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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

and postage.

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

a resource."

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:

Have a scannable resume with the proper key words that

will catch an employer’s eye.

Make sure that there are absolutely no typos on your resume

and cover letter.

Network. Eighty-five percent of successful hunters find

their next job through networking.

Use the interview process not only as an opportunity for

the company to check you out but to see if this prospective employer

is a good fit for you.

Make sure you know what your financial situation is before

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

"We’re in the computer age," says Reed. "The old

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 ( "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

Professional Service Group Workforce NJ — Division

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.

Professional Service Group, 596 Jersey Avenue, New Brunswick

08901. 732-418-3304; fax, 732-937-4504.

Professional Service Group, 795 Woodlane Road, (Mt. Holly),

Westampton 08060. 609-518-0275; fax, 609-518-0266.

Also in Bloomfield (973-403-1815), Cherry Hill (609-489-3680;

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


Professional Service Alumni Association, 453 B Closter

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.

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Central Jersey Job Developers Association, Box 533, New

Brunswick 08903; Donna Silverman, chair. 732-745-5300 extension 4201.

Client service and professional organization, monthly meetings and

job bulletin, annual job fair.

The Job Club, 50 c/o Princeton Unitarian Church, Cherry

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: 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,

Jobseekers, 33 Mercer Street, c/o Trinity Church, Princeton

08540. Niels Nielsen, coordinator. 609-924-2277; fax, 609-924-9140.

Home page: 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.

MCCC’s Career Counseling & job Placement, West Windsor

Student Center, SC 229, 609-586-4800, extension 3304, E-mail:

Professional career counselors Jack Guarneri and Gail LaFrance offer

a counseling and testing program for $190.

The Professional Roster, 842 State Road, Princeton, 609-921-9561;

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.

Project Re-Employment, sponsored by the Jewish Family

& 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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