ELVERSON - From September through November, Hopewell Christian Fellowship is hosting a free eight-session Crossroads Career Network program designed to provide individuals with the skills needed to find a career which is right for them.
The program combines online career resources, including Crossroad’s nation-wide job database, with friendly and supportive group sessions to take participants through its six-stage process of career exploration and job search techniques.
“This program is open to the entire community,” said Mark Kraybill, Pastor of Care, Community, and Outreach for Hopewell Christian Fellowship. “Whether you are unemployed or underemployed this program can help you find a secure job in your field or help you move up within your field.”
Hopewell has been hosting sessions of the Crossroads program for four consecutive years, and Kraybill said that the majority of those who complete the program go on to find jobs.
“Our intent with this program is to help meet needs that are important for the people of the church and the community,” Kraybill explained, “with this program we help people lead productive lives.”
Five years ago Kraybill and four unemployed Hopewell Christian Fellowship parishioners went to a church in Lancaster County to experience the Crossroads program.
“We were intrigued by Crossroads because we had several church members who were unemployed at that time,” he explained.
Before too long, each of the four Hopewell parishioners had found jobs. The experience was such a success that Hopewell registered with Crossroads so that the program could be offered locally.
Jon Spahr, one of those four parishioners, has been leading the Hopewell Crossroads program since its inception.
“In 2008 I lost my job, and I was unemployed for seven months,” Spahr said. “I know how it feels, I remember the uncertainty and the feeling of inadequacy… …you get ‘shell shocked’ when you have spent fifteen or twenty years working somewhere and then one day it is over. I (volunteered to lead the classes) because I have a level of empathy for those who are in the same position I was in. I have a special place in my heart for people struggling though such a situation… … and this is my way of paying it forward.”
Spahr said that looking for a fresh start after being in the workforce for a long time can be tough because it is a whole different world than the one you remember.
“The days of walking into a business and handing in a paper copy of a resume are all but gone,” he said. “Crossroads provides people with the technology and the tools needed for today’s job market.”
As Spahr put it, Crossroads approaches unemployment and underemployment simply as “a transition period” between the present and a future of being gainfully employed in a career or a vocation.
“Crossroads first helps you identify your strengths and talents,” he said, “and then it lays out a plan, gives you a strategy for working the plan, and lets you operate toward your goal.”
He added that Crossroads is suitable for people of all walks of life.
“Typically we see people coming in who are in the 20 to 40 age group, but the lessons are applicable to everyone. I have had classes where a corporate executive is sitting right next to a homeless person. There are also resources for self-employed people to help them with landing freelance and contract work. When I was younger I would have loved to have had access to a program like this. It is very helpful.”
The program involves activities such as participating in mock interviews, building a powerful resume, and becoming familiar with the professional networking process. Special guests, such as local human resources professionals and executive officers, pay visits to the group to offer real-life insight into what businesses look for in job candidates.
Dave Leib, 43, of Geigertown, is a member of Hopewell Fellowship Church who took part in the Crossroads program last fall.
“I was unemployed for a short time after being the Chief Financial Officer of a company in Reading. For me, after being in the workforce for 20 years, my job searching skills were dull. Crossroads helped me developing a myriad of skills I needed at that time. It was a ‘soup to nuts’ program on how to conduct a productive job search.”
For Leib, the most fruitful gains came from learning how to best focus his finite energy and resources for a job search.
“When you are unemployed your inclination is to spread your efforts thin and wide because you think that this will give you the best chance of finding work,” he said. “I found out that this is actually counterproductive.”
A month after completing the program, Leib found a job as VP of Special Projects for Associated Wholesalers in Robesonia, a job which he said is right in line with his career path.
“Crossroads was definitely a great experience. When you are in a situation like I was, there is comfort in numbers. Plus it was very useful to hear the concerns of others, and their frustrations too. I was surprised with the various backgrounds of those in the group, but all were there with one interest in mind.”
While the program is free, it does not mean that success is guaranteed. One must put forth a serious effort if they are looking to gain from the experience.
“This program definitely requires a fair amount of independence because you also need to put in time outside of the classes – at least one or two hours a week,” Spahr said. “This is not remedial, and we do not hold your hand through it, but the more you invest into it the more you will take away from it.”
He added that those who show the greatest level of dedication to the program, and thereby themselves, often seem to see better results. There have even been a lucky few who found work before they had fully completed the program.
Even after completion of the program, attendees can make continual use of the Crossroads job database. Further, Spahr said he is happy to make himself available to Crossroads ‘grads’.
“I like helping people throughout their transitions or even (second transitions) where they may be ready to move on or up to another job. I provide my email address and phone number to everyone so that we can do things like rework a resume or discuss other opportunities.”
Being a Christian-based program, the material presented by Crossroads incorporates scripture and biblical references, yet it does so in a manner which is inviting and all-inclusive.
“We are very welcoming to everyone,” Spahr said. “Certainly there is a religious energy to what we do, we open and close each meeting with a prayer, for example, but we do not place any pressure on anyone. We are simply here to help you use the gifts which God gave you - your passion and your talent.”
Hopewell Christian Fellowship is located at 2286 Hopewell Road, Elverson, PA 19520. Call 610-286-6308 for additional information.
Program classes are held Sept. 24, Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, and November 5 and 12. Classes begin at 7 p.m. and typically run 90 minutes in length.
To register for the free eight-week Crossroads Career Network program visit www.hopewellChurch.org/marriagefamily/crossroads_career_network
Interested parties are encouraged to register immediately. Those wishing to participate after the program has started will be offered consideration up to week three of the course.