According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the percentage of Americans without work skyrocketed from a little over 4 percent to a full-blown 14 percent between March and April this year. While that number has dwindled down in percentage points from month to month, it's still nowhere near where we were before our country was hit with COVID-19 and consequently suffered a significant collapse in the job market.
This is part of what motivated U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District's Brian Schneider. Schneider is the district's Outreach Coordinator and has been with the Memphis District for just over a year. As his title suggests, he's passionate about reaching out, and that's just what he did when this opportunity presented itself.
"Over the years, I have helped hundreds of people update their resumes as part of a larger effort to assist people going through a job transition, which can be one of the most difficult times in a person's life," Schneider said. "Helping people find jobs is also a great way to support the economy (particularly the local economy), which has far-reaching, community-wide benefits including city growth and development, reduced crime, and more stable families. Last year, after reading several LinkedIn posts by Dr. Justin Lawhead, Dean of Students at the University of Memphis, I was inspired to find a way to support the seniors graduating from the university. So I started pursuing a way to assist the university's Career Services department as a way to:
- Help students better transition into the professional world.
- Help with job growth in Memphis.
- To give back to the university as an alumnus."
Schneider said that through his connection to Dr. Lawhead on LinkedIn, he met with the Career Services department leadership to discuss his idea. This eventually led to opportunities that support specific aspects of the program by volunteering and presenting to students.
"The University of Memphis has an exceptional Career Services program, and one of the many resources it has developed is a resume guide," Schneider added. "So far, my role has primarily been focused on presenting information in support of this resume guide. I have presented to two groups so far – Sigma Phi Epsilon and Empowered Men of Color. The presentation I developed simply expounds on the messaging outlined in the steps contained in the resume guide."
Schneider said he's had several jobs during his career. Through the presentation's content, he's able to draw on his experiences, highlighting lessons learned from real-life instances that resonates with audiences.
The last presentation Schneider gave, which was done via Zoom, he said students were most interested in how to reframe achievements, as this is usually the most difficult thing to accomplish in a resume.
"The questions were mainly focused on how to highlight the value from achievements in their previous employment positions," he said. "As a result of the extremely short time employers spend reviewing resumes, 6-8 seconds each, they, the resumes, have to quickly communicate the value a candidate can bring to the vacant position. The number one place to communicate the value you can bring to a vacancy is in the experience section under your achievements. However, these achievements are often the weakest part of a person's resume because they are so hard to word."
To Schneider, the value of helping others with this sort of career service is priceless.
"First, this kind of service is naturally a "pay it forward" concept," he explained. "Once a person learns how to update his or her resume, he or she will likely never need this kind of assistance again (other than proof-reading), and people will now be in a good position to help others in a similar way continuing to pay it forward. Second, helping people with their resumes is a way to provide meaningful support during potentially dark times in a person's life. Job transition adds stress to an individual (sometimes extreme) and his or her family, it creates anxieties, it can cause depression, and people often feel lonely and devalued. Having a person come alongside you during such times to walk with you, encourage you, and support you allows you to recover sooner, get back on your feet, and live a more resilient life."
With a newfound appreciation for teachers, Schneider says he plans to continue supporting the university's career services departments whenever the need arises.
In these trying times when nothing is guaranteed, it goes without saying that everyone here at the Memphis District is thankful for the services you, Brian Schneider, provide both here in the district and out in the local community. Your outreach talents and true passion for helping others do not go unnoticed. Thank you again, sir.