Success Stories

A letter from Gretchen Smith

I was devastated when I learned of my impending layoff in 2011. My immediate thought was, “Don’t fall apart, you have skills.” I have a masters degree in social work and have worked years supporting women in life crisis. There I was, 50 years old and facing some of the same problems I helped others maneuver through. I started planning and mapping out how I would approach my job search and filling my days while unemployed.

I knew I needed to have a place to report to every day—a home base other than my home. I needed this to be my job and my unemployment check my compensation. WorkSource seemed like the logical answer. This is embarrassing to admit, but I really didn’t know anything about WorkSource except that my TANF clients had to go there for mandatory work searches and were sometimes placed in sanction if they did not. I was prepared for overworked grumpy staff that just ran their clients through the job mill, so to speak.

I started immediately with orientation, learning the resources available and how things work. I attended every day staying 5-6 hours. I asked questions, helped other customers who looked lost and decided to throw myself into everything I qualified for. In my first couple weeks I completed all the training classes available for interviewing, resumes etc. What I learned from this was that I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did about finding a job. Also, I was blown away by the level of professionalism and expert staff. I felt the staff were excited to be there sharing their information with us.

Staff grew to know me (remember I was there every day for Pete’s sake) and they would stop by while I was glued to my computer to see how things were going. When you’re unemployed, I found that family and friends don’t really know what to say or say nothing at all. Even when people try to be supportive they really don’t know what you’re going through. Customers at WorkSource and staff did. What I realized is these people really care about what they’re doing, it’s genuine. So with that someone came up with the brilliant idea of a support group that came in the form of “Job Club.”

I joined “Job Club,” a 10-week job support group that allows a forum for “us” to support each other, bring resources, provide a safe place to make mistakes and learn, and have fun while going through what for some might be one of the worst times of their lives. There was always a staff coordinator who had a loose agenda for our meetings but we were given the opportunity to add to the agendas if it was helpful for us. I met people who I am still in contact with today. Let me tell you if there is ever a time when support is needed, this was it for me. Many of us discussed that this resource was very therapeutic. We were not alone in this.

I went on to get involved in WIA, and when I did find employment, they visited me on-site at my job and supported me through those first few tough months. My case manager encouraged me to earn my National Career Readiness Certificate. I completed it at the Gold level.

Getting involved with WorkSource was the best thing I could have ever done for myself at that very critical time in my life. I will pay all of that forward by telling people about my experiences and success with the help and support of WorkSource.

~Gretchen Smith



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