Economic Recovery team rates its successes

Economic Recovery team rates its successes

Clients in job-seekers’ group receive support, find employment

Sheri Brown, left, and Carol Einhorn offer group and individual help to job seekers through the JFS Economic Response Initiative. Photo by Elaine Durbach
Sheri Brown, left, and Carol Einhorn offer group and individual help to job seekers through the JFS Economic Response Initiative. Photo by Elaine Durbach

Carol Einhorn and Sheri Brown are proud of how many people no longer attend their weekly meetings for job seekers. “We miss them — but it’s so exciting to know why they aren’t here,” Einhorn said.

The two women lead the Economic Response Initiative of Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey. With a two-year grant of $375,000 provided by the Jewish Federation of Central NJ, they have been running workshops and seminars — at JFS headquarters in Elizabeth, the JCC of Central NJ in Scotch Plains, and recently at Temple Sholom in Fanwood. They provide training and assistance on resume writing, interview skills, and job-seeking. Einhorn does one-on-one counseling, to help people deal with job loss and the financial and emotional stresses that come with it.

At those venues they and a roster of guest speakers have taught, and continue to teach, people how to sell themselves, how to give “elevator speeches” — the 30-second summary of what they do or want to do — and how to work networking sites, including LinkedIn.

By the beginning of April, when they spoke with NJ Jewish News, they had worked with around 225 people; 45 of them are now in new jobs. Almost all are white-collar positions, some — though not all — equivalent or better than the positions they had before.

With the economy still staggering, that figure is encouraging. “Things are better but it’s still very tough out there,” Brown said. “The process of finding a new job can take months, even years. And the hardest part is staying resilient and positive.”

Stanley Stone, executive vice president of the Central federation, said that Einhorn and Brown have combined “sensitivity and practicality” and have “in many ways made this a life-saver type of program, not only in terms of jobs, but also in providing somewhere to turn for people dealing with extremely difficult circumstances.”

They have funding for a few more months, thanks in part to using every cost-saving tactic they could. Stone said that given that the economic crisis is not yet over, the federation leadership is trying very hard to find the money to extend their mandate.

The two women function like tag-team wrestlers, adding to each other’s answers, filling in facts, and redoubling the enthusiasm they bring to their shared task.

“We’re a one-two punch,” Brown declared.

Einhorn is a social worker. Hired in April 2010, she helped select Brown, who had worked for a private personnel management firm and then volunteered with a job-placement service.

Both women said they urge people to “network, network, network,” because personal contact has proved way more effective than simply sitting at home working the on-line job sites, sending resumes into “the black hole.” A big part of keeping up morale, they said, is getting out and having social contact, and their meetings offer that.

‘Paradigm shift’

Brown and Einhorn said one of their toughest challenges has been to get across to more potential clients that their services — offered free of cost — are for people at all income levels.

Most of those coming to their meetings are 45 and older, skilled professionals with track records of long, successful employment in areas like finance, information technology, law, education, and the media, as well as retail and marketing.

A former client, who asked not to be named, said, “My new job is as an architectural technician working for a local architect. I was out of work for six months. Sheri and Carol kept their eyes on the big picture. They absolutely maintained that there is work out there and it could even be a good or great fit.

“They also foster a real community,” the former client said. “That’s how my job happened, through our job-seekers community.”

“The program that Carol and Sheri put together was exactly what I needed,” said Allen Darwin of Edison. He was out of work for six months and then took consulting positions for a year before being hired as CEO of Hartwell Apparel.

“Being out of work was very uncomfortable for me,” he told NJJN. “I had never envisioned it happening and was totally unprepared when it occurred.” He welcomed the Monday morning meetings at JFS. “They gave me something to look forward to and prepare for, just as I would when I was working.”

He said Einhorn and Brown helped him cope with the new job search picture. “It is truly a different experience than finding a position years ago,” Darwin said. “The rules, the methodology, the tools all have changed.”

In the group, he said, “I never felt that I was wasting my time.”

Former group member Deborah Klee Wenger is still looking for a permanent job, but she has been following Einhorn’s and Brown’s advice step by step, starting very close to home: She has taken an internship with JFS, writing grant proposals.

Wenger, who lives in Hillside, has a doctorate in the history and literature of ancient Israel from Boston University. She worked with the Jewish State — now shut down — for eight years, moving from staff writer to production coordinator, overseeing its layout and graphic design. To further those skills and with state aid, she has just completed a certificate in graphic and web design.

She told NJJN, “Carol and Sheri have walked us through the paradigm shift to this new world.” She said she learned a spiritual lesson from them too, that networking is about helping others as well as oneself. “It’s about really listening to people and what they need,” Wenger said, “with an ear to connecting them with resources and with relationships that will be mutually beneficial.”

For information on the JFS Economic Response Initiative programs and services, call Einhorn or Brown at JFS at 908-352-8375.

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