Finding dignity through work

Ward and stake specialists give training network of contacts for those needing jobs

"The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much," are the words of "the Preacher, the son of David" in Eccl. 5:12. The "Preacher" further indicates that the joy and rewards that result from work are gifts from God. (Eccl. 5:18-19.)

In latter days, Church leaders have reaffirmed many times the principle expressed in Ecclesiastes.Often quoted is the statement of the First Presidency given at October general conference of 1936 regarding the inauguration of the Church Securi

ty Plan, which is now Church Welfare Services:

"Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self-respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership."

"Elaborating on that statement is the forward to the Church Employment System Guidebook, which observes: "Employment affects every part of life from nutrition and security to personal dignity and family life. By helping someone find employment, you not only restore his dignity and self-respect, but you eliminate or minimize a host of other problems."

Employment or career development is one of six standards of personal and family preparedness outlined by the Church, the others being literacy and education, financial and resource management, home production and storage, physical health, and social-emotional and spiritual strength.

To help Church members with career development, the Church employment system has been instituted. It reaches into virtually every local Church unit. When properly administered, it includes an employment specialist in each ward and branch.

"The Church employment system can help people avoid the serious problems that come with unemployment and help them become self-sustaining," the foreword in the guidebook states. "The employment program can also help the increasing number of individuals who are underemployed to upgrade their employment. Church members are best served by the employment system when all of its parts – quorum, ward, and stake specialists, and employment centers – are in place."

Consider, for example, the experience of Gerald L. Thomason, bishop of the Spokane 23rd Ward in the Spokane Washington East Stake.

"Three years ago I approached the LDS Employment Center in Spokane to request that they assist me in an employment upgrade," he said. "We discussed my background, but more important, we explored my areas of interest. They asked me what I really liked to do, which they pointed out was a prerequisite to success in any professional endeavor."

Bishop Thomason said he was referred to Beneficial Life Insurance Co. and was hired.

"I visited with the people at LDS Employment a couple more times because I had not yet discovered my real potential," he related. "They taught me to stay with something and give it a real try. The principle, `If it's to be, it's up to me' was thoroughly evaluated in these discussions.

"Now, three years later, my dreams are being realized. My sense of satisfaction is beyond what I ever thought possible. I try every day to pass on to others the same well-directed encouragement the LDS Employment Service gave me."

Bishop Thomason was Beneficial's "agent of the year" in 1988, and he is having an even better year this year, according to Ronald E. Buchanan, manager of the LDS Employment Services Spokane Center.

Helping Norma Brazington gain her degree as a registered nurse eventually involved the Spokane 14th Ward in a labor of love.

Sister Brazington, a single mother with four children, got a job five years ago through the LDS Employment Service. The income provided for her basic needs, but she found that without more education, it was impossible for her to secure a better job, Buchanan said.

She received helpful counsel from the ward employment specialist, and the ward members rallied around her with support and encouragement, helping her to earn her degree while fulfilling her responsibilities as a mother. She now works as a registered nurse in labor and delivery at a Spokane hospital.

The above examples illustrate the three major objectives of the Church employment system:

  • To assist individuals to find gainful employment by collecting and quickly sharing job information from members and others in the community;
  • To provide counseling and opportunities for those in need of rehabilitation or upgrading of vocational skills or employment;
  • To teach parents through the quorums how to counsel family members regarding employment matters and to teach individuals how to plan their careers.

"The first level of approach is to have individuals work with ward and stake employment specialists," explained Ron Campbell, a staff member at the LDS Employment Services in Salt Lake City.

"The region, multi-region or area employment centers are available to assist the ward and stake leaders in meeting the needs of their members."

Among the resources available in each ward and stake is a series of six videocassettes with accompanying booklets. The package is called Job Search – the Inside Track. Prepared in consultation with the Church by Eclecon, a Salt Lake City company, the materials provide helpful job-search knowledge in getting started, looking at options, writing applications and resumes, searching for jobs, telephone skills and interviewing.

In addition to helping with the actual job search, the Church employment system helps rehabilitate individuals who are not currently employable.

Deseret Industries, which arose in the 1930s to meet the challenge of Depression-era unemployment, has in recent years placed more emphasis on rehabilitation. Campbell said Deseret Industries in 1988 placed 749 workers in other employment. That almost tripled the 1982 total of 252.

In addition to Deseret Industries, community and other resources are used to rehabilitate workers. In some areas, individuals are called for a period, typically two years, to render Church service as rehabilitation specialists, according to Campbell.

Emphasized in the Church employment system is reliance on one's own resources as well as advice and help from family, friends and acquaintances – a fundamental principle in any aspect of welfare.

"We talk about two triangles," Campbell said. "One triangle is inverted and represents that about 80 percent of the jobs are found by word-of-mouth, while only about 20 percent are actually listed in the newspaper or elsewhere. But the other triangle, which is not inverted, represents that most people spend 80 percent of their time with job listings and only 20 percent talking to acquaintances and doing what we call `networking.' "

Networking is simply contacting anyone who might be able to help one find a job and, from that one contact, seeking the names of other contacts who might be able to help. (Please see accompanying article on this page.)

In addition to other resources, job seekers have at their disposal the spiritual resources of prayer and fasting. Jay Lenz, a member of the Deer Park Ward, Colville Washington Stake, the father of eight and the holder of a master's degree, moved to the Spokane area to start a business but his plans fell through.

He could not find a position in his field, teaching industrial arts. He and his family fasted for help. The next day, through the LDS Employment Service, he received what he called a "perfect" job, as a cabinet maker for the state of Washington.

"Without the referral I would never have known about this great job," he said. "I'm really grateful."


Plan to work full time at finding employment

Employment counselors say it is a good practice when unemployed to work full time at finding a job.

"This is not the time to paint the house, take a vacation, or remodel the basement," according to Job Search – The Inside Track, a set of instructional materials used by stake and ward employment specialists.

Here are other tips gleaned from Job Search for effective use of time during the job-search period:

  • Maintain a daily activity log to keep track of the people or companies contacted, actions taken and the results that occur. "Following up when you say you will is a key to making progress with companies."
  • Maintain weekly and monthly planning calendars to set targets while job hunting and to schedule family or leisure activities to give one's life stability.
  • Keep control over financial resources during the job-seeking period. This could include applying for unemployment compensation, reducing unnecessary expenses, avoiding new debts, liquidating assets, asking one's previous employer for a favorable rate for medical, life and disability insurance, arranging reduced payments on major debts until a new job is found, and keeping an accurate record of job-hunting expenses, as many are tax deductible.
  • Select a job-hunting coach, someone who will regularly provide advice, brainstorming, direction when practicing interviewing, and feedback on performance.
  • Reduce stress by talking about the job search with family members or others who care, maintaining recreation and family activities, taking care of oneself physically, and keeping "rejections" in proper perspective. (Do not take the "no's" personally.)
  • Be positive and optimistic when talking with potential employers.
  • Analyze personal preferences and values, interests, skills, accomplishments, and career options.

Helpful job leads can result from 'networking'

Here are several networking guidelines listed in one of the Job Search – The Inside Track, booklets.

  • Explain that you are looking for a new job and would appreciate the friend's or associate's advice.
  • Briefly review your goals, special skills and work experience.
  • Ask for names of people or organizations that may have openings in your area of expertise.
  • Ask if you can use the friend's or associate's name as you contact others.
  • Be positive and express confidence that something will turn up.
  • Thank the friend or associate for his or her time and mention you will send a resume so the contact can be aware of your skills.

As pointed out in Job Search, if a person contacts five friends and each refers him to three other people, that makes 20 people who can give job-related information.