Corrections or additions?
For Unemployed Professionals, An Oasis
This article by Jeff Lippincott was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 6, 1999. All rights reserved.
In these times of healthy economies and employers
advertising for employees on billboards, one would think that unemployment
is a dead issue. But, as any one of the almost 200,000 New Jerseyans
who are out of work can attest, hearing how wonderful the job market
is can be frustrating, especially if you’ve been out of work for a
What to do? Well if you are one of the thousands of New Jersey residents
without corporate sponsored outplacement, there’s good news: the Professional
Service Group (PSG), a network of unemployed professionals organized
under the auspices of the State Department of Labor who pool their
talents in their job search. The State provides PSG members with free
use of computers complete with Internet hook-ups, facsimiles, telephones
But PSG is much more than just the physical building and a free communication
source. Members help each other find their way back to employment
by conducting weekly seminars on job hunting skills like networking,
cover letter/resume writing, telephone use and interviewing.
"There are a lot of emotions that come up when you are unemployed,"
says Jessie Breccia, facilitator of the Trenton PSG on Yard
Avenue. "If you are now out of a job that you have worked at for
some time there could be some trauma. We let people know that it’s
normal and this is a safe place to come and share their feelings.
When they hear that other people are experiencing the same feelings
as they are it is reassuring and is all part of a process that unemployed
people go through."
The qualifications for becoming at member of PSG is that you be unemployed
or under-employed. New members are required to attend one week of
seminars starting with an orientation usually held on Mondays. After
that, members are expected to provide at least three hours of their
time each week to the good of the cause by conducting seminars, contacting
employers about job leads, or providing office support.
The PSG self-help concept was established in 1989 in New Brunswick
by a group of unemployed professionals who gathered to talk about
the effects of unemployment. The concept flourished and now there
are a total of 12 PSG locations currently operating throughout the
state. The Trenton office number is 609-292-3417.
"When I became a manager here," says Patricia Reed,
Workforce New Jersey manager and Breccia’s supervisor, "one of
my first priorities was to start PSG up again. I’ve seen it work in
other offices. Jessie went to New Brunswick, got training from them,
was enthusiastic and is still enthusiastic. That’s a major part of
keeping PSG going — the enthusiasm of the group and the facilitator.
Every PSG is unique because it is made up of the members and the members
make the PSG what it is. As new members come and go the PSG changes."
Breccia’s role as facilitator has been all encompassing. "Initially,
because we just started up here, I pretty much had my hands in everything,
preparing materials and organizing seminars," says Breccia, "but
now the PSG members have an opportunity to appoint leaders from among
their peers who will oversee PSG and I’ll be in the background as
Currently, the Trenton PSG has about 60 members with
about half that number actively participating. "We’re getting
about 10 hires a month, or about 27 of the 60 total," says Breccia.
"We have figures that indicate that PSG members find jobs four
weeks faster that those who aren’t members." Out of the 778 people
that were members of the New Brunswick PSG last year, more than 80
percent have found jobs.
Breccia’s tips for job hunters include:
will catch an employer’s eye.
and cover letter.
their next job through networking.
the company to check you out but to see if this prospective employer
is a good fit for you.
you go to the interview so that you will know when to walk away from
an opportunity if the money does not meet your needs
rules on writing a resume are gone. Employers are searching, scanning
the Internet for a resume by looking for key words. A scannable resume
is a resume that can be easily scanned into a computer and go on the
Internet with key words that will stick out. Employers are not reading
your whole resume, they want to look at something quick and then move
Sometimes you will need to custom design a resume with key words for
a specific job. "If the job requirement is five years of experience
in a certain area and you have seven, you better say five plus years,
because employers may be looking that up and the seven might prevent
your resume from coming in like it needs to," says Breccia.
One of the fundamentals of networking is letting people know that
you are unemployed. "When you network you are not asking for a
job, you are asking for assistance, like — could you review this
resume or do you know of someone who might have a need for the skills
that I have," says Breccia. "When you ask somebody for a job
you might as well ask them for money — they recoil in the same
way. People are more open to assisting someone, and if you are asking
for help people will find time to give you some advice — they
are flattered that you would go to them for that type of assistance."
PSG members are encouraged to develop what Breccia terms "CAR
stories," an acronym for Challenge, Action and Result. A "CAR"
story tells the prospective employer about specific instances where
a candidate has made a difference while utilizing his/her skills and
abilities. "The bottom line is that it’s an opportunity for you
to give a two minute commercial about what it is that you bring to
the table, by relating what you’ve accomplished in the past for another
Both Breccia and Reed recommend that job hunters put their resume
on the Internet through America’s Talent Bank which can be accessed
through the Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network Web
Site (http://www.wnjpin.state.nj.us.) "Employers and
job seekers like using America’s Talent Bank in the search process
because the service is free," says Reed.
Breccia has been with the state for 25 years and has a bachelor’s
degree from Rider University. Reed, 47, has been with the state of
New Jersey for 22 years, and has her bachelor’s degree in psychology
from Seton Hall University. Prior to her administrative post in Trenton,
she was the manager of the Jersey City Social Service office.
Since becoming operational in October, 1998, the Trenton PSG already
has its share of success stories. Breccia relates one: "A neighbor
of mine approached me and indicated that he had just been fired from
his job. I told him that I was conducting a seminar the next day and
to come in. The termination process had left this individual devastated.
The firing took place on a Tuesday. He came in and attended the seminars
on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, took a lot of notes and got a lot
of feedback. He was excited on Wednesday, interested on Thursday and
by Friday he was empowered."
Breccia was awakened on Saturday morning by the news that the individual
had an upcoming interview and needed coaching. "I went over his
CAR stories with him and advised him on proper dress for the interview.
He called me later to tell me he got the job. A job with better benefits,
more money, and interestingly enough, even though he was hired for
that job, he still had two other interviews that week that he decided
to go to so that he now had a choice. All this within a week."
— Jeff Lippincott
of Employment & Training, New Jersey Department of Labor, 28 Yard
Avenue, Room 209, Trenton 08625-0954. 609-292-3417; fax, 609-292-6618.
Jessie Breccia, facilitator. Patricia Reed, manager.
08901. 732-418-3304; fax, 732-937-4504.
Westampton 08060. 609-518-0275; fax, 609-518-0266.
fax, 609-489-3691), Dover (973-361-1034; fax, 973-361-6330), Hackensack
(201-329-9600), Morristown (973-631-6327), Neptune (732-775-1778),
Phillipsburg (908-859-0400), Pleasantville (609-677-1469), and Vineland
Road, Box 941, East Brunswick 08816-9998. Jerry Walker, president.
609-655-3804; fax, 609-860-2891. Incorporated non-profit self-help
association of professionals, membership $50, meetings usually on
first Wednesdays at East Brunswick library.
Brunswick 08903; Donna Silverman, chair. 732-745-5300 extension 4201.
Client service and professional organization, monthly meetings and
job bulletin, annual job fair.
Hill Road, Princeton 08540; co-led by National Certified Career Counselors.
Susan and Jack Guarneri, co-facilitators. 609-771-1669; fax, 609-637-0449.
E-mail: email@example.com. Seminars on first Mondays at 7:30 p.m.
for those seeking information on careers and jobs, also support group
on second Mondays, free, open to the public,
08540. Niels Nielsen, coordinator. 609-924-2277; fax, 609-924-9140.
Home page: http://www.trinityprinceton.org. This self-help
group is designed to assist persons of any faith or who are involved
in a job search or contemplating a career change. Volunteer coordinators
provide a supportive atmosphere where participants can explore the
possibilities open to them. Meetings are every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
at Trinity Episcopal Church’s Pierce Hall on Stockton Street. There
is no charge; the group complements the work of the Professional Roster.
Student Center, SC 229, 609-586-4800, extension 3304, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Professional career counselors Jack Guarneri and Gail LaFrance offer
a counseling and testing program for $190.
fax, 609-921-9572. Call between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through
Friday or 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Members pay $30 annually. The Roster
lists job opportunities and offers one hour of career counseling for
$25 to newly registered members, with additional hours available at
$20. Volunteer coordinators try to match people with jobs — and
this organization attracts job listings that do not appear elsewhere.
There is no fee to employers.
& Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, offers week-long workshops
for developing job search skills. Ten people in managerial, technical,
or professional fields can attend each of the workshops taught by
specialists from the Department of Labor at the JFCS conference wing,
707 Alexander Road, Suite 102. The program is open to the public and
is free but preregistration is required. Call 609-987-8100.
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