Finding a job — and eventually a career that pays a living wage — can be crucial for people who are trapped in abusive situations. Often cut off from household finances, these individuals sometimes come to us with only a few personal belongings. Traumatized by their experience, they often lack the self-confidence needed to pursue employment.
Family Shelter Service has offered employment services to its clients since 2004 and established its Career Club in 2008. Held bi-weekly, Career Club offers not only the traditional job search skills, but also recognizes the unique needs of these individuals in a highly supportive environment.
“Since 2011, Career Club has been funded by a grant from Allstate Corporation,” said Employment and Economic Empowerment Specialist Cindi Weyer who brings a background in both employee benefits and business management to the position.
“Our original curriculum was developed by a Family Shelter Service intern who was doing graduate work. Allstate modified and made additions to the curriculum and rolled it out to other shelters, as well,” Weyer said.
The Career Club curriculum is designed to be sensitive to the issues that domestic violence survivors face — trying to secure employment and financial independence while dealing with the trauma inflicted by their experience.
“We address things like safety issues and offer financial education for those who may have been isolated from family finances,” Weyer said. “Confidence is a major factor as well.”
Weyer helps clients evaluate career options and the type of job they would like. They learn to write resumes and cover and thank you letters. Interviewing skills, internet use and networking are also important elements of the curriculum.
To track clients’ progress once they enter the workforce, and to provide them with support to overcome obstacles they may encounter, Weyer is in the process of developing a mentor program to help clients develop skills and relationships that will help them work on their career development. According to Weyer, 36-38 percent of Career Club participants have found employment.
“The clients who attend these classes really run the gamut,” she said. “We have individuals with minimal education who have never worked outside the home and I’ve also worked with Master’s and Ph.D. level clients, which really speaks to the fact that this issue affects everyone.”
Weyer is continually amazed at the resilience of the individuals who attend her classes. “Although we work with people in crisis,” she said, “we also work with the beautiful part of strength and empowerment. I just had someone find employment who told me she had never had a job. She said that her new co-workers are really nice and now she knows that she can do it. I see a lot of that in this work and it’s very fulfilling.”