When most people think of retirement, they probably dream of traveling the world, moving to another state, or maybe joining some fun classes. After decades of being in the workforce, working (and for free) is probably the last thing that comes to people’s minds. But Ildiko Schultz, who retired four years ago, jumped right into volunteering at CareerPlace, a non-profit that provides job seekers with coaching, classes, connections and support to help them land new careers.
Ildiko serves as the lead volunteer at CareerPlace and is often the first face that job seekers encounter when they walk through the doors. During the 50+ hours she dedicates each month, Ildiko facilitates the “Navigating Your Job Search” workshop and also matches each job seeker with a career coach that best fits their needs. She is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree and we spoke with her to learn more about why she chooses to help others during one of their most stressful periods of life.
Describe your volunteer role with CareerPlace.
Once I retired from my career, I decided that I really wanted to volunteer. I looked around and I was familiar with CareerPlace and with some of the work they did. When I was working, I was very much in the finance, technical type of world so [volunteering at CareerPlace] was an opportunity to use, for lack of better words, the other side of brain by training, developing, coaching and counseling. CareerPlace provides people in job search with resources. We provide them with a multitude of different workshops that help them plan and execute their job search in the most effective way possible. We teach them how to create resumes, interview, use LinkedIn, etc. So I deliver several different workshops for CareerPlace every month. One of the things that people say add real value is that we provide individual one-on-one coaching in the job search process. I’ve coached several clients and they’ve landed jobs successfully. I started getting involved in the front-end coordination of matching people with individual coaches because when you’re working with a coach it’s very important to work with someone that has the style that’s going to meet your needs. Some people are very focused and they want someone to hold them accountable. They don’t need hugs or any of that. Other folks are looking for more of a balance and some folks are very frustrated and vulnerable so they need a lot more of the people side of the support and coaching. We have about 15-20 coaches depending on the time of year so I try to match as best as possible the skill and abilities of the coaches with the specific needs of the person who is in job search. Also, if there’s fundraising or events, I’m happy to go along and present our work to organizations and explain what CareerPlace is. In general, I’m happy to do whatever they need me to do to help them.
Why is it difficult for these people to land jobs?
Finding a job today is very difficult just because the process has become so complicated and complex. We have clients that come to us and say “I’ve never had to look for a job. I was with my company for 30 years.” Well, these are folks that just know the very basics of LinkedIn and don’t know how to utilize it for networking. The ways you present yourself via resume and cover letter have changed a lot. In the olden days, your resume was a listing of what you did, each of the jobs you had and what your responsibilities were. Nowadays, you have to really focus on the great things you’ve accomplished. People don’t know how to write accomplishment statements. They don’t know how to talk about the things they’ve done in the past that are going to be of value to future employers so we help them with that. We help them better understand their strengths. Also, a lot of [the job search process] is done online. There are a lot of technical skills that many people aren’t comfortable with so they need to get those skills up to speed before they can actually dive into the job search.
What’s the one word of advice you give to people who become discouraged after not landing a job?
We always tell them that first of all, the job search is going to take a long time for everybody. It’s not directly related to the fact that you weren’t good enough or talented enough for the particular role. A lot of times, the people you’re interviewing with are looking for fit. It’s one of those things that you can’t quite define. It’s really just about the connection. So we try to boost them and give them positive feedback. We tell them, “You’ve been successful your whole life. Think about all those successes. You are going to be successful again.”
How were you able to learn those technical skills yourself?
One of the things we offer people is we help them identify their strengths. But one of my strengths is that I’m a learner. I love knowledge and constantly learning new things so when I decided I was going to volunteer at CareerPlace, I started researching, reading articles, taking online classes, attending all the workshops that CareerPlace had to offer. I network with people, talk with recruiters and HR people and ask companies what they are looking for. I keep my knowledge and skills up to date so that I can then pass it on and help others with this knowledge.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I just love every aspect of what I do. I’m a very responsible, accountable person and when I commit to something, I commit to it 100%. I put all of me into it. I don’t know what other people say when they volunteer, but for me, it’s a win-win. I would be kidding myself if I said I only do this because I want to help others. I do this because I want to help others, but it also gives so much back to me. It gives me an opportunity to fill that need to be productive, helpful and busy. It just keeps me going. I love it.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
When somebody says, “Oh my goodness! I took what you said and I changed this” or “I incorporated it into my approach and I have several interviews and I think I’m going to land this job and I’m so excited” and when they succeed. When we find out that people got the job and that they’re moving on and their fears and frustrations are over, it makes it all worthwhile. That’s what we’re there for. We’re here to help them land that next great opportunity so when you hear about that, I feel very rewarded.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
We continuously look to see if there are other things we need to develop and bring forth to our clients. We’re always looking strategically to see if there are any areas we haven’t tapped into. One of the things we talk about is when we had the financial crisis in 2007 that happened up until the last couple of years, the economy and the work world were difficult for a lot of people and a lot of people took positions that were at lower levels than where they had been previously. We call them the underemployed. They’re working, but they’re underemployed. So we’re looking at that and seeing if there are ways we can help folks in that aspect. Because no matter what goes on in the economy, companies still lay off, companies still merge and move jobs overseas. Even though things have really improved, we are still seeing a lot of that going on so we just need to continue to stay on top and help as many people as we can and get the word out that we’re here. We’re a non-profit so every penny that we have goes into helping people.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I think it’s important, but that being said, I don’t think it’s for everyone. You have to have a certain type of mindset and internal driving force to volunteer. I think the real key is to find people that have that internal drive and motivation and that get as much out of volunteering as they give. Match those people with the right opportunities and magic happens.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
There are so many opportunities out there and so many different places where you can help if you decide you want to volunteer. Keep looking. Try things out. Examine and find that good match of your skills, abilities, desires with some type of volunteering opportunity where you can contribute 100% and it will pay back for you as well as help out your community. That’s what it’s all about. The lifeblood of CareerPlace, of all the non-profits around is volunteerism. We couldn’t do what we do without the people that are willing to dedicate their own time and efforts to helping an organization provide for the community. Make sure you find the right match like I did and pour your heart and soul into it and you’ll get as much back as you give.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Ildiko? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.
Post written Alicia Lee