Communities Band Together for Work

In May the church began to devote five minutes at the start of every Sunday service to a "Needs & Leads Huddle." For example, someone would say, "Jake lost his job as an accountant" (that's a NEED) and Peter would say, "Hey, I work at such-and-such graphics and they are looking for a new designer" (that's a LEAD). All that information is compiled in a frequently-updated database.

Then the church asked every active member to participate in a confidential survey in which they indicated what they do, where they work and contact information. Nine hundred people responded saying they'd be glad to help if they could. That information is only accessible by the leaders of the church, who use it to call on members only when appropriate to ask for informational interviews or introductions. There's a lot of clout when a senior member of your church calls and asks for your help.

Since May, the Manhattan stake has placed 21 people in good jobs -- from nannies to mergers and acquisitions professionals -- and the program is gaining momentum because people see that it works. At any given time, they have about 100 people looking for work -- and even more job leads.

Some great successes: Valerie Baker was reviewing the lists of "needs" and noticed the credentials of Jamie Wride, who was interested in photo retouching. Baker sent Wride's resume to her HR department -- and within three weeks, Wride accepted a full-time position as a photo retoucher at Baker's company, which is an online fashion retailer.

Kim Allred works for the New York Foundling, a non-profit devoted to families and child welfare. She reviewed the list of "needs" and saw that Maddi Thomson had just finished graduate school and was looking to land her first job as a family therapist. Allred sent Thomson's resume to her employer on a Wednesday -- and by the following Monday, Thomson had an offer. At the end of August, she launched her career as a family therapist. She said she had no idea where or how she would have found work if it weren't for her church's initiative.

Any place of worship can do the same thing. When the congregation of any faith comes together, amazing things can happen. Talk to the leadership about starting today.

Join a Job Club

Alltel, a communications company headquartered in Little Rock, Ark., was bought by Verizon, and that meant layoffs. Mike Stafford was vice president of customer experience -- and after 12 years with the company, he was laid off during the first round of cuts in January. He told me he was one of the "lucky ones" because he didn't have to wait and suffer; he knew his fate and he graciously accepted it as a business reality.

Stafford would get together with buddies and trade advice on all the stuff they'd never thought of before: How do we file for unemployment? Should we convert our 401k to an IRA? Can you believe how much this COBRA costs?

But then he got worried: Some of his friends were leaving Little Rock for job opportunities elsewhere. Some went to Chicago, others to New Jersey. Stafford has a wife and three kids and they've made Little Rock their home. He didn't want families to flee.

So within a month, he and a pal started a volunteer effort called After Alltel to help people find jobs and start businesses. There's no bitterness toward their former employer. For these people, it's about what's next, not what was.

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