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LISC/Accenture Workshop Shows Job Seekers the Ropes

By: Annie Grossinger
Published: November 3, 2015

Clients from LISC Chicago's Financial Opportunity Centers were actively engaged in the Accenture "Skills to Succeed" workshop, which is designed to get job seekers "the skills they need to lead productive lives.” 

Photos by Annie Grossinger

Few ventures are more intimidating than navigating the job market with little experience or for the first time in years. From making connections to the final interview, you are required to promote yourself in order to stand out – but, how?

On October 23, LISC Chicago and Accenture hosted a workforce development event that targeted networking and interview skills. It’s considered a next step for Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) clients who have completed a resume workshop and are looking to sharpen their job-hunting skills. 

Fifteen clients, in interview attire and with fresh resumes, arrived at Accenture's Loop offices to learn techniques from Accenture volunteers. Accenture has run similar programs for other Chicago nonprofits, such as Back on My Feet, but this is a first for LISC Chicago.

“Our focus for Accenture Corporate Social Responsibility is employability,” said Karen Oldeg, Accenture’s senior manager of technology and consulting. “Our program is called Skills to Succeed, which focuses on enabling people to get the skills they need to lead productive lives.” 

LISC, the Financial Opportunity Center staff, and Accenture worked together to determine what the best fit for the clients would be and how that would align with Accenture’s goals. The workshop group discussions were followed by a one-on-one practice sessions focusing on networking and online professionalism, interview skills, and mock Interviews.

Deautry Thompson jots down notes during the Interview 101 Session.

The key factor was realism, according to Seung Kim, National LISC’s program director, family income and wealth building. “Clients are comfortable with their coaches, but interviews are different. It’s a stranger, often in a new neighborhood, and often someone who is very different from them. This offered a realistic opportunity to talk in a way they wouldn’t be able to replicate at their site.”

From the beginning, the room was alive. It became a safe place for clients to engage with the speakers. 

“I liked that they let people ask questions,” said Gabriel Dunn, an FOC client from the Woodlawn Resource Center. “It didn’t matter if they were in the middle of speaking. They paused and took the time to answer. It showed their patience.” 

Dunn, who had two interviews scheduled for the following week, was excited to participate so the lessons were fresh in his mind.

“I know I have the passion and want to succeed,” he said. “They are here to help me succeed.” He described himself as a man trying to get back to where he was, before a hospitalization forced him to leave his job. Now healthy, he believes the practice will be beneficial in his search. 

Like Dunn, Latoya Davis was looking for a refresher. After spending 10 years in the retail industry, she found herself back on the job search with only vague memories of what it was like before. 

“I wish I knew this stuff earlier,” said Davis, with a smile. “I’ve never had to go out in the field before. I’m nervous. I’m used to selling products, not myself.” 

“Everyone has the same qualifications,” Melody McCrory. “I want to make myself memorable. I want to stand out, so after they see everyone they think, ‘I remember that woman because she brought something different.’”

Since many of the clients had a clear view on the areas in which they wanted to focus, the sessions took on an air of an open forum. They asked questions, sometimes answering for each other or opening up about similar experiences. 

“What do you do if you’re working a job currently that doesn’t match your resume?” asked Mohamed Abdulla, a client, during the interview skills session. “Do you keep it on your resume or leave a gap?” This sparked a lively discussion on how to tell a “SOAR (situation, obstacle, action, results) story” – a personal story of perseverance that sheds light on certain skills. 

For the final session, the clients were given a hypothetical job description for which they would have a mock one-on-one interview with a trained Accenture volunteer. It provided them with an opportunity to put to test everything they had learned.

During his mock interview, Andre Franklin struggled to find an answer to a question that seemed too similar to one he had previously answered. Flustered, he said he didn’t know. 

“After the interview, my interviewer said to go home and think of three main points of what makes me, me,” he said. “Then I should combine them into a scenario so I can talk about it easily. I have to transition my thinking.”

Ronzell Brown discusses what he learned during his one-on-one mock interview at the Accenture workshop.

The pilot workshop also has homework. The clients were asked to fill out surveys on how to better the program. These will be brought to a meeting on November 18 with the center program directors, where there will be a discussion about next steps. 

“My inclination would be to build upon this – maybe to two-to-three times per year,” Oldeg said. “We would engrain it into the LISC/Accenture relationship.”

That relationship is a national one. Since December 2012, Accenture has provided LISC with $650,000 in grants to help low-income individuals in three cities – Chicago, Indianapolis and San Diego – acquire career and workplace skills directly aligned to the job needs of the communities in which they live. 

“The event in Chicago is a great example of how Accenture’s support goes beyond the financial investment,” said Kim. “We welcome the opportunity to tap into the knowledge and expertise of more Accenture volunteers over the coming years.” 

In the meantime, the first round of participants have already returned to the job market with a new perspective.

For more information on the Financial Opportunity Centers, contact Jennifer McClain, or (312) 422-9563.

Posted in Areas of Work, Neighborhoods

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