“I wouldn’t have taken the path that I did”: How JVS Career Services Changed the Course of Alex’s Life

“You don’t expect someone with a low GPA to go to an international marketing competition, but thankfully I found my passion and was able to go to college, thanks to JVS Career Services,” said first-generation American, Alex Katz.
Alex was born in the United States, but his parents are from Ukraine and Azerbaijan

“Growing up, I was taught Russian by my grandparents because they didn’t know English,” he explained. “When I went to school, I went to English as a second language for a few years.” And it was in those classes that Alex was able to make lifelong friends. “I made a lot of friends, I did a lot of clubs, played a lot of video games, but I just didn’t take school as seriously as I should have.” As a result, his grades suffered.

Things changed, however, during Alex’s junior year of high school. That’s when he discovered DECA—a program that gives high school and college students a hands-on approach to marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. “That’s something that really sparked my interest in business,” Alex said. “That’s ultimately what led me to go down the path that I’m on now.”

DECA hosts annual conferences and competitions, and during Alex’s first year in the program, he and a partner competed at the district competition, before advancing to the state finals. “Unfortunately, we didn’t advance further than that, but during my senior year, I decided to go solo. I was in a food marketing competition, and I know a thing or two about food!—so I did pretty well there. I ended up getting first at district competition, second at state, and qualified for internationals.”

This newfound success came a little too late to boost Alex’s grades, though. “When I ended up graduating, I had a low GPA, and that obviously worried me. I had to go to college and do a lot of things that I wanted to do.”
Alex applied to schools he thought he could get into with a lower GPA, with the goal of transferring to the University of Cincinnati. “I got accepted to Northern Kentucky University and I received a small scholarship from them,” he said. “But it was still going to be really expensive. That’s when I went online to see if there were any Jewish organizations that could offer me a scholarship. That’s how I came across JVS Career Services for the first time.”

When asked why it was important to him to reach out to a Jewish organization for scholarship help, Alex said Judaism was a part of himself he wanted to explore and develop. “We are ethnic Jews. We celebrate Hanukah, that’s about it. But it was very important for me to become more involved in the Jewish community because I know it’s a great community that can provide a lot for me and for other Jewish individuals.”

Alex applied for a scholarship through JVS Career Services (JVSCS) and soon met with Dedra Perlmutter, a senior career coach at JVSCS. “We hit it off right away. We had a nice interview; we spoke about my goals and ambitions. But she also let me know that there were several people applying for the scholarship and that my GPA was pretty low. But she had a lot of faith in me, and spoke highly of me to the committee.”

Alex ended up getting that scholarship and was able to attend NKU his freshman year. While there, he joined the business fraternity, Phi Beta Lambda. “It was similar to the DECA program I was in in high school,” Alex explained. “I took part in the business competitions it offered and my partner and I placed first at the state competition in Kentucky, and we went to nationals in Baltimore. Doing those competitions is what made me work so hard in college.”
While living on campus he met a friend, who, years later, would let Alex know about an opportunity that became his first post-college job. In the meantime, Alex transferred to UC for his sophomore year and graduated in the spring of 2021. “I continued to receive the scholarship from JVSCS, which helped me immensely. I’m forever thankful for that.”
Alex also took advantage of JVSCS’ internship program. “I got back in touch with Dedra and told her I was looking for an internship,” Alex said. Eventually, I was placed at Camp Livingston as the communications coordinator. I was going to be able to work with Russian kids, and that would give me an opportunity to use my Russian skills—something I’ve never been able to do in a work environment.” Unfortunately, that internship was supposed to have taken place in the summer of 2020—the peak of COVID-19—and the camp was canceled. “These things happen, but I’m still honored that JVS Career Services helped me secure that opportunity and that the leadership at Camp Livingston thought I would be the right person for that position.”

When Alex graduated from UC, his friend from NKU reached out to him to tell him about a career opportunity at Fidelity Bank, and Alex once again contacted Dedra, who helped him prepare his resume, coach him on his interview skills, and optimize his LinkedIn presence. “I had a great experience with Dedra and with JVS Career Services. I was able to get a great job at Fidelity—where I’m currently studying for the licensing exams. I’ve just been really thankful and grateful that people have taken chances on me over the years.”

“I’m so glad JVS Career Services exists,” Alex said. “It’s important to have a Jewish organization that values its people and wants to bring value to the city as well. For Jewish individuals, it’s a place to go to meet other people and to seek opportunities, whether they are scholarly or professional opportunities. And as a community as a whole, it’s important that there’s a Jewish organization that brings value to Cincinnati because we want everyone to succeed and be well off in this world. If we, as Jews, are doing our part in contributing, then that should be a good sign—and others could look at us and do the same thing.”

When asked why he kept coming back to JVSCS after receiving his scholarship, Alex said it was all about the relationships he formed and the personalized attention he received. “I kept coming back to JVS Career Services because I had a good relationship with Dedra. She always believed in me, and I’m so thankful for all the opportunities that were presented to me,” he said. “I also wanted to build a relationship where, in the future, I could approach JVSCS, not only for my own career needs but also to help future students who may be in a similar position as me. Maybe not everyone has the best GPA. Maybe not everyone has the best SAT or ACT scores. Maybe not everyone did a lot of extracurricular activities. But not everything you can offer can be on a piece of paper. Sometimes there are just things that you can see or feel, and I honestly feel like Dedra believed in me. She saw my potential because, on paper, I didn’t have much.”

Alex concluded, “Everything happens for a reason. If I didn’t get that scholarship, I might have never lived at NKU. I wouldn’t have met my friend who told me about this job, which led me to where I am today. Without JVSCS, things would have been much more difficult—financially and emotionally. I wouldn’t have taken the path that I did.”

JVS Career Services Is Carrying on the Workum Legacy

“The Workum Fund has partnered with JVS Career Services for the past three years, and in that time we’ve gotten to know the organization and see firsthand the amazing work it does,” said Elli Workum. “It wasn’t an easy choice, but I trust the JVS Career Services team to carry on the Workum Fund legacy.”

Elli is the most recent in a long line of women who have stewarded the Workum Fund from its origins as a scholarship fund to the institution that we know today—providing paid, supervised internships in local Jewish agencies to Cincinnati college students. For years Elli—along with Laura Glassman, Amy Magenheim, and the Workum staff—provided college students with career-related work experience and the opportunity to learn about the operations of Jewish nonprofit agencies.

The Workum Fund internships provide more than training. “They’re an investment in our up-and-coming Jewish leaders, in the amazing talent that our Jewish community has,” said Kim Slaton, Managing Director of JVS Career Services. “Not only that, these internships allow young adults a window into what Jewish communal work is like, inspiring many of them to consider careers in our organizations, or to get more involved in Jewish Cincinnati.”

“My Workum internship was the perfect opportunity for me,” said former Workum intern, Gail Duke. “I was able to focus on social media marketing, and I learned a lot about the Jewish community and all of the opportunities it offers, and different ways to stay engaged.”

“I am so, so grateful to have had Gail as my intern,” said Erica Nyberg, Development Marketing Director at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. “She brought so many creative ideas to our young adult social media presence, and even helped create a plan for us to continue to use after her internship was over. It was a mutually beneficial situation.”

This year, JVS Career Services took over the operation of the Workum Fund Internship Program, and is now administering all three of Jewish Cincinnati’s internship programs, including Careers Cincinnati and Onward Israel.

“We provide our students with so many different and exciting internship opportunities,” said Slaton, “but it’s truly an honor to carry on the 104-year-old Workum family legacy of service.”

This year, nine exceptional college students were chosen to participate in the Workum Fund Internship Program at Jewish organizations and congregations across Cincinnati:

Renee Blachman
Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center
Digital and Promotions Intern

Renee Blachman is a rising fourth-year student at Washington University in St. Louis and is double-majoring in Global Health and Spanish.

Outside of the classroom, Renee is a tour guide and on a Bollywood fusion dance team! After graduation, she plans to work abroad and eventually be in the business side of healthcare. At Indian Hill High School, she ran cross country and was involved in BBYO.

Renee was the Digital and Promotions Intern for The Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center.

Gabe Deutch 
Jewish Cemeteries of Great Cincinnati 
Research Intern

Gabe Deutch is a rising second-year Computer Science and Engineering student at The Ohio State University. After graduation, he wants to pursue a career in technology, but is still exploring the various options within that.

While attending Sycamore High School, Gabe was an active participant in the band, participating in both marching band and pep band in all four of his years. This has extended to college where he is currently a member of the Ohio State athletic band. Additionally, he was and continues to be an active member in the Jewish community through student teaching at his synagogue and participating in a wide variety of Jewish youth organizations.

Gabe was a Research Intern at the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati.

Emma Duhamel
Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
Planning and Allocations Intern

Emma Duhamel is a rising fourth-year student at the University of Cincinnati where they’re studying philosophy, social justice, and queer theory. Emma has always been passionate about the Jewish world and aspires to be a rabbi. In their free time, you can find Emma exploring Cincinnati’s food scene and learning about wine. 

Emma Duhamel was a Planning and Allocations Intern at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.

Brooke Fogel
Mayerson JCC  – Camp at the J
Communications Intern

Brooke Fogel is a rising third-year student at The Ohio State University studying Strategic Communications with a Psychology minor. After graduation, she is interested in working within advertising, social media, event coordination, or something related. 

While attending Mason High School, she was a member of National Honors Society, a competitive dancer, and Senior VP of Marketing for a student-led bank. 

Brooke currently serves as the Vice President of Programming for her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi. 

Brooke Fogel was a Communications Intern at the Mayerson JCC for Camp at the J.

Fletcher Guttman
Northern Hills Synagogue
Office Intern

Fletcher Guttman is a rising third-year Judaic Studies major at the University of Cincinnati. After graduation, he plans to go into Jewish non-profit work before going into rabbinical school. 

While attending Walnut Hills High School, he mainly focused his work on theater, earning him a CAPPIE award in 2017 for Best Supporting Actor in the musical Ragtime. Subsequently, he took a semester off to attend Heller High School in Israel. He is involved today at the Cincinnati Hillel where he plans to continue to cook for them.

Fletcher Guttman was an Intern at Northern Hills Synagogue.

Ariela Kurtzer
Marketing & Design Intern

Arela Kurtzer is a rising second-year student at the University of Cincinnati in the business honors program double majoring in Operations Management and International Business with a Spanish minor. Her plans are to combine her passion for art and theater with business to work as a leader in a creative industry or for socially responsible organizations. 

In high school she was active in the Jewish and theater community, serving as president of her BBYO chapter and earning a certificate in Acting from CCM. She is now involved with Hillel and Chabad at UC as well as serving as the Diversity and Inclusion Officer for her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha. 

Ariela was the Marketing & Design Intern for ish

Sam Vogel
Ohr Torah Cincinnati 
Research Associate 

Sam Vogel was born in Huntington, New York, and moved to Cincinnati in 2008. A graduate of Walnut Hills High School in the spring of 2020 he is currently studying Archaeology, which is the study of the human past, at the University of Cincinnati. In his spare time he likes to backpack, hike, play the guitar, and play video games. 

Sam was an Research Associate Intern at Ohr Torah Cincinnati.

Daniel Wasniewski
Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati
Workum Intern

Daniel Wasniewski is a third-year Political Science major at Wright State University. After graduation, Daniel wants to specialize in urban planning.

While attending Sycamore High School, he volunteered to deliver mail to the residents at Cedar Village. During the closing years of his high school career, Daniel volunteered as a docent at Heritage Village Museum. While in college, Daniel participated in the Interfaith Hospitality Network as a Food Procurement Specialist and an Overnight Attendant. He enjoys singing with the Adath Israel High Holy Days Choir. Also, he is a volunteer at Civitas, an agricultural collective that works to create community gardens in marginalized neighborhoods, as a means of establishing food security.

Daniel was an Intern at the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati.

Sydney Weiss
Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
Digital and Social Media Intern

Sydney Weiss is a rising fourth-year student attending Washington University in St. Louis. Sydney is pursuing a Psychology major with a Writing minor, and beyond graduation, she hopes to pursue law.

Sydney attended Sycamore High School where she participated in theater and journalism. At WashU, Sydney has participated in a writing scholars’ program, served as a mentor for first years, been on the executive board of WashU’s Best Buddies organization, and worked on psychology research. 

Sydney was a Digital and Social Media Intern for the marketing department at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. 

Interested in finding an internship? Visit cincyinternships.org for more information or contact Michale Evers, Director of Cincy Internships at 513-221-6728 or mevers@jvscareers.org.

Why Spring Graduation Candidates Should Begin the Job Search Early

“You need to start looking for a job in the fall if you’re planning to graduate college in May” advised Joni Burton, CEO of JVS Career Services. 

Many local colleges, universities, and trade schools offer fall career fairs and provide a variety of in-person and virtual opportunities. It is at these fall career fairs that many companies decide on whom they are going to hire in May.

“If you wait until spring to start applying, you may miss out on opportunities with companies that have already made their hiring decisions,” Burton explained. “The best opportunities are going to get filled in the fall, and you want to be the person who gets one,” she continued.

JVS Career Services can help you update your resume and polish your interview skills. We offer all of our career coaching services to students and recent graduates free of charge.

Check below for an easy reference guide to the upcoming career fairs. Contact JVS Career Services today for help getting ready at careerservices@jvscareers.org or 513-936-9675.

University of Cincinnati

UC Professional Day: Business and Arts and Sciences      

September 14, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: TBD

Technical Day: Engineering and IT 

Sept. 15 and 16, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: TBD

Xavier University

September 23, Time TBD

Location: Virtual

Miami University

All Majors Fall Career & Internship Fair

September 21, 12 to 6 p.m.

Location: In-person at Millett Hall

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Fair

September 22, 12 to 6 p.m.

Location: In-person at Millett Hall

All Majors Fall Career & Internship Fair

September 29, 12 to 6 p.m.

Location: Virtual

Careers for the Common Good Fair

September 30, 12 to 6 p.m.

Location: Virtual

Cincinnati State

Dates for the 2021-22 academic year have not been set yet, check website for updated information.

Post-Pandemic: What Will Companies Do Now?

By Joni Burton, CPCC, CEO

The COVID-19 pandemic was the most extreme disruption of the workplace since World War II. So what happens to the workforce after the pandemic?

According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, some workplace shifts are permanent. For work that can be done remotely without a loss of productivity, 20 to 25 percent of the workforce will shift to working part-time or full-time remotely on a permanent basis.

Should companies do away with Zoom and return to a pre-COVID workplace? For most, the answer is no. Over the past year, employees have proven that they can be just as effective while working remotely, and most want to continue enjoying this benefit even after the pandemic subsides.

Will employees even want to flock back when it’s safe again? How badly do employees want to hold on to the ability to work remotely? A study by Robert Half found that one-third of professionals (34 percent) currently working from home due to COVID-19 would quit if required to be in the office full-time. Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) said they prefer a hybrid work arrangement, where they can divide their time between the office and another location.

Given this new desire for remote work, how can business leaders create a new work world that will keep employees both happy and productive post-COVID? Managers will have to be accommodating. As much as some employees will crave the return of in-person social connections in the office, all have become accustomed to the flexibility that comes with virtual work—from less time to commute to more time with family and pets. Organizations need to find out what employees want and implement a model that supports the organization as well as the employees. Additionally, if an organization wants to emerge as successful post-pandemic, with top talent intact, it needs to attend more to the human side and a reaffirmation of its mission and values. For example, companies should encourage leaders to create time blocks, either online or in person, for the random connections that are critical for developing team culture.

Remote work can be an opportunity for an organization to attract talent. For example, remote work offers companies the opportunity to enrich their diversity by tapping a broader pool of workers who, for family or other reasons, were unable to join your organization before the pandemic.

Remote work of course has downsides, such as loneliness, which leads to higher rates of employee burnout, turnover, and disengagement. And contrary to widely held assumptions, better technology is not increasing a sense of connectedness, and in many cases actually has the opposite effect when depended upon as a substitute.

So what does a manager do to support their employees post COVID-19? Exhibit kindness: actively listen, check in, offer support and understanding, help connect employees to necessary resources, acknowledge their efforts, and thank them generously. Be creative and innovative about promoting kindness. By sincerely caring about your employees’ wellness and doing what you can to foster it, your workforce will be more engaged and, in the long run, more productive.

What is Work Going to Look Like Now?

By Dedra Perlmutter, Senior Career Coach & Human Resources Manager

It has been over a year, are you ready to go back?

Most of us are not. USA Today recently noted: “Forty percent of Americans prefer to work from home full-time, compared with 35 percent who seek a home-office hybrid and 25 percent who want to go back to the office full-time, according to a Harris Poll survey of 2,063 adults May 14-16.”

After all this time of remote work, are you ready to leave your home? Your kids? Your pets? Your casual dress code? What about your daily routine and flexibility? 

And more importantly, which decision—home, hybrid, or in-office—will your company make? Does your boss or CEO know the plans yet? In reality, no one knows the best answer yet, not even leadership. They can’t—this workplace revolution has never happened before. But it’s being talked about as on the same level as the tech revolution, or the industrial revolution that moved the West from agriculture-centric to factory-centric. Like these immense changes, the post-COVID workplace may revolutionize the look, feel, and even existence of your workplace, especially if you don’t do manual labor or service work.

The “new normal” may not be the same as the old normal, despite the power of tradition and familiarity. One reason? The efficiency of remote work caught the eye and pocketbook of CEOs. For example, a study by McKinsey & Company in early April found that 60 percent of businesses surveyed in early April said that their new remote sales models “were proving as much (29 percent) or more effective (31 percent) than traditional channels.” That’s 60 percent on the side of remote work being as good as or better than before the pandemic.

In addition, because of the drastic nature of the pandemic, companies from start-ups to stolid giants were forced to be innovative, flexible, and agile. That is good for you as an employee, because that attention to flexibility may remain, having proved its worth. It may mean employees get more choices, across a far wider range than previously thought possible.

Are the lines of communication open?

These days, many thought leaders who advise employers recommend consulting with you, the employee as they plan for their futures. Employees want to be heard and employers are listening.  Together, they are working through the numerous questions and individual scenarios that will result in a positive transition to the “new normal.” Since there are no correct answers, employees do have power to influence change. Speak to your peers, your manager, and HR, to let them know how you feel and what kind of workplace you would prefer. Respond to a survey if you are sent one on this issue.

The “new normal” may actually be, for some, the “old normal.” But, for many, “the workplace” may have a brand new definition. How collaboration, creativity, socializing and team-building happen may change. And you will be part of this revolution, just by working. The one thing we can all agree on is that flexibility, for companies and for employees, will be key to the “new normal” at work. 

COVID-19 Survival Guide: A New Emotional Reality After Vaccination

Ann Stromberg

By Ann Stromberg, MSW, LISW, Emotional Wellness Coordinator 

If you have made the choice to be vaccinated against COVID-19 you know that giddy feeling that accompanies the vaccination appointment. That little white card that shows the world we are fully vaccinated is our passport out of isolation. However, for some people, the joy of freedom can become anxiety caused by the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

If your hopefulness has been replaced with some new anxious feelings, you are not alone. Uncertainty about how to move forward is real. How do we become “normal” again?

What about reentering social and office spaces? Your first question may be whether others are vaccinated, and how safe you are as a result. People are also expressing anxiety about how we will interact. We are ready to break out, but what are the new rules? Spending a year socially isolated means many of us have become accustomed to spending time alone(ish). Inner conflict occurs because we want to connect, but connecting creates anxiety.

Do you wonder if you still know how to be social? We have all been there doing the awkward social dance: should I reach out to hug, shake hands, or what? It’s just not automatic anymore.  

Anxiety is normal. If you are getting ready to head back to the office or considering an upcoming social event, know that anxiety can be managed. One of the best strategies to manage anxiety is to troubleshoot the situation. Ask yourself what is concerning, and devise a plan to handle it. You may want to create an “exit strategy.” If you have a plan, you will feel more in control of the situation.  

Similarly, if you know you are returning to the office, you can troubleshoot first. Your office will have new policies in place; take the time to read them, or ask for more information. It is also always possible to continue to take the safety precautions that help you feel safe. One thing that is universal as we move out into the world is our choice, which gives us a sense of control, which lessens the anxiety.

Anxiety is like focusing on an object through a zoom lens, you only see a small part of the picture. Pulling back to the wide-angle lens you can see the big picture and the focal point fades into the background. Shift your attention to your space in the picture, and create the space you need.

Another perhaps surprising concern is getting used to socializing again. Little things like eye contact, small talk, and other people’s idiosyncrasies may take some time to get comfortable with again. It seems odd to think you may have lost some social skills, but a year is a long time. It is always easier to start back with small steps. Most importantly, accept that anything you are feeling is normal for you at this time. We will each have varying levels of comfort. Take a few minutes and assess what you need. Listen to what your instinct tells you. We spent twelve-plus months in a truly unprecedented situation. Moving forward, it will take some time to feel “normal” again.   

More Than a Network: JVS Career Services Helps Client Get Back to Work and Inspires Him to Give Back

“If you’re not willing to listen, you’re not willing to learn,” reflected Brad Wagner on his experience with JVS Career Services. “The career coaches there are in the profession of helping you develop your professional skills, and if you’re not listening to them, you’re not benefiting yourself.”

Wagner lost his job of six years in May of 2020, due to COVID-19 cutbacks. “It was a complete shock,” he said. “I had just taken on a new role around the start of 2020, and I was growing a new team and taking on new responsibilities. Then March came along, and we were all sent home. Then in May I got a call from my boss and HR. I was expecting a pay cut, or a furlough—I was not expecting to be let go.”

Wagner had envisioned spending the next 20 years with the company, but he understands the reality of the situation and harbors no ill feelings. “I still talk to a lot of people there,” he said. “After six years, you build not only professional relationships, but also friendships. And I believe in not burning any bridges, because you never know what’s going to happen down the road.”

Understanding the situation doesn’t make losing a job any less scary. “It was pure panic,” he said. “It was right in the middle of COVID and it felt like no companies were ever going to hire again. But I’m not one to sit around and wait on handouts. I was on the phone, and I called more people the day I lost my job than I had in a really long time.”

One of those calls was to JVS Career Services, which had helped Wagner find a job a decade ago. “I had success with JVS Career Services back then, so I reached out to Kim Slaton and she put me in touch with Dedra Perlmutter.”

Wagner said Perlmutter made him feel confident and secure about his job search. “After the first time we met, I had this feeling of, ‘Where did she come from?’ Dedra was able to help me update my resume, my LinkedIn profile—she made it all look so easy. And that took a major stressor off of me.”

In addition to polishing his resume and online presence, Perlmutter helped Wagner navigate the new world of job searching. “Brad is a master networker,” she said, “but there’s more to looking for a job than networking, and a lot has changed since the last time he had to do it.”

One of those changes involved learning how to present yourself on a video call, “Dedra was always telling me a suit and tie never hurt anyone,” Wagner said with a smile. Other changes focused on the evolving nature of the interviewing process, “and all of the different, non-human, interactive personality tests,” he said. “It was also about putting in the extra effort of writing a thank you note—not just an email—right after an interview. Dedra also worked with me on how to research people and connections on LinkedIn. She worked with me on how to navigate those tough interview questions, and to develop different ways of answering them to catch the interviewer off guard and get them intrigued.”

Wagner began interviewing for his current position in July, and started in August, after having been let go in May. “It was a pretty quick turnaround,” said Perlmutter. “Brad was only officially out of work for two and a half months, but to him it felt like an eternity. It’s a testament to how seriously he took his job search. He was constantly on networking calls, and he’d tell me, ‘I have this, this, this, and this,’ and I’d have to reel him in a little, just to keep him organized, because he was reaching out to so many folks.”

“Everyone is so well connected at JVS Career Services, and that’s what sets them apart from other agencies or head hunters,” Wagner said. “The people at those other places, they’re pretty much just salespeople looking to get their percentage from finding you a job. But at JVS Career Services, you have the support of the entire team, not just a single coach. That extra care and attention is what makes them different, and it’s also what makes you different as a candidate.”

Without JVS Career Services, Wagner believes he would have polished up his ten-year-old resume and sent it out blindly. “There’s no doubt in my mind that without JVS Career Services, I’d still be unemployed. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.”

Not only did working with JVS Career Services help Wagner find a job, but it also inspired him to give back and donate to the organization. “You have to give back, look out for others, help that next person that needs it,” he said. “I can recommend them to JVS Career Services; I can share my story with them: ‘I’ve gone through this, it won’t be easy, and I can’t guarantee anything, but you need to trust the process.’ If we want these talented people to stay in town, we have to be willing to help them, because someday down the road they will be able to help someone else.”

Best of Two Worlds: JVS Career Services Helps Client Leverage Past Experience to Gain New Position and Cultivate Skills

“I had no idea what to do,” said Michael Hoffman after he lost his job in July of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “My resume was 20 years old and I never had to look for a job before—my two previous jobs found me.”

Hoffman said he tried a few things on his own, “but I wasn’t at all organized. I thought it would work like it did before—I just tell somebody I was looking for a job and they would point me to one.”

That’s when a friend recommended he start attending the free webinars for job-seekers from JVS Career Services. “I started to go to those, and that became part of the schedule I made for myself,” Hoffman said. “Having that to look forward to every Monday afternoon gave me something to focus on.”

Hoffman explained it was through those webinars that he learned the basics of finding a career in the 21st century. “I found out the things I learned in the 90s are outdated, and what was standard practice then would make me look out of touch now,” he said.

Eventually he took advantage of JVS Career Services’ offer of a free career coach to anyone who had lost their job due to COVID-19. “Brian Kerstine was my coach, and he was very helpful in getting me more focused,” Hoffman said. “He looked over my resume, set up practice interviews, and helped me polish my networking skills. He also helped me set goals—one of which was to send out 12 applications between each of our visits.”

Hoffman said Kerstine really pushed him out of his comfort zone and helped him apply for jobs that he normally wouldn’t. “Michael had skills that he didn’t know he had—we helped him discover those skills,” said Kerstine.

Kerstine recalls when he first encouraged Hoffman to apply for that position, it took some convincing. “He kept telling me that he wasn’t an analyst, and I had to point out to him his transferable skills that did qualify him for the role.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Hoffman, “that without the help I got from the team at JVS Career Services, I would still be unemployed.”

“The job I have now,” Hoffman said, “I never would have applied for without JVS Career Services understanding the talent I had within me—talent I didn’t even know I had. Long story short, I ended up in a position that is the best of two worlds. I had previously been in marketing research, and my new position is a marketing position. So I’m learning that role, but am also heading up the marketing research that will assist us with our marketing. So I get to do a little bit of what I know, and then I’m learning new stuff, too. I’ve even done a little analysis of market research that we’ve done in-house. So I can now say, ‘Yes, I can analyze data, too!’”

JVS Career Services helped Hoffman find his competitive edge, and expand the scope of his job search, while helping him articulate the skill set he had already developed. Hoffman believes that without JVS Career Services’ expertise, he would still be floundering; clumsily trying to network, while neglecting the scope of positions for which he was qualified. “I’m certain I would still be looking for work. Brian and the JVS Career Services team kept me focused,” Hoffman insisted. “They pushed me. Then, when I started having success, and going on interviews, that encouraged me; it showed me that I was doing something right—that people saw something in me and wanted to talk to me. That success keeps you going.”

Hoffman has already encouraged a few of his former colleagues to reach out to JVS Career Services. “About a dozen of us lost our jobs this summer,” he reflected. “And I’ve told them about my experience. I can’t recommend it enough. Brian was like my coach, teacher, and boss—all rolled in to one. Everyone at JVS Career Services was always very helpful, and very willing to give advice.”

To learn more about the wide variety of services JVS Career Services provides, please visit their website at: jvscareers.org.

Covid-19 Survival Guide: The Season of Hope

Ann Stromberg

By Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

Hope is an emotional state that we have all experienced at one time or another. It is a trait inherent in everyone, and we all possess unique levels of hopefulness. Hope has several definitions: a feeling of expectation, the desire for a certain thing to happen, and wanting something to happen.

While we all have different levels of hope inherently, it is something we can increase with our beliefs and actions. Hope is also an important driver of positive emotion and happiness! We all need to see the future as full of potential during every stage of our lives.

Hope is a future-oriented belief system rooted in the belief that our dreams can become reality. One of the greatest times in life when hope is present is the changing of the seasons, especially winter into spring. Did you notice a positive shift in your outlook over the past week as we shed the mountains of snow and enjoyed some beautiful sunshine? It’s almost impossible not to feel a mood boost as we anticipate the onset of spring, perhaps more in 2021 than ever before!

The opportunity to head outdoors to enjoy all the beauty of spring along with the potential to socialize again naturally creates hope for our future. Being hopeful enhances our performance in all areas of life from academics and sports to career and relationships. Hope is closely related to optimism and happiness, and it’s essential in a positive mindset.

One phenomenon of the pandemic has been a loss of hopefulness due to social isolation, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future. If you have noticed that your level of hopefulness has been strained or reduced due to the events of the past year, there are strategies to help increase your hopefulness and happiness. The energy of the change of seasons is the perfect time to start! To begin to cultivate hope, you need to start with self-awareness.

Pay attention to your thoughts and ask yourself, does this belief help me? If the answer is that it does not, then take steps to change that belief and commit to it. Often just acknowledging the faulty belief is enough to make a shift. Create a list of reasons why the belief is false to help to create a new mindset for yourself. Writing a new story about our life and our life’s journey allows for the potential to create a hopeful future. Visualizing a positive future is essential for growth, along with the belief we can accomplish it. The belief we can do something creates hope and has the bonus of improving our brain health!

Growth is always good, it not always easy but it is good. Our belief that we can try something regardless of the outcome is key to maintaining a growth mindset. A boost in self-esteem occurs through our efforts to try and to work toward a goal. Honestly, is there anyone that can’t benefit from a boost in self-esteem?

To achieve change and to create a more optimistic, hopeful future also requires good self-care to maintain the incredible body and brain we are given. Movement, good nutrition, and good sleep not only help us feel better but also boost our immune system. Although creating good habits can be hard, it is so important to our well-being. There is no reason to make wellness a chore, a good balance is the 80/20 rule, which means 80% of the time you are focused on wellness you will utilize our good habits, and 20% of the time we allow for some time off without guilt.

Our mind, body, and soul are so deeply connected that when one area falls out of balance the rest falls out of balance too. It is easier to feel happy and hopeful when we feel good physically. If some of your good habits have taken a back seat during the winter, let the shift to spring be the reason to clean things up. Take advantage of the positive energy of the season to enjoy a new hopeful, optimistic way of life.

If you’re having trouble developing good habits, check out this Covid-19 Survival Guide: Habits post for inspiration.

Talent Acquisition for Nonprofits

A critical component of any successful talent management strategy is a strong plan. For many nonprofits, talent acquisition efforts are limited to placing ads, sifting through resumes, interviewing, and ultimately hiring and hoping for the best. To ensure your nonprofit is making the right hire, serious time should be given to developing an acquisition plan designed to attract qualified candidates, and effectively assess those candidates for skill and cultural fit. Here are four things your talent acquisition strategy could be missing:

Strong Employee Value Proposition

Have you defined your organization’s employee value proposition (EVP) in a way that clearly defines the value, rewards, and benefits your employees enjoy? Effective EVPs are simple, focused statements that summarize why someone would want to work with your organization.

To create an EVP, compile data from Employee Engagement, Onboarding, and Exit surveys. Work to identify key trends from these three types of employee/company interactions. This information might touch on the benefits your employees value, aspects of the workplace culture that help them succeed, or simply what they enjoy about working in your organization.

Strategic Sourcing

Are you placing ads on Indeed or LinkedIn and thinking that’s all there is to it? Or are you carefully targeting candidates on industry-specific or function-specific career sites? Strategically and proactively sourcing a talent pool for your organization’s current and future positions is paramount to building a robust and successful talent pipeline.

Review the data you’ve received from hiring sources to determine where you’re finding the best applicants. Review the resumes of current high-performing employees to revisit their backgrounds. Think back to where you found them, then use that information to streamline which sources you use for your latest searches.

A Candidate-Driven Focus

A positive candidate experience can be the difference between a failing talent acquisition strategy and one that routinely delivers excellent hires. To stay competitive, your organization needs to think about what applicants want; what will turn them off; what will attract them and encourage company loyalty; and what will result in the candidate selecting your organization over others.

It’s a good idea to stay in close contact with your applicants. Collect feedback from those who have been through the application process, and gather information on their attitudes toward your organization. You’ll want to ask what they thought of your particular application process, as well as what they think you could improve upon.


Review the vision for your workplace culture. Do you value having a group of employees who know, like, and trust each other? Is your company a place where employees feel valued and supported? Are there mechanisms in place to help employees work through difficulties? Are you striving to create an environment where work-life balance is prioritized? And finally, it’s a good idea to ask: what defines your company’s culture? Once you arrive at a fair and truthful answer, do everything you can to achieve it.

It can be hard developing your organization’s talent acquisition on your own. That’s where the expert help of JVS Career Services can come in. To learn about the wide variety of executive services JVS Career Services provides to Nonprofits, click here.