How To Get A Church Job – In 2010, Robert Muir was the chief financial officer for a data processing company in Salt Lake City. He enjoyed his work and performed well, often putting in long hours to ensure critical information was available. But when the company was unexpectedly sold, Muir found himself out of a job. “It came as a complete surprise,” Muir, the father of four, said of the sale of the business and its subsequent termination.
Muir eventually found his way to one of the employment centers of LDS Employment Resource Services in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he acquired new skills, clarified his professional goals and found a new position.
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LDS Employment Resource Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers multifaceted support to individuals who need work. As part of those services, the Church operates 117 employment centers that provide training, networking, practical experience and encouragement to job seekers. They are associated with Church-owned thrift store Deseret Industries facilities in the western United States, and in meetinghouses or office buildings throughout the US and Canada. In participating countries around the world, employment programs have recently partnered with the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund, an educational loan program. The administrative link of these programs provides both vocational training and workplace opportunities for eligible participants.
Muir reluctantly followed one of the strategies he learned at Employment Resource Services. “I was taught to write personal thank-you notes, but the thought of acknowledging 25 different people in a day-long series of interviews seemed too much,” he said. “But I did it. The extra effort kept me in touch with that employer and ultimately resulted in my job offer. It’s the little things you learn that really make a difference.”
“Someone without adequate employment turns their life upside down,” explains Scott Buie, a local church leader in Salt Lake City who serves as administrator of employment services across 28 stakes (as well as dioceses). “[That] challenge is one of life’s most difficult and has significant and far-reaching effects.”
“The employment program is all about giving hope,” explains Rick Ebert, the director of Deseret Industries and administrator of the program. “We apply the example of Jesus Christ to reach out to those in need and provide support in their personal efforts. The demand for such services has increased dramatically in the past several years, but we could help more than 100,000 people around the world find work in 2012.
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Since the early days of the church, members have worked to help others in their job search, both formally and informally. In the early 1900s, the Presiding Bishop, who oversees the physical and material needs of church members, organized a program called the Deseret Employment Bureau that operated intermittently until the Church-wide welfare program was established in 1936.
Help from LDS Employment Resource Services comes in a variety of ways, including career or self-employment workshops, professional placement programs, and networking and job guidance. Job seekers vary widely in educational and skill backgrounds, but each receives personal attention for their individual needs.
Applicants do not have to be members of the church to use their services, but all job seekers work through a local bishop (leader of a congregation). In his role as leader of the congregation, the bishop oversees the employment needs of its members. Supported by the leader of the Relief Society, the women’s organization, and a volunteer representative in the congregation, the bishop can serve as a link between the job seekers and LDS Employment Resource Services.
“We help people wherever they are,” says Christy Peterson, associate manager at the Sugarhouse Employment Resource Center in Salt Lake City. “We listen very carefully to assess their skills, abilities and needs. Once these are defined, we broaden the discussion to their interests, hopes and dreams. We gather all this information together to help develop a thorough plan of action to help find the right job for each candidate.”
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For Angelia Call, LDS Employment Resource Services provided exceptional support when she was left alone to raise two children. “I had given up and didn’t know where to turn when my dad suggested I contact Christy at the Sugarhouse employment centre,” she said. followed everything I did in the center. I had a lot of work experience but not much education, so they helped me revise my resume to emphasize my skills. Within six weeks I was trained, I interviewed and I have a great job in a positive workplace. ‘Team Angie’ helped me feel hope again. I can now buy our groceries, pay for the house and even take my children to a movie now and then.”
Individual plans guide applicants through a curriculum focused on goal setting, networking, resume writing and interviewing. Participants learn a technique called “Me in 30 seconds”, a short personal description to present to potential employers. They practice negotiation skills, devise a job search strategy and review that plan twice a week with a job coach.
Some applicants are given opportunities to learn additional workplace skills at Deseret Industries, according to Ben Maradiaga, Sugarhouse store manager. “Sometimes these skills are very small steps – just being on time or actually showing up to work every day. We help them set goals, tasks they can achieve to gain confidence in their abilities. We coordinate with local church leaders to inform them about their people Our goal, and that of their church leader, is to help them succeed, feel good about themselves and help them make positive changes in their lives.
Some applicants come to LDS Employment Resource Services discouraged and down, says Evan Bush, the development specialist at the Sugarhouse employment center. “They come with limitations or barriers to regular employment; they lack work experience or work skills or they speak a different language,” he said.
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A medical disability prevented Vivian Sapkin, a native of Brazil and single mother of two, from returning to an airline job. Vivian noticed that doors opened for her as soon as her bishop recommended her for employment.
“Sister Renee Adams, a volunteer counselor, helped me immediately,” reports Vivian. Vivian was able to get a job at Deseret Industries. “I had income while I was reevaluating my life and career goals,” she said. “Now I have a grant to attend radiology school at Salt Lake Community College, and I will still be able to work here while I receive the training.”
“We’re adapting their training here,” Bush said. “Even the most challenging cases generally complete their training and find work within a year.”
Peterson, Maradiaga and Bush work on staff in the church’s welfare services department, but most of the hands-on approach comes through the efforts of the church’s missionaries. At the Sugarhouse employment center, more than 40 volunteer missionaries serve one or more days each week and take responsibility for specific individuals. The missionaries range in age from 19 to 84, and come from all walks of life and varied professions. They perform the one-on-one tasks that encourage and educate the job seeker. Service missionaries staff employment centers across the country; some are called to serve full-time and others serve on a part-time basis.
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Sister Jerry Matheson, a volunteer counselor, comes to the job center every day. After a successful career as an executive assistant, she knows the value of listening to capture the details of individual circumstances. “It’s a steep learning curve to master the entire curriculum here, but our ‘can do’ attitude pays off when we don’t find every answer,” she said. “I keep asking questions and listening, and then people feel like I’m here to help. They say, ‘We know you care about us; we feel something different here.'”
LDS Employment Resource Services thrives on the combined efforts of many individuals working toward the same goal: “We help people get jobs,” Peterson says. “We’re helping them find a way to get back on their feet, back to supporting their families and back to being able to fully take care of themselves.”
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