Editor's note: This is the 5th post in our "Celebrating Work" series, and is written by Christie Ray Harrison, a mentor ("Champion") in a 2017 Jobs for Life class at The Bowery Mission in NYC. Christie shares her perspective from the class, and what she learned about the importance of having a good supportive community during your job search and career planning process.
A few months ago, I had the chance to be part of a Jobs for Life (JfL) class in New York City at The Bowery Mission in Harlem. I knew a little bit about JfL from growing up in Raleigh, NC, where some of my friends and family have been involved, and was thrilled when two organizations I love in New York—The Bowery Mission and Hope For New York—decided to partner together to launch JfL here in the city for the men and women of The Bowery Mission.
The Bowery Mission has several locations throughout the New York metro area, including longer-term transitional housing centers where homeless and hurting men and women can stay for several months and receive holistic care, including spiritual guidance and career advice. In 2017, The Bowery Mission started incorporating the Jobs for Life curriculum into their career guidance process. They recruited volunteers through local churches and Hope For New York to serve as "Champions" (mentors) who met weekly with the students in the program, helping them hone new job search and career skills they learned in the JfL classes.
When a friend in my church in New York asked me to think about serving as a Champion at The Bowery Mission, my first instinct was to politely decline and cite my lack of experience and career knowledge as the main reason. I’m only in my first “real job” out of college, and even though I’ve been in it for 5 years now, I still feel newer to the working world and far from qualified to be giving career advice to others. However, as I thought and prayed more about serving, I remembered how the Lord had led me to my job. In His grace over many months of job searching during my senior year of college at UNC-Chapel Hill and the months following graduation, God provided an incredible number of different people who shaped and guided and helped me in their own ways.
It was through community that I found internships to build different skills in marketing, received advice on my resume and cover letters and LinkedIn profile, and learned valuable wisdom about various career paths and the job search process. Even my job wasn’t something I found myself—when I moved to New York, God provided a church small group for me where I met another recent grad who worked in marketing, Stacey, and she introduced me to the hiring manager at her agency, where I interviewed, got an offer, and still work today.
As I thought about the many people God had used to advise me, coach me, counsel me, and connect me to opportunities in my path to my current job, I realized that even with my limited experience, if I gave Him the chance, He could probably use me to help others in their job search journeys.
I applied to be a Champion, and as soon as I met my mentee, Eva*, on our first day, she confirmed this for me. She is many years older than I am, and had 25+ years of working experience in the radio industry before hardships in her life and family led her to the Bowery Mission women’s program, but she was grateful just to have someone who cared to meet with her every week and work on her new JfL skills. Eva warmly welcomed me and any help I could give her with appreciation and enthusiasm, and paid no mind to our differences in age, career path, or background.
As we spent Wednesday nights reviewing her job skills assessment results, practicing her elevator pitch, building her resume, and brainstorming the right roles for her to apply to in a few months when she graduates from The Bowery Mission program, I not only found myself with a new friend, but also found myself learning just as much from Eva and our time together as she was supposed to be learning from me. I was even inspired to go refine my own resume and elevator pitch after helping Eva with hers. Even more importantly, as Eva shared stories with me of God’s faithfulness in the ups and downs of her life, I walked away each week with deeper assurance of God’s grace and renewed gratitude for His provision through community in my own life and early stages of my career.
*Name changed for protection
- Christie Ray Harrison, Fall 2017 JfL Class Champion at The Bowery Mission Women’s Center, New York, NY