By Scott Prater
Jennifer Barili was stuck in a job with limited growth potential. Her once-small children had grown and though she really wanted to change careers, she knew she’d need help just finding a starting point.
Brendan Rourke, on the other hand, was new to the Pies Peak region, and beyond frustrated about his latest job search, one which lasted for months, and had yet to produce anything promising.
Rachel Austin had recently obtained a bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university. She held plenty of hope and excitement about her new life in the business world, but had no idea what she really wanted to do.
Though these three local military spouses faced vastly different types of career challenges, one workshop would prove to be the solution each needed.
Eventually, they all learned of the Career Tracks workshop for military spouses offered by Schriever’s Airman and Family Readiness Center. After participating, they each looked at their job search in an entirely different light.
In an effort to support military spouses with their career endeavors, the Military Affairs Council and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce formed a partnership. The organization then invited representatives from military bases and members of the community to address the issue. The Military Spouse Career Committee formed as a result of the combined forces and shortly thereafter, its members designed the Career Tracks workshop.
The Military Spouse Career Committee formed as a result of the combined forces and shortly thereafter, its members designed the Career Tracks workshop.
“First, we created a survey that asked spouses, ‘what is keeping you from getting a job,’” said Nancy Seckman, MSCC committee member and community readiness consultant here. “They responded by telling us they needed connections, and they needed to know how to better present themselves to employers.”
In other words, they weren’t looking for help writing their resumés.
Many spouses have become all too familiar with the pitfalls of looking for work. Attempting to find a job the old fashioned way — using shoe leather, a cell phone and a stack of resumés — often results in nothing more than blistered feet, form-rejection letters and a bruised ego.
MSCC committee members knew they needed something better.
“The Career Tracks workshop isn’t just about finding a job, it’s about clarifying the direction of your life,” Ms. Seckman said.
Organizers, including a facilitator and usually some MSCC committee members from area bases, spend the first day in an interactive setting, covering the aspects of change, confidence, clarity and commitment.
To make the workshop hum, committee members knew they had to nab the right facilitator. Ms. Seckman said they found that in Kimberly Hessler, a 20-year veteran facilitator of Transition Assistance Programs.
“Kimberly (Hessler) is an energizer bunny,” Ms. Seckman said. “She doesn’t just impart information, she’s pleasant and friendly and interactive. Really, she’s meant to be a facilitator, and she can do it for days.”
Ms. Barili is convinced the facilitators “made” the workshop.
“I think it’s easy to regurgitate a ton of information to people,” she said. “But, to actually have real-world experience and a passion for helping people… that’s not something you can fake.”
Typically for the second day of the workshop, the facilitators bring in an employer panel so attendees can interact with employers, ask questions, obtain advice, and network, something organizers continually hammer home during the workshop.
“I thought the practical exercise of pitching yourself to an employer was the most helpful,” Ms. Barili said. “I understood that it was important to be able to speak to someone, and to be persuasive about your abilities, sometimes on the spot, to a complete stranger.”
Career Tracks is offered four times each year, and rotates between venues at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Peterson Air Force Base. It’s for spouses only, those of active-duty military, reservists, DoD civilians, and retirees.
Back when the workshop was first offered, class sizes averaged around 15 to 18. Nowadays though, most classes average 25 or larger.
Ms. Seckman said most attendees are surprised at how effective and enjoyable the workshop can be. Those who expect to learn about resumés and interviewing find instead that they have a better understanding of what they desire in a career. They also tend to walk away with more confidence and be better motivated to tackle their career search.
“After months of being worn down with little-to-no progress on getting interviews, I found this class to be a great stepping stone in my employment search,” Mr. Rourke said. “Learning about the Colorado Springs market and how vital social contacts can be, gave me quite a bit of motivation in the job hunt.”
Word of the workshop’s success has spread rapidly.
MSCC members presented the work shop as a “best practice” during the 2008 Career Management Alliance conference. This year, Jeannie Lopez and Chris Alfano from the USAFA Airman and Family Readiness Center will present the workshop as a “best practice” during the 2011 Family Resilience Conference April 25-29.
To find out more information about an upcoming Career Tracks workshop, contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 567-3920.