American Job Centers/One Stops

Asset-Based Coaching Strategies Recorded Hangout and Resources

Here's yesterday's Hangout on Asset-Based Coaching, sponsored by New Jersey's Career Connection Employment Resource Institute. Unfortunately we had some tech glitches along the way, so you'll see that this was our second round with the broadcast. 

If you want to explore more on asset-based coaching and get additional resources to help you implement these coaching strategies, you can find links and worksheets here, as well as the slides from the presentation. 

Asset-Based Coaching Strategies--FREE WEBINAR

On Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 2 p.m. (EDT) I'll be hosting a free webinar on Asset-based coaching strategies, sponsored by New Jersey's Career Connection Employment Resource Institute. It will be broadcast live through Hangouts on Air.  We'll be discussing:

  • Why you need to focus on assets and strengths in the career/job search planning process.
  • The difference between case management and coaching and how you accomplish more when you act as a coach with customers
  • The G.R.O.W. coaching model, which is used by many companies and organizations to get greater benefits from coaching. 
  • The benefits of doing more group coaching
  • Some of my favorite coaching tools and practices that can be used in group and individual settings. 

To join us for Tuesday's free session, register here for the event. You'll receive follow-up instructions to participate once you register. 

It will be a packed hour of information and resources--we hope you can join us!

FREE RESOURCE: NGA Webinar on Using Social Media for Job Search

GJIF Social Media and Job Search Presentation from Michele Martin

Earlier this week I did a 1-hour webinar for the NGA on using social media in the job search. We covered using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Wikispaces for company research, networking, personal branding and finding job leads. 

The slides are above and you can access the recorded presentation here. I also have follow-up articles and posts available here


Resources to Promote Entrepreneurship


As I wrote a few weeks ago, I'm currently working on a project with the Philadelphia Youth Network to promote youth entrepreneurship called Studio E. The focus is on making entrepreneurship and the habits and skills of successful entrepreneurs part of our career development work with students. 

In addition to the Studio E website, we also have two major resources we're developing. 

Try It Tuesdays

The Try It Tuesdays activities are for youth development practitioners to use with students to help them explore different aspects of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking. These activities can be integrated into your current youth programs and can be used in a variety of ways. 

How They Do It Interview Series with Everyday Entrepreneurs

We're also doing a series of video interviews with everyday entrepreneurs called How They Do It. Each interview is about 20 minutes long and in them, we explore how different people are creating opportunities for themselves and developing multiple income streams. Some of our entrepreneurs are in "for-profit" businesses, while others are using entrepreneurship to have social impact, creating social enterprises through their entrepreneurial efforts. 

These videos can be a great way to open up discussions about what it means to be an entrepreneur and to get youth talking about the possibilities. We'll be adding to these over the next few months. 

Entrepreneurship for Everyone

Although the focus of Studio E is on young people, both the Try It Tuesdays and the How They Do It Interviews can be used with adults to promote entrepreneurial thinking and to open up conversations about entrepreneurship as an option. As we look at a job market where there are still 3 unemployed people for every job opening, we need to start talking with everyone about the need to create your own opportunities, even when you are looking for work. These resources can help jumpstart the process. 

Supporting Self-Employment: The Speedy Start-Up

I'm a big believer in the notion that we should be doing more as a workforce system to help people explore the opportunities in self-employment, particularly when we're operating in a labor market where there aren't enough jobs to go around. To that end, I'm currently working with the Bucks County WIB to implement a pilot project we're calling The Speedy Start-Up.

This 12-week series is targeted to unemployed job seekers and will help participants go from identifying their business idea to actually starting up their company. As a small business owner myself, I know that the only way to learn how to run a business is to actually start doing it and this series is very focused on helping participants take specific actions to get their businesses operating with minimal investment and minimal planning. 

We're using the $100 Start-Up, The Lean Start-Up and Business Model You as core resources for the series, which will include weekly meetings, an online classroom and a series of structured activities to help participants identify and refine their idea, test it with potential customers and actually launch their business by the end of the 12 weeks. 

One of the big things that start-ups struggle with is isolation--people are trying to do things on their own with little outside support. The weekly group meetings are designed to help combat this isolation and to connect these fledgling small business owners to one another for support, feedback and accountability. They will also have the opportunity to leverage each other's learning, networks and resources. 

We're also focusing on the effectual process that expert entrepreneurs use to develop their businesses--a process that's quite different from how we typically teach entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurial efforts I've seen in the workforce development field use the kind of causal approach that can work for established businesses, but that isn't appropriate for start-ups. In the Speedy Start-Up, we're using the latest research and information on how expert entrepreneurs build their businesses and create multiple income streams for themselves. 

Last week I did a presentation on the project to One Stop customers in the Bucks County CareerLink's Networking Now group and got an incredibly positive reaction. People are looking for any opportunities they can find to help bring in more income to their families and to begin feeling successful again. We have 12 slots open and in less than a week we've already filled over half of them. This is something I think people are desperate for and I'm very excited to start working with them. 

If you want to learn more about what we're doing, watch the video above and then check out our Speedy Start-Up website. If you have more specific questions, feel free to email me at [email protected].

The New Core Services: Career Management for the 21st Century


In yesterday's post, I introduced the idea that we should expand Core Services beyond our usual job search topics so that we could enage both employed and unemployed job seekers in a longer series of career management topics designed to increase their career resilience

Today, I want to share some of my thoughts on the types of topics we should be addressing in these expanded Core Services. 

Core Services Topics That Build Career Resilience

In my work with job seekers, both employed and unemployed, I've observed that there are a number of areas where people need to be getting more education and support. These are a reflection of how the job market has changed and how expectations for both workers and employers are evolving. 

  • Figuring out if they are vulnerable to a lay-off.  Too many people seem to be caught totally off-guard when a lay-off comes.  Somehow they've thought it wouldn't happen to them, even though we can see fairly clearly the industries and occupations where the handwriting is on the wall. I think we need to do a better job of helping people look at how technology and other factors may impact their work so they can begin preparing sooner, rather than later for the possibility of losing their jobs. 

  • Identifying the best new skills and credentials workers need to make themselves more valuable in their occupation and industry. In my work with job seekers, I've found that there is a great tendency to leave professional development up to the company. Workers will only access the training opportunities that their organization provides to them. This can be a huge mistake, however. Companies are focused on what's best for their business, not necessarily on what's best for an individual employee. Job seekers need support and information in thinking about and accessing skill development opportunities that will best serve THEIR needs, not just the needs of the company. And they need this help while they are still employed, not after they lose their jobs. 

  • How to create strong, resilient networks and quality relationships with people. Now more than ever, professional success is tied to the quality of your relationships. Yet most people don't recognize the importance of their networks until they need them. Worse yet, this is often when they discover that they haven't done a good job of building and tending to their connections. The people who are most likely to find work quickly once they lose their jobs are those who have created quality networks. These are also the people less likely to lose a job in the first place, because through their networks, they're always finding and accessing new opportunities.

  • Developing a "personal brand" and communicating that brand on and off-line. I know that in many of our job search workshops, we discuss the concept of having a "personal brand" and how you communicate that brand through your resume, interviews, etc. But the time to start creating your personal brand is while you have a job, not once you've lost it. People who are currently employed need help in understanding the concept and elements of personal branding and support in learning how to communicate that brand through social media and in real-life interactions. The more they are able to do this, the less likely they are to lose their jobs.

  • Thinking like an entrepreneur and developing multiple income streams. Entrepreneurs are always focused on finding new opportunities--how can they use their skills and resources to accomplish particular goals? This is the kind of thinking that employers prize and it's a mindset that people can learn. We should be teaching and reinforcing these skills. We should also be talking to people about creating multiple income streamsso that they are less vulnerable if/when a layoff comes. We should show them how they can start side businesses to supplement their income and how to construct a career from project work. This brings more stability to people's finances and also helps people develop new skills and opportunities for themselves.

If we really wanted to get serious about providing these kinds of services, I would see us making available a whole range of supports, including:

  • In-person workshops
  • Online live webinars
  • Recorded video presentations that people could review on their own time
  • Podcasts that people could download to their computers or to their mp3 players
  • Worksheets and PDF resources 

Obviously in-person workshops and regular webinars are the most staff-intensive strategy and I know that many American Job Centers/One Stops already feel stretched to the max. At a minimum, though, we should explore ways that we could provide these services online through pre-recorded sessions and worksheets, articles, etc. These can be created once and then used repeatedly. 

What are your thoughts? Can you see how these could benefit your customers and help all job seekers become more resilient and employable? 

The Case for Engaging Job Seekers for the Long Haul


When the Workforce Investment Act was first passed in 1998, part of its vision was to provide all workers with access to a certain set of core services that would help them thrive in the job market. In practice, this hasn't really happened in most American Job Centers/One Stops. The bulk of customers we serve tends to be unemployed and our work with them ends once they find a job. 

This is a problem because it means that we're engaging in crisis managment with job seekers most of the time, rather than in the sort of "preventive medicine" that could go a long way toward averting unemployment in the first place.

This short-term, crisis mode of thinking keeps us trapped in a revolving door with job seekers where the focus is just on "getting a job," rather than on "how do I manage a career in a world where I can't count on my company to be responsible for that?" 

One of the questions Kathy Krepcio and I asked in our State of the US Workforce System report was:

What do 21st century job seekers REALLY need from us in the new economy? 

I would argue that what they most need is guidance in developing the career management skills that will help them adapt to ongoing uncertainty and that will help them thrive in an economy that is changing rapidly. This means that we need to develop long-term relationships with people in our communities, not just providing the short-term, crisis management kinds of help we currently focus on.  

From the Emergency Room to Preventive Medicine 

In the past, the "quick fix" supports of educational workshops on resume writing, interviewing, etc. that we offered in core services were appropriate because jobs were relatively plentiful and periods of unemployment tended to be short and far between. Many workers might never experience a time without a job or if they did, it lasted only a few weeks or months and then they were firmly attached to another job. What they most needed from us was some help in finding a new job and they didn't need to work with us for a longer period of time. 

But now we are looking at large swaths of the population experiencing multiple periods of unemployment throughout their careers. And a good chunk of the workforce can go 6 months or longer without a job. While job search information is still an important part of the service mix, it's not going to be enough to really help people. They will be showing up at our doors again once the next round of lay-offs occurs. 

I think we've reached a place where we need to move beyond just providing job search information through core services.  Now we need to look at helping people develop what I call career resilience skills--career management behaviors that can help them anticipate and adapt to change on an ongoing basis, rather than when they are in crisis mode.

And we need to offer these services not just to people who are unemployed, but also to people who are currently employed so that they can be more strategic in their own career management

The "New" Core Services

For me, the new Core Services should be all about the career management skills job seekers need to survive and thrive in the new economy. Some of this is about job search, of course. But it's much bigger than just how to write a resume. 

There are several benefits to expanding our idea of what we could offer through Core Services so that we're enaging with people throughout their careers, rather than just when they are crisis mode:

  • From a WIB strategy perspective, this is a HUGE area for us to create value for customers. By positioning ourselves as providers of a broader range of career management skills, we fill a real gap in the marketplace, which is key to our ongoing relevance and funding. 
  • We can help people avoid unplanned job loss, ensuring that they are prepared with the skills and credentials that are in demand and helping them to access other opportunities. Lay-off aversion will be far better for our local economies and for the people who live in our communities. 
  • If people do lose their jobs, they are already connected to us and, therefore, more likely to access services earlier in the process. We all know that your chances of finding a new job plummet once you've been out of work 6 months or more, so the sooner people are connected to our services, the better. If they've been working with us already, we'd be a natural resource for them to use if they do lose their jobs. 
  • We will create a more skilled workforce that is more attractive to employers. When people develop their career management skills, they become more focused on their own professional development and growth. This is good for both job seekers and employers and creates a more resilient pool of workers able to adapt to ongoing changes. 

In tomorrow's post I'm going to share some of the topic areas I think we should focus on if we're going to re-envision what Core Services should be.

For now, I'd love to hear your input on the idea of expanding what we offer through Core. Can you see how this could benefit your local area? What challenges do you see in implementing new Core Services and how could we overcome them? 

Intensive Job Search Support Through Online Coaching Groups

Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 9.32.11 AM

For the past several years, I've been looking at ways to use new technologies to improve the reach and quality of WIB and American Job Center/One Stop services. The explosion in free and low-cost online tools has provided us with so many new opportunities to do things that in the past would have been prohibitively expensive to implement. 

One area where I've been doing a lot of work in the last year or so is in how to use free technologies to support online coaching groups for job seekers.

I absolutely believe that one of the major services we need to be offering job seekers is ongoing job search coaching, helping them to set and achieve their job search goals. What I've found over and over again is that workshops just aren't enough. People need help in staying focused and motivated through the long, grueling months of job search.  They need opportunities to practice responding to interview questions and they need help in troubleshooting all the problems and issues that come up as they apply for jobs. 

While we can, of course, provide these services at an American Job Center/One Stop, we can also provide them online. This is especially helpful for rural areas, where people may have to travel for an hour or more to get to a physical location. Online coaching is also appealing to people who prefer to access services online or who may have limits on their ability to come into the One Stop. 

In May-June of 2013, I worked with the North Central PA Workforce Investment Board to set up an online coaching process that they could use to service their job seekers in 6 counties.

We used Blogger (free blogging software) to set up the website for the project. And then we used Google Hangouts (free video-conferencing software) to run the coaching sessions. Hangouts can accommodate up to 10 devices at the same time and you can use it on a computer or laptop, a smartphone or a tablet.  In addition to video-conferencing, it also allows you to share screens, presentations and documents, so it's a perfect tool for providing online coaching.  

To get an idea of how a coaching session works through Hangouts, you can watch this recorded session below. 

A few things I want to point out about this project:

  • All the technologies we used are free and readily available. You just need a Google account to sign up. 
  • We saved participants time and money by using the online process--they didn't have to travel anywhere and they didn't have to spend money on gas. 
  • Although we had to deal with some technology hiccups, participants were able to use the technology pretty easily. As we went along, we were also able to identify the most common barriers and to prepare job seekers ahead of time to minimize problems. 
  • As staff used Hangouts to provide the coaching groups, they also began to see other ways to incorporate the technology into their work flow. Many started to conduct one-on-one appointments with job seekers through Hangouts and they also started doing practice interviews this way. 

Although online coaching and support groups may not be appropriate for everyone, providing them as a service option can really expand your reach and scope with minimal investment. They're relatively easy to set up and cost next to nothing to run. And they open up a lot of opportunities for serving customers who might not otherwise engage with your services. 

Why We Need to Stop Talking About "Jobs"

One concern I have about the workforce development system is our unrelenting focus on "jobs." 

Don't get me wrong. People need to be able to make a living so they can support themselves and their families. But I think we need to stop talking about "getting a job," and start talking about "developing multiple income streams."

Here's the deal. The first thing we have to understand is that there aren't enough jobs to go around. 

As this map shows, most states are operating with a jobs deficit--they have more people looking for work than there are jobs available. 

Screen shot 2014-03-13 at 4.52.43 PM
Source: Joint Economic Committee US Congress


And the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been reporting pretty regularly now that we're stuck at about 3 job seekers for every job, which means that no matter how well qualified people may be, there are not enough jobs for everyone who wants one. 

And this isn't projected to change anytime soon, as the chart below shows. 

Working age pop and jobs


Why is this happening? For a few reasons.

First is the development of technology that is radically changing the need for human workers. We have sophisticated computer software that does the work of lawyers and Baxter, an inexpensive robot that can be "trained" to perform a variety of tasks with no programming necessary. Vast swaths of the workforce have lost their jobs in the last 5 years because technology allows work to be done with fewer human beings. 

The other big shift is in how businesses operate. Time was, if you needed to get something done, then you hired employees to do it. But in the past 10-15 years, businesses have turned to alternative arrangements--contract workers, contingent workers, out-sourcing, etc.--to accomplish their tasks. Employees are considered a "cost" so the last thing businesses want to do is add to their costs. Instead, they turn to other arrangments to get things done (See The Death of Jobs in Forbes).

Yes, there are still job openings. Some are the "gold standard" full-time job with benefits, but many more are temporary, project-based jobs that last 3 or 6 months. You can make a career out of this kind of work, but it requires people to be more entrepreneurial and it means they are dealing with a lot more uncertainty in their work lives. 

If we as a system are to provide more effective career counseling and services to our job seekers, we need to begin to accept the realities of this new economy. We need to start talking with our customers about ways to develop multiple income streams and how to build a career from a variety of projects, rather than through one single job. 

I would argue that we need to expand the kinds of workshops and services we are offering through our American Job Centers/One Stops so that we begin to help people navigate a career made up of multiple projects and income streams. We need to show people how to be more entrepreneurial in their careers and get them pursuing a variety of ways to bring in income. 

"Getting a job" just won't be possible for large numbers of our job seekers through no fault of their own. We need to begin preparing them for a different kind of future that is more project-based, fragmented and entrepreneurial if we want them to be able to survive and thrive in the years ahead. 

Designing for Dignity


"People didn't die of hunger. They died of shame from asking." 

Masbia is a soup kitchen in New York that treats its customers like they are visiting a restaurant. Guests are greeted at the door by a friendly host/hostess and seated at their tables where they are served hot nutritious meals in a cafe style setting.

This approach and how the space is arranged communicates something profoundly different from the experience most people have when they go to a "soup kitchen." 

The physical environment in which we provide services can have a profound impact on the people in those spaces--both customers and staff. Yet we often don't pay attention to how our space communicates expectations to people. Nor do we think about how those expectations can reinforce feelings of inadequacy and shame to people who are accessing our services. 

When our spaces are bureaucratic and drab, they communicate to people that they are coming into another social service agency and it can activate a lot of negative expectations and feelings. But if we re-think our space, as Masbia has done, we will engage with people differently and get different outcomes as a result. 

Masbia restaurant

There's an art and science to creating spaces that feel inviting to human beings, welcoming customers into an environment where caring and support is being communicated. Architects have known this for years and have a phrase for it--"pattern language"--which refers to the universal patterns that make buildings convey certain qualities to people. Some are meant to be imposing and to inspire awe, while other buildings are designed to feel cozy and inviting, inspiring people to sit and chat for awhile. 

Part of creating welcoming space is the attention that we pay to physical layout and what is included in the space. Part of it is also about how we engage with people in that space, as at Masbia where they great customers at the door and invite them take a seat, as in a restaurant. 

The Group Pattern Language Project has developed a series of patterns to use in group gatherings and meetings. These patterns can create some easy opportunities for us to re-think how we engage and support our customers in group settings. 

There's much we could do to redesign our American Job Centers/One Stops. How could we emulate other organizations in our communities (like Masbia has done in emulating restaurants) to provide more welcoming spaces to our customers?