The women who participate in Women's Employment Network's programs leave WEN with either a job or an action plan for employment. However, WEN is a transformative experience for their families too. Here are some snapshots of the families WEN helps.
One Woman's StorySandra, a stay-at-home mother of four, came to WEN looking for help transitioning back into the workforce after spending several years taking care of her young children. She knew she was ready to work again, but was worried about how she could continue to manage the household, run errands and help her kids with homework once she was employed. The Personal Development Workshop "Goal Setting & Time Management" gave her a solution that involved the whole family. During her job search, she made a list of all the tasks that needed to be done and got her children involved in housework, which opened up more time for her to apply to jobs. Sandra reflects, "I had to make them help me, but they're old enough to do that, and it let me accomplish more." Now Sandra has a full-time job at a print shop, walking-distance from her home, which allows her to make the most of her time and balance her work and home lives. She's pleased that her children still help by doing their chores.
Recognizing Mom's AchievementsAt WEN's most recent class graduation ceremony, five of the nine women graduating had children in the audience, ranging in ages from infancy to teen. The presence of children made the day all the more poignant; reminding everyone in attendance just how important finding a job is to those with little ones who depend on them. The children listened patiently as Director of Program Services, Lynnette Williams, recognized the efforts of each of the women and presented them with a certificate of completion. Two of the children had drawn a special picture for their mother, and gave it to her as she received her certificate.
The women who graduate from WEN and find work are better able to give their families the resources and support they need to thrive, and even more importantly they become role models to their children and communities.
Women come to the Women's Employment Network to recreate themselves professionally and forge a new path to success through sustained employment. By the time many of our women arrive, they have been out of work for an extended time, their resources are dwindling, and they have lost their sense of self-worth and they are questioning their skills and value in today's job market.
The women who come to WEN for our five-week training program benefit from a structured job-search training program, individualized coaching, case management and WEN's professional clothing bank. But there's another component of the training program that cannot be forgotten: the tremendous support the women receive from the others in their class. At the graduation ceremony for Class #252 on December 14, 2012, the women thanked not only staff, but each other, for being there for them through the program.
Even after finding employment, WEN graduates still find ways to support one another, going as far as to hire other graduates. In 2012, three WEN graduates Paige (2010 grad), Mickey (2012 grad) and Kristie (2008 grad), who are now hiring managers at their companies, remembered WEN as a resource for qualified candidates. Between the three of them, they hired eight women from the program as employees. Mickey even hired women from her own training class!
As the 12 women of Class #252 begin the job application process in earnest, they do so knowing that they have the support of a vast network of women who have walked in their shoes. In the words of one of these graduates, Gale, as she accepted her diploma and thanked the class for being there for her, "I was lost but now I'm found."
On Friday, September 14, WEN hit a huge milestone. Our 250th class of women completed their 5-Week Intensive Training Program! Nine women completed the whole course and one was hired her second week into the program. Congratulations graduates!
We even heard back from one of our graduates today that she will be beginning a job as a Specimen Collector in a laboratory this Thursday. Two of the other women have interviews this week and we hope that the job offers keep pouring in.
Many of WEN's alums are active on our Facebook page, and several shared pieces of advice for this newest group of graduates. Their tips for the job searchers included:
We wish these women the best of luck and hope that in the coming years they will be able to pay it forward and help other women with their own advice and support.
Meet Joyce* (her name has been changed). She is an unemployed mom of two school-age children. Joyce had been unemployed for four long years. During that time, Joyce tried out a few local employment-prep programs and courses, but she never saw or felt their value. They left her disheartened, uninspired, drained - and worst of all, still without employment.
Then, one evening on-line, she happened upon WEN’s website. It seemed different. She called, came in, had her assessment and enrolled. The turning-point.
Joyce learned that WEN’s program would deliver, but she also realized she couldn’t just sign up and go through the motions. Joyce found that, at WEN, she had to invest in herself and commit to working hard on her process, that WEN expected a great deal from its clients. Invest in yourself – there will be a return.
Joyce showed up at WEN every day for the five-week curriculum. She did some real soul-searching, developed a realistic action-plan for her job-search and goals, created a strong resume and cover letter template, polished up her interview skills, got a new suit from the WEN clothing bank, and was ready to hit the pavement and find employment.
She identified her “dream employer.” And, with the help and support from the dedicated staff – and from the other women in her WEN class – Joyce was ready to make things happen. And she did. Within 3 weeks after graduating, Joyce was hired by her dream employer. She did not get her “dream job;” but she seized the opportunity to get her foot in the door. The job she accepted offered her the flexibility she needed to manage her family’s schedules and needs, a paycheck that would support them, and the opportunity for her to grow within the company for which she most wanted to work.
Joyce came back to WEN a few weeks later to speak to the new WEN clients. She addressed the class and told them the importance of having realistic goals – that where you start is not where you will end up, to always believe in yourself. Joyce actually put her foot in the doorway of the classroom to demonstrate her point. The message resonated!
Joyce’s story does not end here. As it turned out, Joyce would not receive her first paycheck until 3 weeks after she started. Joyce needed, but could not afford, supportive shoes for her new position – a moderate expense for some, but untenable for Joyce. Thanks to a Special Assistance Fund at WEN, we were able to purchase these shoes for Joyce so that she could manage and succeed in her new position.
Joyce is still employed with her “dream employer.” And she’s well on her way to her “dream” job there as well. Most importantly, Joyce is taking care of herself and her family. This is not the “end of the story” for Joyce; it’s just the beginning of a new and happy chapter. All of this is possible because of Joyce, her hard work and her diligence. But none of this would be possible without WEN.
Big, systemic change can start by helping one woman secure employment and become financially and emotionally self-sufficient; WEN is the agent for this change. WEN’s core program endeavors to awaken, increase, and maximize our clients’ abilities to earn and maintain a living. WEN believes – and has proven – that, through our programming, helping women help themselves greatly improves the communities in which we all live, one woman at a time.
A young woman, *Kate* (name changed), in her late twenties, came to WEN. She was determined to change her life, make improvements, and take steps that would lead her to success and opportunity. She had held jobs and done just fine, but the bulk of her work experiences had been at Wendy's and McDonalds. She thought this -- and that she herself -- was not good enough, "less than." This was faulty thinking, it was self-defeating, and it was wrong. The women at WEN helped her understand, appreciate and realize that she had experience with customer-service, money-handling, and most of all, she had proven herself to be a reliable, trustworthy, and honest employee. She was someone who could be counted on. To this young woman, this truth that seemed clear to others was news to her. And it felt good when she learned it - and even better when she believed it and owned it.
Part of WEN's 5-week Employment Preparation and Career Transition Training involves attending workshops on various personal and professional development topics. One such workshop offered is "Finding Your Inner-Super Woman." Kate attended. And, no joke, the next day, she came into class and the WEN receptionist truly did not recognize her. Kate sat down in the WEN classroom, and the Program Director had to do a double-take because she too "saw" someone totally different. It wasn't just that Kate had changed her haircut (yes, dramatically, she had gone from a long-haired brunette to a red-head with a shoulder-length style). But it was that she was shining from within. Kate told the class - and our Program Director - that she had been listening, taking in, and contemplating all that she had learned over the past 4 weeks, and that it all just "crystallized" during the SuperWoman workshop. She was going to let that SuperWoman, who had been hiding in herself for so long, fly free. She was going to make way for changes, for good things, for a future to open up and happen.
The Graduation ceremony just concluded. Kate was there, proud of herself, happy - Super Woman on display. And she is poised and ready to take her new attitude, new sense of self, new resume and interviewing skills into her job-search-process and find herself that next employment opportunity that she deserves, can ably handle, and will love.
Another WEN success story. Way to go, Kate.
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Grant Writer/Development Coordinator