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A Better World for Women — TWB Job Counselors Make a Difference

A Better World for Women — TWB Job Counselors Make a Difference

Written by Linda Harvey


“Kindness and love and humanity — that’s what women do,” says TWB’s Hanna Teklu, Alumni Engagement/Workforce Development Specialist, about the connection Job Counselors and Team Members form during program sessions.

Women giving hope and aspiration to other women is what Women’s History Month in March is all about. It’s a special time to honor those women who have made contributions to society and have shown what women can accomplish.

But it’s not just for women in history books; it’s also a time to celebrate all women who make a difference in other's lives. It’s women who invest in, support, and help inspire brighter futures for other women, like TWB’s volunteer Job Counselors.

Volunteer Co-Coordinators Kathy and Susan are instrumental in recruiting and training volunteer Job Counselors and supporting them during each session. Meanwhile, Hanna oversees the job counseling program and seeks out potential employment opportunities for graduates.

Their work during each session concludes with graduates moving forward on a new path of self-sufficiency and many gaining either short-term or long-term employment. Hanna, Kathy, and Susan appreciate seeing the journey Team Members and Job Counselors take over the course of each session, from first-day nerves when meeting each other to grateful tears on graduation day where “Bring the Kleenex” has become a motto for everyone.

Meaningful Personal Connections

For Kathy, her six years with the TWB job counseling program has been a meaningful volunteer experience. “I love the fact [that the program] focuses on empowerment, not just job training,” she explains. The “holistic approach” is what drew her to the program since it covers a wide range of barriers that Team Members need to work through to get to a better place. The “baking cookies approach” is the conduit for learning these life skills that help Team Members develop confidence and belief in themselves, Kathy says.

Sitting down and establishing a personal connection with a Team Member is what makes volunteering fulfilling for Kathy. “I’m a people person in a community of women,” she says, explaining why she loves being a part of TWB.

Susan, the other volunteer Co-Coordinator, found TWB through its cookies. 

“I’m a baker, so I was hooked once I tried the cookies!” she exclaims. Packing cookies for sale at the farmer’s market was her first introduction to volunteering at TWB.

Now, five years later, it’s her professional background in Human Resources that has made her realize the impact this program has on Team Members. “Our efforts to provide them with resume writing, online application, and interviewing skills are critical to the process,” she explains.

As a 2015 graduate of TWB’s program, Hanna deeply understands the importance of the program and the support of Job Counselors. “The power of one hour, once a week, for eight weeks makes a big difference,” she says about the one-on-one job  counseling sessions. “It brings hope to another level.”

Having someone in their corner providing encouragement is so important to Team Members, explains Hanna, who has been working with TWB for nearly four years in her position. Some have never experienced that support, and she strives to ensure that they know they are worthy of this community and these opportunities, she says.

As she pairs up Team Members with Job Counselors, she looks for commonalities that will foster their connection. Hanna recalls a young Team Member with a physical disability, who she matched with a Job Counselor who had a deeper understanding of people with disabilities through her experience with horse therapy for those with disabilities and trauma. The Job Counselor provided positive encouragement in a productive way, contributing to the Team Member’s realization of her potential and belief that she could do anything.

Always Evolving and Always Improving 

The job counseling program has evolved and improved over the last 12 years, according to all three women. Hanna credits Kathy and Susan for implementing changes that brought more depth and flexibility for Job Counselors and a more supportive experience for Team Members.

Each pair — one Job Counselor to one Team Member — is introduced during the second week of the program session and meet every Wednesday from 1:30-2:30 p.m. until the session ends. Volunteers can now choose whether they will hold these one-on-one sessions in-person or via Zoom. 

“One of our goals was to develop a cadre of Job Counselors … [and] by offering both in-person and virtual opportunities, we have accomplished that,” Susan explains. “We have engaged full-time and part-time employees, teleworkers, retired individuals, students, and others.”

TWB uses a backup volunteer system so that another volunteer can step in when one of the Job Counselors can’t make a session, says Kathy. There’s also a shadowing opportunity for volunteers who want more experience before they begin volunteering on their own.

Team Members can also expect support from their Job Counselors for at least one year after they graduate from the TWB program, says Kathy. They can get guidance as needed to succeed in their new job. Many times, there's already a strong bond of friendship blooming between them, making staying in touch a natural progression.

Hanna reminds all Alumni that they are always “one of us.” TWB assures them there is an open door policy for graduates, whether it’s for updating a resume or shopping the TWB clothing closet for an interview outfit.  

“Meet Them Where They’re At”

The TWB job counseling program keeps pace with changing business recruitment practices. Expanded program content for Team Members includes team/virtual/computer interviews, key word resume preparation, online application procedures, and using Google Docs and laptop skills, says Susan.

But it goes much deeper than that to be successful, Kathy explains. “You [as a Job Counselor] need to start where your Team Member is — to meet them where they’re at,” she says. She talks about the importance of setting goals and “connecting the dots” to see where Team Members see themselves long term. Kathy says Job Counselors help determine what Team Members can offer an employer, what is valuable to an employer, and how Team Members can reframe their skill set from things they’ve done outside of employment.

For Hanna, she realizes the Team Members’ kitchen experience is a first step in getting or refreshing workforce skills. TWB’s community partnerships consist of a wide range of employers, not only in food service. Hanna explains she seeks out “employers with integrity…who respect those values that match ours.” This is important for a Team Member’s success — such employers are the stepping stones for moving forward.

“Women Are So Awesome”

Graduation for Team Members and Job Counselors is an emotional day, with tears, hugs, and reflections on the progress made throughout TWB’s program. The event celebrates the Team Members, who Kathy says have gone through a "shared experience”;  she loves seeing those bonds, with all of them helping to polish nails or fix hair for the event.

“The Team Member feedback at graduation is so powerful,” Susan explains. “This is the most meaningful and rewarding volunteer work that I have ever done.” 

“Women are so awesome,” Hanna says as she reflects on the heartfelt connections exhibited that last day, like one Job Counselor bringing flowers for each of the Team Members at graduation.

Hanna reminds herself and others of the question, “What type of world do you want to live in?” For her, it’s one that brings together women from different backgrounds, ages, and experiences like TWB — “helping fellow human beings be successful in your community.” And for these women to come back and change lives, too, she hopes.

For more information, see our volunteer page.

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