Social workers and career counselors join forces to help unemployed New Yorkers
When the Help & Hope career counseling program began in 2009, in response to the economic downturn, career counselor Ann Ruecker worked to help people reinvent themselves for the job market.
But now, Ruecker says, there are many individuals who have been out of the job market for so long that the program’s focus is shifting. It now emphasizes the technical aspects of securing a job in a tough market, and ensures that those who are unemployed have access to every possible resource that could provide support – from public assistance to support from a social worker.
“A lot of people have just given up,” said Ruecker. “People come to me who had made six-figure salaries in the past and say ‘I’ll take anything. I’ll take a job paying minimum wage.’”
According to Ruecker, the greatest challenge for long-term job searchers is keeping a positive attitude in the midst of a situation that can seem hopeless. She says that people are very savvy with the tools and methods of job searching, but lose spirit and become negative – something that can be detrimental in interviews with potential employers.
Karen Reynolds, Westchester and Putnam County Supervisor for Catholic Charities Community Services, who oversees the implementation of the Help & Hope program, said that recently, she has started adding a component to the program that outlines the public resources available to unemployed job searchers.
“Most of the people we see are career people. They’ve always been employed, they never had to look for public assistance, they always thought, ‘that’s not for me,’” said Reynolds.
Both Reynolds and Ruecker noted that job searchers might not think to seek out support from a social worker – but emphasized that the rewards can be great, especially since there is a very strong emotional and psychological component to the job search process.
Aware of this emotional component, Ruecker makes a special effort to encourage program participants to take advantage of the six free counseling sessions with a social worker that are an optional part of the program.
“I tell my groups that a meeting with a social worker can help you to be more positive and more self-assured,” she said. “Some people might not realize that in interviews, they are giving off a vibe that they’re not confident, or that they’re negative. This can hurt you in the job market, and is something that a counselor might be able to help you resolve.”
For those attending a Help & Hope career counseling workshop, here’s what you can expect:
First Session: During the first session of the program, Ruecker works with a group of approximately 8 individuals, showing them how they can be hopeful about their options and think creatively about their job search and career development.
Second Session: During the second session, Ruecker focuses on perfecting participants’ resumes, cover letters and any other documentation that they might need for the job search process.
One-On-One Sessions: Catholic Charities covers the cost for all program participants to receive personalized help in the form of three one-on-one sessions with Ruecker. In the one-on-one sessions she will work with you in writing your resume for the first time; recreating your present resume; working on other documents such as cover letters and so forth; work with you to reinvent yourself and explore how your skills, experience, and education can crossover to other occupations; networking strategies for the unpublished job market; mock interviews; and negotiation strategies once you get your new job.
Sessions with a Social Worker: One to six optional sessions with a social worker can help job searchers build self confidence and address any personal or economic issues that might be hindering them.
Read more about the Help & Hope career counseling program: