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CURRENT ISSUE:  December 15, 2008
VOL. 46, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Local pastors go to D.C. in effort to halt growing number of foreclosures
Catholic officials launch campaign for climate change
Parishes offer support
to those losing jobs
Coping with job loss
Father Padraig Greene, parochial administrator at the Catholic Com-munity of Pleasanton, and Mike Machi, volunteer coordinator of CCOP’s Employment Connections, will conduct a workshop on dealing with unemployment. It is open to all interested persons.

Date: Saturday, Jan. 10
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Place: St. Elizabeth Seton Chapel
4001 Stoneridge Drive, Pleasanton
Information: (925) 846-4489.

Mike Machi has been in the job recruitment business for 22 years and owns his own company. From this vantage point, he has witnessed a head-spinning spate of company consolidations, business closings, and dot.com busts over the years. But Machi, who also facilitates an employment support group at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, says he has never seen anything that comes close to the widespread loss of jobs caused by the current economic downturn.

“The last time in 2000-2002, the recession was technology-oriented. Now it’s financial. A lot of paths are being hit. For instance, the current problems with the auto industry will affect many more allied businesses, such as glass companies and manufacturers who produce plastic car parts and brakes,” he said.

Emily Hause, an industrial psychology teacher at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, shares his perception. “I read last week that 40 percent of Bay Area firms intend to cut jobs,” said the member of Santa Maria Parish in Orinda.

As job positions evaporate, depression, isolation and low self-esteem can take center stage in people’s psyches and souls, the two point out. Grief sets in, making it difficult to rally around the job search with any degree of enthusiasm or energy, said Machi.

But Hause and Machi warn: don’t let this paralyzing sadness rule your life. Get through its attendant feelings as soon as you can. And don’t take on any personal stigma about losing your job; it’s the system that’s to blame, they underscore.

If you get seriously depressed, they advise, seek medical help. Then, take a deep breath and plunge into your job search.

Coming to terms with grief after job loss

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Father Padraig Greene, parochial administrator of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, was shocked when he learned recently that 10 of the 90 people enrolled in the parish’s RCIA program are grieving because they’ve lost their jobs.

“For people to name their sorrow (about unemployment) is a very new thing for me,” said the priest. Divorces, deaths, and serious illnesses are considered typical triggers for sadness, depression, and anger, he said, but being terminated from a job is nothing to ignore either. It is number eight in a list of 43 life crisis events, he said.

Stunned by the plight of his parishioners, Father Greene decided that it was time to schedule a workshop on coping with job loss. The half-day session will take place Jan. 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Seton Chapel. Everyone is welcome, he said.

Father Greene, whose ministerial forte is walking with grieving families, will co-facilitate the workshop with Mike Machi, volunteer leader of CCOP’s Employment Connections support group. Father Greene will address the emotional components of unemployment. Machi will provide practical information on job hunting.

Given the dire state of the U.S. economy, it’s important for the Church to accompany people in their grief work around job loss, said Father Greene, who holds a master’s degree in family ministry from Fordham University.

Losing one’s job “hurts both the heart and spirit,” said the priest. Most people, if they are truly attached to the work they do, will experience a real crisis when it disappears. “To the deep degree I identify with my job, the more grief I will feel,” he said. Typical reactions can include withdrawing and isolating, becoming angry, bargaining with God, and sinking into depression.

Not coming to terms with these emotions and reactions can make people physically sick too, causing heart problems, chronic intestinal ailments, as well as other serious maladies, said Father Greene. “These emotions have to get out somewhere.”
Tom Loarie, who leads a job support network at St. Isidore Parish in Danville, offers complementary advice. Reframe the job loss situation — “You’re not out of work. You’re in transition for the next thing God has in store for you.”

Both Loarie and Machi have been offering a rich assortment of advice to the unemployed for a number of years, each at his respective parish.

Machi and fellow parishioner, Jim Silva, restarted their CCOP Employment Connections groups in 2001 after several years’ hiatus. Over the past 20 years, the group has revved up and geared down, according to the state of the economy. It is now in another revving up phase with eight people coming to the twice-monthly meetings the first and third Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Seton Church.

Three participants have landed new jobs after going through the resume writing, networking, and job interviewing feedback sessions which Machi and fellow volunteers Sylvia Seaborn and Joe Thibodaux offer.

The St. Isidore Networking Group (SING) has worked with 180 people since 2001. SING developed after Kathy Gannon-Briggs, principal of the parish school, noticed some dads had begun dropping their kids at school. They told her they’d lost their jobs. Since Gannon-Briggs’ husband worked at Santa Clara University helping graduates transition into new careers, she wondered if he could help these dads. She called a meeting in their living room. Four people showed up.

Word of mouth spread until there were 25 people crowding into Gannon-Briggs’ home. For one session, she invited Loarie, owner of a medical supply business in San Leandro, to share his expertise and he continued with the group.

In hiatus since 2005, SING will begin holding meetings again in January at St. Isidore Church. Two announcements he posted in recent parish bulletins about SING have garnered 20 inquiries.

CCOP Employment Connections averages between five and 10 people per meeting — a manageable circle which allows each person to tell his or her own story and to see that they truly are not alone, Machi said.

He advises job seekers to tell their stories outside the circle as well. “People need to let everyone they know that they are not working and ask for help finding job leads. Don’t let a false sense of shame keep you silent,” he urges, adding that “Americans aren’t good at asking for help, but they’re great at giving it.”

“I know one guy who was going into his sixth week of unemployment when he ran into an old friend. The man was eager to be able to help his colleague, and promptly told him, ‘My company’s hiring. Here’s the name and number of the guy you need to talk to.’ Within days, the man had a new job.”

One of Machi’s coaching sessions involves helping people learn how to hunt for jobs. He advises them to set up an eight-hour daily schedule, mapping out hours they’ll spend on the Internet, making phone calls to companies they’ve located there, polishing their resumes, and networking, both face-to-face, by phone and e-mail.

He notes that there are numerous books available on how to write the perfect resume, but the most important thing is to compose riveting copy that will entice a future employer to invite you for an interview. “And once you’re in, the next assignment is learning how to boast about your accomplishments. Most people aren’t good at bragging about themselves, but in this day and age, you’ve got to be able to sell yourself,” Machi points out.

Although the current employment situation looks grim, there is a bright side, Machi said. “Some jobs are still hot.” Such as? The health care and medical industries, green energy, computer gaming, roadway construction, auditing and taxes, compliance, and the biotech industry.

And when you are called for an interview, be prepared to be questioned by groups of people. Some employers are offering a 30-day try-out temp position to make sure the new employee can handle the work. “These days, it’s an employer’s market because there are so many people out there looking,” said Machi.

Loarie, who writes a column for the on-line Catholic Business Journal and is program chair of Catholics At Work, likens job hunting to “a retreat in which a person asks ‘Am I doing what I’m meant to do?’”

Taking a personal inventory of “what lights a fire and gets you excited?” may be the best way to begin crafting a resume with passion. Every day should include working out, keeping healthy, praying to God for guidance, and going out to informational lunch interviews with as many people as possible, he said. “You should leave every meeting with two or three more people to talk to.”

Sue Harding went to Employment Connections last summer after leaving her job in the insurance industry. “My passion was education, but I didn’t know how to get into the field,” she said. “The group was terrific. They brainstormed ideas for me.” As important as their ideas were, the greatest value was their validation of her passion. She is now the director of a Pleasanton learning center.

When Ted (not his real name) showed up at Employment Connections, he was in a state of shock. One morning, following his company’s merger with another corporation, the new East Coast boss, “suddenly walked into my office with the human resources director. I was asked to excuse myself from a worldwide conference call I was hosting and told that I was being dismissed, effective immediately,” he told The Voice.

His subsequent job search was not producing results. He decided to attend an Employment Connections meeting. “I thought, why not?”

Machi and the group helped him tweak his resume. They offered other tips that might help get him interviews. Soon calls began coming in and a few weeks later he found the company of his dreams. “I am very happy, happier than ever before, with my career, and I have the CCOP Employment Connections, especially Mike, to thank for really getting me over the hurdle,” he said.

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