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‘Getting a foot in the door’

Worcester Job Seekers Network aiding the unemployed

By Laura Porter

Every Monday morning from 8 to 9:30 a.m. in the Senior Adult Lounge at the Worcester Jewish Community Center, people gather at the weekly meeting of the Worcester Job Seekers Network.

The brainchild of Laura Dilts and led by Nancy Whitman Dube, both members of Temple Emanuel Sinai, the group provides an opportunity for people to share information and perfect their skills as they look for their next job.

Networking is an essential tool for anyone on the job market: up to 80% of jobs are found through networking. A conversation with the right person can lead to the proverbial foot in the door or a resume moved into the stack to be considered.

“The Job Seekers Network had been an idea of mine for a long time,” says Dilts, whose job in non-profit health care management was eliminated five months ago.

“When I lived in Atlanta, lots of churches and synagogues had them,” she continues. “There has been a void in Worcester and Worcester County for a long time. There are groups in Acton and Hopkinton, but you need one local to where you want to be when you are looking for a job.”

Dube is a human resources consultant who works with “small and mid-sized businesses all over Massachusetts that have HR needs but do not have their own HR departments,” she says. She is also a senior human resources associate at the First Beacon Business Advisory Group in Marlborough.

Dube was involved for some time with the Institute for Career Transition at MIT, run by Ofer Sharone. The study she took part in focused on people who were over 50 and unemployed. The data they collected underscored the role of networking in finding jobs as well as the importance of coaching for this particular sector of the population. (For more information, see http://instituteforcareertransitions.org/.)

“They’re going to get jobs and take huge salary cuts; they’ve got to be prepared for it,” she says.

Although people often tend to “go under the radar” when they become unemployed, she notes that getting involved in a networking group helps to cut through the isolation of looking for jobs.

For Dube, the experience is personally as well as professionally familiar. She started her business in 2009 after her own period of unemployment.

“This was a long journey,” she says. “I understand what people go through because I’ve lived it.”

Dilts concurs. “When you’re looking for work over a long period of time, it’s hard to stay upbeat and positive,” she says. “But you need to stay motivated. I go to at least one networking event every week – that was the goal I set for myself.”

After learning of Dube’s business and experience, Dilts approached her to ask if she would be willing to lead such a group.

Dube agreed – she is donating her time as well as supplies – and the two women spoke with Rabbi Valerie Cohen at Temple Emanuel Sinai, who was enthusiastic and pointed them to the right people to speak with at the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts, the Worcester JCC and Congregation Beth Israel.

She began to advertise the new group, contacting the Worcester Business Journal, synagogue and Federation publicity resources, and Workforce Central, where director Janice Weekes promised support. Dube has also reached out to Jewish Family and Children’s Services and made connections with the Acton and Hopkinton networking groups.

The first meeting of the Worcester Job Seekers was held on Feb. 22, and 20 people came, a number that has held steady. That first session focused on getting to know the individuals in the group and their specific needs, says Dube.

Subsequent sessions, have addressed the dos and don’ts of networking as well as improving resumes and Linked in profiles. Key topics have included paying attention to body language, where to find the networks, how to approach people when networking, and how to dress and prepare to speak.

All but two of the 20 participants are 50 or older, and nearly all are skilled professionals, including managers, architects, pharmacists and engineers.

“We have all kinds of different backgrounds but we’re all trying to find our next job,” Dilts says. She herself is currently interviewing, aiming for a leadership position in non-profit management or HR.

Most members of the group are looking for jobs in Worcester County, the Metrowest area or Providence.

Information about job openings are coming from several sources. Dube is part of the Boston Recruiters Group, and announcements are also coming in from Workforce Central and both the Acton and Hopkinton networks.

Members of Worcester Job Seekers have also helped and learned from one another. Dilts has been able to give advice to a member who wants a job in the non-profit sector, and someone else had a useful contact for a member who is an architect.

Dube stresses, however, that support also has to come from the community at large.

She would love for members of the Jewish community to step forward, either to speak at a meeting or offer jobs – or both.

“People in the community need to recognize that there are those who are unemployed and offer up their jobs. That’s what is going to make this work.

To get a job, they need to know of jobs. And, if you know people who are unemployed, send them to the group. Everyone has a friend or a family member who is unemployed.”

Indeed, that sense of responsibility is quintessentially Jewish.

“From a Jewish perspective,” says Dilts, “it’s part of the community outreach and service that our tradition believes in.”

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