmart.
“Everybody just wouldn’t have anything to do with me,” he said. “Because I work for Walmart that pretty much shuts any other retail or grocery store opportunities down.”
Within just a few meetings with Sennett, Burns was able to land a part time position at a Forsyth County Chick-fil-A.
“Because of that, I’m able to pay my bills,” he said. “Just that little bit of part time [work] right there was what I needed, I’m able to pay my bills and keep the roof over my head.”
Learn more about The Place of Forsyth County’s Workforce Development program by visiting www.theplaceofforsyth.org/workforce-development.