Getting a job is about more than just sending out resumes; it’s about having the skills, vision and confidence to make it happen. The Center for Women focuses on these aspects of the job hunt in its free six-week course – Ready for Work (R4W). The program starts regularly throughout the year and helps women prepare to enter or re-enter the workforce by giving them the “soft” skills they need to pursue the career they want.
R4W, which started as a pilot program in July 2014, was created to help a wide variety of women, said Leigh Ann Garrett, program and events manager at the Center for Women.
“We’ve worked with female veterans. We’ve worked with domestic survivors. We’ve had women participate who have master’s degrees,” she said.
No matter how different women appear on the outside, the objective is the same: To help them identify and achieve their goals.
The Center for Women partners with local organizations to work with a group of women with similar interests or challenges, such as teens or women over 50, and the course content is tweaked to address each group’s unique challenges. The program wouldn’t run without dedicated volunteers, experts in fields such as human relations and career development, who give their time and knowledge.
Though the time commitment is very manageable – two hours, one day per week, for six weeks – the women get a lot done in that time, including preparing resumes, doing mock interviews, filling out applications and choosing appropriate interview outfits. But R4W goes far beyond that.
“There are other places you can get your resumes reviewed, but it starts and ends there,” said Garrett.
In the R4W program, women also learn about the power of nonverbal communication and first impressions, personal goals, how to overcome fears and how to build confidence.
Diane Sancho, who went through the program in late 2015, was happy to discover that it went beyond simply helping women find a job.
“It was more introspective,” she explained. “We identified strengths and weaknesses and how we would describe ourselves. We focused on what we want people to know about us – what we’re proud of.”
Sancho, who has her master’s in Social Work and had been out of the workforce for a year after 30 years in administrative positions, credits the program for helping her discover what she truly wanted to do.
What she wanted, she realized, was to be an entrepreneur. Sancho now runs her own business, South of Broad Eldercare Services, offering resources and counseling services for caregivers to those with dementia. It was not something she had seriously considered before R4W.
“I thought about it, but I never really believed I could do it,” she said. “I credit the Center for Women for giving me the confidence that, yes, this is something I can do.”
Women entering the program often have low confidence, and one of the goals of R4W is to rectify that. Leila Shebaro, an Americorps Vista volunteer who manages the R4W program at the Center, considered the source of that lack of confidence.
“Many women have been told that they’re not good at their job, or they’re discriminated against, or they’re pulled away from the workplace and have a hard time getting back in,” she said. “An experience that shattered the way you view yourself leaves you with a lot of self-doubt.”
Participants work on building confidence from week 1. The volunteers foster a cooperative and safe environment where walls break down and friendships form quickly. Week 1 is such a positive experience, they can’t wait to come back for week 2.
When the women “graduate” from the program, they get a certificate of completion as well as complimentary membership to the Center for Women, where they can take advantage of the other programs and networking opportunities the Center offers. Garrett and Shebaro also reach out to past participants to ask them to be mentors. In the future, they want to track past participants and measure success rates. For now, they are happy to watch success stories in the making.
“Most of the time you can literally see the transformation,” said Garrett. “You see a woman at the start who’s not very interested in being there, and, over the six weeks, the smile comes to her face, and her posture changes. By week 6, she’s ready to conquer the world.”
“Women are just incredible. They are amazingly capable and powerful and dynamic and intelligent,” said Shebaro. “That’s what I think is so gratifying about Ready for Work – all we do is remind women that they can accomplish what they want to accomplish. Having the opportunity to send that message every day is very rewarding.”
To participate in Ready for Work for free or to volunteer, contact Leila Shebaro at email@example.com or at the Center for Women at 843.763.7333, ext. 206.