Churches have always helped the homeless and hungry. But providing career advice and networking opportunities is relatively new territory.
Several metro-area churches are reaching out to the unemployed with a ministry called Crossroads Career Network, a series of courses that help prepare job seekers to find employment.
Though a job search seems somewhat sterile, Mike Salet, a member of the Crossroads ministry at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead, said it can be a very emotional time when people need support the most.
“There are not very many times in a person’s life where you will go through the kind of mental anguish you go through when you are out of work. It’s close to the death of a family member or a divorce in terms of the emotional strain it puts on you,” Salet said. “What the church’s responsibilities are as we see them are to give care and encouragement to those who need it. I’d venture to say there’s not a single family in this city of Atlanta who is not suffering from a job loss or who is not suffering from a job loss over the last two or three years because of the economic downturn.”
Judi Adams, a professional job search coach and volunteer with Dunwoody Baptist Church’s Crossroads program, said many people are searching for jobs now that haven’t done it in years.
“That’s the first thing job seekers need to understand: how much the job market has changed,” Adams said. “We cover the reality of the job market and the steps you need to cover to search for a job.”
Crossroads is a six-step program that begins with making sure job seekers have the right attitude and confidence to move forward.
“You’ve got to process the loss and accept what could be behind that next door,” Adams said.
Next, job seekers have to narrow down what kind of positions they want and what companies they want to work for before they begin creating resumes, cover letters, and profiles on the professional networking website Linkedin.
After the actual applying begins, Crossroads goes over networking and interview techniques as well.
“We’ll give you feedback on what you do well and areas to improve,” Adams said.
Some churches also offer a crash course, which condenses the program to get job seekers prepared more quickly.
Salet said the meetings are attended by people from all walks of life.
“It is really across the board. You have some people who have been unemployed for quite awhile. But the mix doesn’t seem to reflect any particular category,” Salet said. “The majority of the people coming to the meeting are unemployed. We’ll have in the mix some people who are underemployed, who know they should be doing something different with their life. We encourage both types of individuals to come to the meetings.”
Adams said applying online is one of the toughest ways to get a job because of the volume of resumes companies receive over the Internet. She recommends networking instead.
“My message is, ‘It’s not you. The job market changed,’ ” Adams said. “And if we can remind them of the spiritual support that’s there, that’s wonderful.”