Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finding Employment Through the LDS Employment Resource Center

Please don't assault my sense of reality by telling me the end of the world is near because of the economic meltdown we have been going through. . .  based upon my experiences of the last several months I can assure the whole world there is still hope, there is still life to be lived, and there are jobs available in increasing numbers.  The emperical data continue to stream into me.

I think it would be safe to say that when I made my very first entry on this blog page about the LDS Employment Resource Center during my own job search that I probably had no idea then what a pivotal position it would hold in my life as events of this past year have unfolded.

As most readers of this page will already know, Patsy and I were called in November 2009 to serve as a senior coordinating missionary couple, Chair of the Professional Placement Program in Salt Lake.  That's always such a mouthful that I have condensed it -- my job is Chief Evangelist

We do so very little in exchange for what we receive in blessings.  We are blessed with a strong staff of capable volunteers who themselves are actively seeking employment, but are donating their time and resources for the benefit of others.  The devotion, the love and kindness of these wonderful staff members cannot be overstated or underestimated.  In serving they are served, and we routinely have to come up with new staff members as the old ones move on to accept new jobs.

At 8:00 a.m. every Monday morning (except holidays) we convene a networking meeting at the LDS Business College 1st floor multi-purpose room (southwest corner of 300 West and North Temple) where we greet a crowd of usually 130 to 150 immaculately-dressed professionals seeking new employment opportunities.  Each week we see 30 to 40 new folks who have just heard about what we are doing.  We open the meeting, the training, the resources to all without regard to which church they attend, the color of their skin, their gender, or their ethnic background.  What we have to offer one we offer freely to all comers.  Please spread the word.  There have been many, many satisfying moments since then, and they continue to mount.  Little did we know when we accepted the calling how much we would be blessed in the assignment.

Each week I get at least one or two phone calls from people who will say something like, "I understand you're the guy with jobs at the Church."  Then they will proceed to tell me what they are looking for and wait expectantly for me to fill their order.

Sadly, it doesn't really work that way.  I sometimes wish it were that simple.

Tomorrow, Peggy Fletcher Stack, a religion feature writer for The Salt Lake Tribune will attend our Monday morning networking meeting to learn more about what the Church is doing to assist those who are unemployed in their respective job searches.  We will no doubt say to her something like this, "Nothing has really changed much since the inception of the Church's Welfare Plan back in the early 1930s, except that the concepts and the tools have been sharpened and updated and they're better than ever.  We are still teaching the same core principles of self-reliance coupled with donating a generous fast offering to temporarily assist those in need."  It's the Lord's way, and it still works.  Here's the link to her article.

Those who come seeking the resources we offer quickly learn they are in command and are solely responsible for their own job search.  While we offer resources the Church has developed that are second to none in excellence and usefulness, we state clearly to all participants that they alone are the responsible party in the end.  If they immerse themselves in the training, if they take action, if they do as they are directed, if they learn how to network effectively, if they implement the suggestions we make, if they will serve others, then invariably they find what they are seeking.  Many have attested to that fact.

Here is a small sample:

"Dave, I want you to know that you were right.  I came to the first networking meeting having no idea what to expect.  While I was there, I gave my 'Me In 30 Seconds' statement off the outline form I was handed.  That week I took the Professional Career Workshop, and it completely refocused me on my skill sets.  I was frozen in my past as a real estate salesman, but I realized I could sell anything and that I could re-invent myself.  Two weeks later an employer in attendance at the weekly networking meeting singled me out, got in touch with me later in the week and offered me a job."  Then he handed me his newly-minted business card and said, "You were right -- it worked!"

Another wrote recently:

"I just wanted to thank you for your support and kindness through my unemployment process. I have verbally accepted a huge pay cut :) and an employment offer with Intermountain Healthcare. They seem to be a solid organization with lots of potential growth opportunities.
"I may not get a chance to come in on Monday to thank you in person. I would be happy to share more details about how important networking was to me finding this position. I've actually had 3 offers in the last 3-4 weeks and decided I better take the bird in the hand and hope that it develops into more but I will continue to keep my network alive."

We don't always hear about everyone who consummates their job search successfully, but those who take the time to tell us assure us the skills they gleaned from the process are invaluable:

"Sorry I missed your phone call at about 4:45 today.
"I was in a meeting with the 'biggies' and some builders, ie., Ivory, Perry, Hamlet, and others.
"Couldn't get out....
"We should get to lunch on Monday or Tuesday... (Monday is NOT a holiday for this employed guy)
"We're seeing the listing market share come our way quite fast. 13 listing appointments today, 13 yesterday, and so on.
"I'm the 'managing associate broker' so that means I get the problems from the agents and have to psyche them up.
"I also have the 'builder' files. That's interesting...we're co-listing properties. We simply charge $2,000 for all the media advertising we do (print reaches 1 million people, internet- who knows, iPhone apps - ?) so for the 2 grand, especially on the higher priced properties that have 10, 15, 20K commissions, what's 2,000 in advertising the size that we provide?
"Anyway, how I got the job is the miracle story...and that we will save for lunch...
"Talk soon."

This came from a woman who attended the Professional Career Workshop and the Monday morning networking meetings:

"Hi, Bro. Goates, I just want to let you know that my employer (owner) was so impressed with the organization of the [networking] meeting and the quality of the candidates, he is beside himself with excitement. We initially were going to fill in one sales position but will now add on two other sales managers and promote them to Regional Sales Managers. We are excited for this new growth in our company and very much appreciate all the accommodation of the staff for all their help.
"I am personally indebted to you all for helping me obtain employment. Lori Thurston passed a job lead by me for a receptionist/secretary position opening, she said would you mind, the owner needed help, etc. I said well why not, I go to the interview and the owner was so impressed with my resume and references he offered me a higher position. So now I am helping to run his business, he consults with me on business development, I am creating systems and organization, helping him in all operations. It's pretty exciting and just the right opportunity for me.
"Again thank you all very much! I got my Christmas wish in 2009, 2010 looks nice and bright."

Here's another "textbook example" of how our process works:

"I’ve secured employment effective 01/25/10 as a Senior Consultant with EC, a healthcare consulting firm that specializes in hospital and physician practice economics. The time between my last day at 3M and my first day at EC was three months, a short time span given today’s job market. I credit this short time in large part to the tools, training and professional networking I gained through LDS Employment Services.
"My success in securing this role is a textbook example of the techniques and principles taught in the workshops and the training in the weekly Monday morning meetings. Just a few examples:
• Networking – I discovered EC through a contact I had established at the Monday morning networking meetings.
• After discovering EC, I used LinkedIn to determine which of my existing contacts knew people who work at EC. I leveraged one of these contacts to make an introduction for me.
• Informational Interviews – My initial meeting with EC was an informational interview. They were very impressed but indicated that they had no opening positions.
• Networking – I subscribe to multiple healthcare industry electronic newsletters that I receive each week via email. I briefly review these articles and save copies of articles I’m interested in, which I index for future reference. While doing this, I often find articles of high importance to the people and companies I’ve contacted or interviewed with. I email a copy of relevant articles to people in my network with a brief note of how I thought about them and how the article may help them. I typically receive an email response acknowledging receipt of the article and how they appreciated my thinking of them. I use this practice to add value to my relationships and remind them of my interest and expertise. This is exactly what happened with EC and they invited me back for an actual job interview, not just an informational interview.
• Portfolio – When I met with EC the second time, I brought my portfolio to illustrate examples of my work. This portfolio was instrumental in helping them see first-hand the quality and creativity of my work. This was much more effective than simply verbally describing my work, which is inherently complex. They were extremely impressed and even commented that my work was better than much of the work they were currently delivering.
• Hidden Job Market – There is indeed a hidden job market. Every company has unmet needs or substantial challenges, which they attempt to fulfill with existing staff and resources. However, when they find someone who can meet and exceed these needs even better than they imagined, they can’t help but want to create a position. This is exactly what happened with EC; they created a position for me knowing they’ll see a strong return for their investment.
• Service to Others – Serving at the Welfare Square Employment Resource Center and in the Bountiful Temple, as well as actively referring job opportunities to members of my network, has helped me stay focused and avoid discouragement. I’ve been discouraged a few times the past three months, but such discouragement is fleeting when you forget yourself in service.
• Take Care of Yourself – I’ve maintained my early morning exercise routine, scripture study and personal reading, regardless of what else is happening in my life. A personal, protected routine gives me a sense of control when everything else seems out of control.
• Job Coach – My brother has been my job coach. He’s been compassionate, yet objective. He’s helped me be accountable to myself each week.
"I’m grateful to you and the entire staff in the Employment Resource Center for your training and support. I’m grateful too for your willingness to serve. Thank you, thank you. May the Lord bless you for your goodness and service."

And this is just a small sampling of the stories we hear each week.  The economy is rebounding, the evidence is overwhelming, and the goal at our Monday morning networking meeting is simple -- we will only do it for as long as it takes to empty the room and no one else shows up! 

The miracle of it all is that it costs the participants NOTHING!  Training is offered and received freely.  There is no government entitlement program costing the taxpayers trillions of dollars.  There are very few paid people at the ERCs -- it is staffed almost entirely by volunteers giving of their time and means to help others.

In the infinite goodness of the Lord, he has given us the perfect example to follow through the turbulent economic times in which we live.  He has given us the living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.  Said he recently, “I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish — and in effect save their lives.” (Ensign, November 2009, 85).

There are currently 330 Employment Resource Centers worldwide, and the Church will soon announce the rollout of the new website that is still in Beta testing but is nearing completion.  The site will become, in my humble prediction, the defacto marketplace where employers can meet and select qualified candidates in a worldwide searchable database that will be initially introduced in three languages with no doubt more to follow. 

As I have been writing about Zion again on this blog page, let me add one more word of testimony.  The process I have observed of brothers and sisters interacting and sharing their knowledge, encouragement, and networking contacts with one another is certainly to me an evidence of the highest expression of the law of consecration I can imagine.  It is exactly what the Lord envisions when he tells us to love one another and to care for one another. 

We're all in this quest for Zion together, and the ERC is where daily examples of the quest can be observed.  How blessed Patsy and I are as we continue to be a small part of it!


  1. Wow! Thanks for writing this all down, David. Thanks for sharing it. I agree, service is what life is all about and I'm sharing this with those I love.

  2. Those comments and stories from job successful job seekers made me cry! Thanks for sharing, dad. I'm so grateful you and mom get to taste the joy of these miracles - what a loving God we have. Love you.