JVS Career Services Reinvented: Career agency grows and changes to meet the needs of a blossoming Jewish Cincinnati

September 2015 was a record month, with 27 clients beginning new chapters in their career journeys. That’s more job starts in one month than the agency has ever seen, and the future only looks brighter.

By Barbara Miller, Director of Community Building, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati

Some things never change. Throughout history, the Jewish community has continuously prioritized helping people get to work.

Jewish Vocational Service was founded 75 years ago to do just that; only back then, the Jewish community was largely made up of immigrants looking to make new lives for themselves in a new country. Now, we are college students, looking to jumpstart our careers. We are business executives, climbing to the top of our industries. And we are everyone in between. Just as the career needs of our people have evolved, the agency with a mission to meet those needs has, too.

Over the past few months, this agency has transformed to embody the qualities of its new name: Jobs Vision Success Career Services (JVS Career Services). Guided by the beacon of Cincinnati 2020, Jewish Cincinnati’s collaboration to build an engaged and empowered Jewish community, JVS Career Services has expanded its services to support jobseekers throughout their careers; from intern to senior-level executive. The agency has also changed to meet demand from the employer side of the job market, launching a whole host of recruiting and staffing services for Cincinnati businesses.

“When Jewish community leaders thought about the kind of Jewish community we want to be in the year 2020, everyone agreed that it made sense to grow JVS Career Services,” said Kim Slaton, JVS Career Services Managing Director. “They realized they were going to have to invest very heavily in the jobs piece if they wanted Cincinnati to become a city that’s going to lead America in attracting and retaining people.”

A grant from The Jewish Foundation provided the capacity to double the agency’s size. With extensive experience in recruiting, Joni Burton came on board in February as the new CEO. She oversees a staff of a managing director, three career consultants, a business development manager, and an office administrator. Together, the team’s approach to serving jobseekers has gone from reactive to proactive.

“In the past, people have thought of us as resume writers. People to run to when they’re desperate for a job. We’re still here for those folks. But now, we’re more equipped than ever to come up with a proactive career plan for a client. That’s not just finding a job. That’s helping people reach heights they may never have thought possible. That’s changing lives,” said Burton.

Services for the applicant

From helping their clients navigate social media career sites like LinkedIn, to providing them a place to interview via webcam, JVS Career Services has updated its menu for jobseekers. They offer free workshops on resume and cover letter writing, networking, and interviewing. For those ready to take the next step, there’s a package that includes three customized one-on-one sessions with a career consultant, unlimited email and phone follow-up support, and even help negotiating offers.

“People are paying big dollars for this elsewhere,” said Slaton. “When clients realize the deal they’re getting here, they can’t believe it. They see that we’re experts in this. We’re not just shooting from the hip here. We know what we’re doing. And we do everything that an expensive career consulting company does, except we’re not charging those fees.”

Services for the employer

In addition to broadening services for people looking for work, JVS Career Services is now helping employers in their search for qualified applicants. With her years of expertise in recruiting, Burton has started a business within JVS Career Services, where employers pay the agency to fill positions.

“We will do everything from documenting the job requirements, to understanding the culture of the business, to sourcing the candidates, to conducting the interviews, to negotiating and even writing offer letters on behalf of the companies that hire us,” Burton said.

The JVS Career Services team is also debuting a cutting-edge online searchable jobs database. In a matter of months, they’ve already developed relationships with more than 50 employers, and that number is growing daily. Those relationships only enhance the agency’s ability to help people looking for work.

“Where are these companies going to look first to fill those positions? From our candidate pool!” Burton said. “We’re spending a lot of time with the relationships on the business side so we can develop their trust to pick our job seekers’ resumes out of the pack.”

Because of this new investment in employer services, JVS Career Services is seeing more demand from senior-level executives who are looking to take the next step in their careers.

“We’re working with lawyers. Insurance agents. Engineers. Physicians,” Burton said. “We’ve negotiated offers for some of the executives here in the Jewish community who are changing jobs. We get them better benefits and salaries so they can walk in and feel really good about their offer.”

A whole new level of collaboration

Inspired by Cincinnati 2020’s objective to more efficiently and effectively collaborate across Jewish communal agencies, JVS Career Services is working with Miami University and University of Cincinnati Hillels to connect college students with Cincinnati’s top employers through the Careers Cincinnati internship program. The agency is also helping Workum and Onward Israel interns fine-tune their professional portfolios. This past summer, with JVS Career Services’ help, 46 college students were employed in Cincinnati internships.

“It’s part of our process now when we’re talking to these employers. We’re documenting what internships are out there and we’re working with the Hillels to advertise them,” Burton said. “These college students that do engage us, they soar when it comes time to graduate.”

The agency has also developed a partnership with the Esther and Maurice Becker Networking and Mentoring Center, the young adult engagement arm of the Federation focused on creating a connected young Jewish community. The two organizations host joint programs and networking events for young professionals.

“When young adults are thinking about where they want to settle, the Becker Center helps them integrate into and network within Jewish Cincinnati’s social scene. We are focused on the jobs piece,” Burton said. “We work together as a team because you need both pieces to attract and retain young people.”

Ringing in the future

The frequent ringing of a small brass bell inside the JVS Career Services offices is a constant reminder for staff that the agency’s reinvention is already a success.

“Whenever someone starts a new job, we ring the bell,” explained Burton. “And it’s been ringing off the hook!”

From January through September of 2015, 156 JVS Career Services clients started new jobs, a 38 percent increase over last year. The economic impact of those 156 jobs, based on the total reported annualized salaries, is more than $8 million. On its own, September 2015 was a record month, with 27 clients beginning new chapters in their career journeys. That’s more job starts in one month than the agency has ever seen, and the future only looks brighter.

“I think we’re going to be known as the career center for the Cincinnati community,” said Slaton. “At 75 years young, we have a strong board and wonderful support from the Jewish Federation, The Jewish Foundation, and the community as a whole. We will continue to set the standard.”

“Working Magic”: JVS Career Services catapults careers for family of 5

By Danielle Minson, Chief Development Officer, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati

When long-time Montgomery resident Carol Wolkoff sent her 24-year-old daughter Rachel to talk with Dedra Perlmutter, a career consultant at JVS Career Services, she had no idea the visit would result in new career opportunities for her entire family.

Six months later, Rachel is happily settled in a new career. Carol’s son, Jeffrey, is excelling in his first job out of college. Her college-aged daughter, Samantha, is ready for the right internship. What’s more, Carol and her husband, David, have discovered that work can be fun again. Both have started new careers utilizing their existing skills in more satisfying and challenging ways.

“JVS worked its magic for all of us!” said Carol.
Rachel: finding the courage to change paths

It all started with Rachel, who had a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but was curious if another career path might work better for her.

Dedra updated Rachel’s resume, showed her how to network using LinkedIn, and administered several career assessments.

“Turned out, Rachel has a very outgoing, extroverted personality and she decided she had an interest in becoming a recruiter,” Dedra said. The two worked over the course of regular sessions to build Rachel’s portfolio and prepare her for interviews.

It wasn’t long before Rachel had landed a job with Maxim Healthcare Services, a home healthcare provider.

“Dedra really helped me see that there were so many opportunities out there for career paths, especially in the healthcare field,” Rachel said.
Jeffrey: perfecting the presentation and negotiating for the best opportunity

“Rachel met with me two times, and she said, ‘I have to send my brother!’” Dedra recalled. Soon, Dedra was meeting regularly with Jeffrey Wolkoff, who was about to graduate from the University of Cincinnati.

“I was starting to apply for teaching jobs, and I was clueless,” Jeffrey admitted.

“He was very confident,” Dedra said. “He had the skills and the personality, for sure. He just needed to do things the right way in order to get himself in the right position to get the job he wanted.”

The two worked together to make Jeffrey’s resume stand out by highlighting his coaching experience. They carefully put together application materials for him to take to an upcoming job fair, and they worked on his image.

“I recommended he get a tie to help market his enthusiasm for the school he wanted to work for. He picked out a green tie that matched their colors!” Dedra said. “At the career fair, he got a lot of interest. Schools heard about his coaching experience, and they saw him standing out with his bright green tie,” she added, with a proud smile.

After the fair, he got a number of calls from school systems with which he’d left his resume. Then it was a matter of picking the right offer and negotiating the best package.

“When it was time to make a decision, I called Dedra. We walked through all the possible situations and we picked the best option for me,” Jeffrey said. He accepted a coaching and teaching offer from Hamilton City schools.

“Dedra is more than just a resume helper,” Jeffrey said. “She’s a friend and a lifeline.”
Samantha: launching a career by preparing for an internship

It wasn’t long before the youngest Wolkoff sibling, Samantha, caught wind of the success her older sister and brother had through JVS Career Services.

“After seeing their progress, I decided it was probably a good idea to start to schedule meetings,” said the University of Cincinnati business major.

Dedra polished Samantha’s resume, and the two have been working on Samantha’s interviewing skills while Dedra continues to look for upcoming internship opportunities.

“I now feel like I know I’ll have a future after I graduate college,” Samantha said.
David: re-inventing a resume and making the right connection

Having seen what JVS Career Services did for his three kids, David Wolkoff was hopeful Dedra could “work her magic” for him, too.

“He hadn’t job searched 13 years, so he really had nothing put together that was anywhere near current,” Dedra said.

She helped David define his background and get his experience formatted into an updated resume. The materials came together just in time for a facilities management opportunity that Dedra heard about before the job was even posted. She put David in touch with the hiring manager, and it was a perfect match.

“It sounds serendipitous, but it wasn’t,” Dedra said. “This is what we do every day. It’s our connections. We’re working both sides of the aisle. While we’re nurturing our clients, we’re doing the same thing with our business contacts.”
Carol: “My entire family is forever grateful”

After having watched her entire family re-invent themselves, Carol started wondering if, after seven years as the Assistant Aquatics Director at the University of Cincinnati, there might be something better out there for her, too.

What Carol thought might be an arduous job search came to an end in just two weeks, when two different employers called with interest. Thanks to Dedra, Carol’s resume was updated and ready to go in time.

“What people don’t realize is that when there’s a job that’s available, things don’t drag on. It happens like that,” Dedra said. “I had her ready so she was able to take action on that job.”

Dedra also helped Carol craft an exit strategy, which allowed her to leave the job she’d spent nearly a decade doing in time to take an exciting new position in administration at Sycamore High School.

“My entire family is forever grateful to Dedra for her care and diligence. It transformed all of us!” Carol said. “JVS Career Services is batting 100% for the Wolkoffs,” her husband David chimed in.

Wolkoff_wDedraDedra Perlmutter (right), JVS Career Consultant, with the Wolkoff family.