ROSWELL, Ga. – It was a match made in heaven. The Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Roswell Rotary and the Roswell United Methodist Church’s Job Networking program have reached out to one another to partner in bringing local job seekers and employers together.
In a true community effort at Roswell United Methodist Church Dec. 10, Chamber President and CEO Brandon Beach, Roswell Rotary President Jacque Digieso and the Rev. Mike Long, senior minister at RUMC, took the stage at an RUMC mini-job fair to make the announcement.
They were backed by 19 employers representing nearly 500 employment opportunities throughout Greater Atlanta.
But is just the latest chapter in the RUMC Job Networking story.
This Dec. 10 Job Networking event was just one of the latest mini-job fairs sponsored by RUMC and the Rotary Club of Roswell. RUMC’s Job Networking program has garnered national attention in CBS News and the New York Times.
CNN just recently contacted the volunteers at RUMC about including them in a special series coming out next year.
Jay Litton, who took on the program as its titular head since 1997, said it is part of the ecumenical Crossroads Ministry nationwide. These days, Litton and volunteer leader Katherine Simons spend a lot of their time teaching other churches how to duplicate what they do.
Litton said they saw about 75 people a month at those sessions in the late’90s. Then after Sept. 11, the demand really ticked up in the ensuing year seeing 150 people each meeting through 2003.
“But all that was just God preparing us for what happened in 2008,” Litton said “When that recession hit, we started seeing 300 to 400 people a week. We had expanded our networking services and beefed up our volunteer base just in time to deal with what has come since 2008.”
In 2010, RUMC Jobs Networking held a conference on starting a similar jobs program. More than 200 attended.
Simons put together a step-by-step document that became a how-to book for starting a volunteer program. She calls it “Love Thy Neighbor,” and has sold 1,800 copies in what is a niche market.
“We sold 40 copies to the chamber CEO in Dalton because he wants to get a jobs program started there. The carpet industry has really been hit hard by all this,” Simons said. “It’s kind of a cookbook with the recipe for getting started.”
In recent years, RUMC Jobs has consulted in getting similar programs in churches as far away as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Norfolk, Va., and Nashville, Tenn.
“It’s just like compounding interest. We grow what we do every time another church starts a jobs ministry,” Litton said. “It just multiplies our efforts.”
For years, RUMC Jobs has been helping job seekers write resumes, rehearse interviews and learn how maximize their job search. A new wrinkle has been added that has been popular.
“Donna Litton [Jay’s wife] had the idea for what we call Attire for Hire. That is where we match up gently used ‘interview ready’ suits for men and women that are to wear on their interviews,” said Simons.
“It has just taken off. We have been doing this just three months and have matched up 275 suits with interviewees.”
Simons pointed out that they had professional volunteer consultants to help people get a resume together, get an interview set up and then hurt themselves when they did not present themselves well.
The chamber became interested when RUMC began its mini-job fairs. They are just one hour long in the evening; thus it is convenient for both job seekers and employers and does not take a lot of time, Litton said.
RUMC Jobs recruits the employers who are only too happy to get the chance to pitch their positions to several hundred eager job applicants. Of course the homerun for the applicants is to go home with a job.
A mini-job fair at RUMC begins with workshops starting at 1 p.m., teaching job seekers the most up-to-date search skills, as well as how to interview with successful results.
Rotary provides many professional volunteers such as Hal Coleman, an expert on social media, and David Reddick, a corporate headhunter for more than 20 years.
Local employers who attended sit with job seekers during a dinner provided by RUMC and the Rotarians.
After dinner, applicants interview for the positions that are a fit for them for the next hour.
The next program is Monday, Jan. 14. The next mini-job fair is Monday, Feb. 11.
Simons recommends employers interested in participating should contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jay Litton at email@example.com, by Monday, Feb. 4. Signing up early gives employers a full month of advertising at no cost via Job Networking’s expansive social media network and websites, Simons said.