2017 Holly & Hope Luncheon Speech

Traditionally, at the Holly & Hope Holiday Luncheon, a speaker presents a story about work being done at the People’s Resource Center. This year’s speaker was Anne Elliott a volunteer in our Jobs Department. 

In my child’s last year of preschool, our school places an emphasis on teaching about their community – an attempt, if you will, to help them develop empathy and better prepare them for grade school. The children receive a series of questionnaires about their family members, friends, neighbors: their ages, jobs, likes, hobbies, dislikes, and so on. My husband, who is a lawyer, has led a successful marketing campaign related to this. When asked, “What does your dad do?” all 4 of our children have learned to reply, “He teaches people how to share.”

However, when it’s my turn, the responses have varied from “She does laundry,” to “She dances in the car,” and “She makes me breakfast.”

As someone who built her career at one of the world’s largest international law firms, and did urban disaster planning for the American Red Cross and the Department of Homeland Security, this stings a little.

But, you quickly forgive the child when their response to “How old is your mom?” is an observant 25.

IMG_4635My family is extremely blessed in that I am able to stay home with my children. It was a decision my husband has supported from the start, and while it has required sacrifices on many levels, I wouldn’t trade a single moment.

However, 10 years of professional underemployment can take a psychological and emotional toll. In weak moments, you question, am I really just the maker of thousands of school lunches? The never-ending laundress?  The scrubber of any and every surface in my home?

According to multiple Gallop polls since 1989, a majority of American workers get a sense of identity from their job. Think about it. When you meet someone for the first time, aren’t you inclined to ask them, “What do you do?”  It gives you a picture of who they are and how they spend their time. Jobs don’t just offer us a paycheck.  Work can give us a sense of purpose, stability, security, self-worth. Dignity.

At PRC, in the jobs department, we offer more than resume help, or job leads, or interview advice.  We provide a safe place, one-on-one listening, and a human mirror that can show just how much a client has to offer, even if they can’t see it themselves.

We provide hope.

In my role as the Resume Specialist, I perform many technical functions. I research a client’s previous employer and their position. I make sure the resume is scannable and that it will hit the right number of ping words to actually get into the hands of an HR rep.  I fact check to make sure a client isn’t embellishing too much, or in many cases, not selling themselves and their skills enough.

Our clients are diverse. I’ve developed resumes for waitresses, manufacturers, middle managers and senior executives.  Regardless of their previous or future positions, they all share one thing in common; they need confidence. And hope.

By the time they get to me, most clients have already been applying for months, with no luck. What was supposed to be a temporary speed bump is now an uncertain future.  Self-doubt can take over, clouding their view of their previous work. Clients begin to question what they may be capable, or even worthy of, in the future.

I recently met with a client–let’s call him Bill–Bill is the international subject matter expert in his field.  He has secured patents on his cutting edge and unprecedented technological advances. He has redefined an entire global industry.

However, due to economic forces entirely outside of his control, Bill’s company fell apart. He was suddenly and inexplicably out of a job.  A man who never had to compile a resume during the course of his career, suddenly had to account for a lifetime of work. He came up with a mere handful of bullet point statements, coming nowhere close to describing his impact or the impressiveness of his work.

I did my initial research and was amazed to discover that I would be meeting with a man known and respected worldwide for his inventions that directly affected areas such as aerospace engineering, military defense, medical advances and semiconductors.

But, where was all of this on his resume?

When I met Bill, it all became clear.  In front of me was an extremely humble and uncertain client.  Once, he saw this layoff as a possible opportunity. That was months ago. Now, he couldn’t figure out how to use his vast experience in any other field.

We spent nearly two hours talking about his previous positions, and as I coaxed details and showed enthusiasm for the incredible skills that would be applicable anywhere, that any company, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley would be knocking down his door to get, he saw the light.

A switch flipped and out came the incredible technological genius who can and no doubt will redefine another industry and then some.  His enthusiasm and brilliance shown through. I left the office inspired.

That night, still inspired, I sat down at the kitchen table and crafted what is easily the best resume of my career. I sent it to Bill around one in the morning, then went to bed.  My morning rituals, getting everyone up, harping about homework, making lunches and somehow getting everyone to school, continued as normal. Later that morning, I received an email from Bill.

He said he cried when he got his resume. Could this graceful description of his career really be him?  He said that I had given him the gift of confidence, and that the gift had changed him. He said he didn’t want to let me down.

He sent me 3 more emails through the day, thanking me, concerned that he hadn’t thanked me enough.

We all have interesting talents. Mine is resumes.  Trust me, I’d rather it be in winning the lottery or being a professional tennis player. But, resumes it is.  I’ve been turning them out for years, helping former babysitters, friends, colleagues and friends-of-friends.

My husband toured PRC last year. After hearing about the Jobs Program and the need for volunteers, he texted me. You need to do this.  We’ll make it work. And we have.

I’m proud to report that on this year’s preschool questionnaire, not only did I gracefully age to a mature 28, but my job title – and my self-identity developed as well.

The blank next to “What does your mom do?” now says, “She helps people get jobs.”

Thank you, People’s Resource Center.


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