Volunteer recruitment program helping the disadvantaged

Dana Sarkissian, Team Leader Marketing and Sales at Cox Purtell, explains why she has become involved in Project Displaced – a not-for-profit, grass roots recruitment supporting unemployed and disadvantaged people who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19.

I first heard about Project Displaced through one of my LinkedIn contacts, Anthony Cohen.

I had been linked with Ant for some time but we had only ever messaged each other when he started to share posts about creating a service that offered free support and advice for people who suddenly found themselves unemployed … stood down … displaced!

I quickly knew I wanted to be part of the movement. While, initially, Ant was not working himself, he wanted to assist those from the very sectors he had previously worked in and had been suddenly impacted – travel, hospitality and the arts.

I contacted Ant about joining and once he had all the logistics in play that allowed me to volunteer, I was on board and conducted my first consult on April 27.

Since starting with Project Displaced, I have met with so many amazing people from all over Australia. In my role at Cox Purtell I would normally speak to only Marketing and Sales candidates, but with Project Displaced, I am helping people from all walks of life, many of whom have no history of dealing with an agency.

There is the hostess who has worked with Qantas for over 25 years and now realises she has management potential and is going to aim high when she is back in the skies again.

There is the customer service gun whose aim was to get a job at Aldi and hasn’t been able to. After some reflection, she has enrolled in a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course with the view to go overseas to teach.

There is the travel agent, the casino worker, the finance analyst, the project manager and so many others.

Since I began volunteering with Project Displaced, I have been overwhelmed by the gratitude, appreciation and kindness of others.

Many people ask me what I get out of doing it and I tell them that during this time when so many have been affected by the sudden loss of their job, why wouldn’t I share my knowledge from what I do every day of my working life?

And I tell them about a very special client named Jill.

When I first met Jill, she had been stood down from her customer service role at the local shopping centre. It was a role she loved, and she had become a focal source of information and comfort for the regular shoppers.

We booked in our time to chat via a Zoom call and I asked her in advance to think about what she wanted to get out of the session.

When we got started, Jill was a little flustered as I was her very first video call and she had her daughter helping her get online. She was so nervous that she wouldn’t get it to work on her own.

Once we got chatting, it was a very easy conversation. We talked about her resume - the skills she had but hadn’t even thought about putting on her CV. We touched on getting on the socials and talked about what came next.

Jill took on all the tips we discussed and later sent me her revised resume she had worked on and even told me she set up a LinkedIn account.

Not long after, she told me she had an interview for a support role in the aged care sector. I was so thrilled for her and she mentioned how nervous she was. So, we had another session and we prepped on the types of questions they will ask, some questions for her to ask and we role played. This was going to be another video interview, so we also made sure we practised logging in and out of Zoom.

Jill got the job. She started in late May and we met up for lunch just before she started her new role, which is just perfect for her.

People like Jill are why I volunteer my time for Project Displaced.

The organisation has been organically growing over the last few months. The volunteers get together once a fortnight for a virtual cuppa to share what we are experiencing.

Everyone has donated their time and expertise, from marketing support, the mental health practitioners, HR professionals and recruitment consultants.

The portfolio of who we support in their job hunt is now any industry, any role and we cover everything from career coaching, resume writing, LinkedIn profiles, interview preparation and mental health support.

If I have learnt one thing from this experience, is that volunteering is rewarding and good for the soul.

As long as I can, I will continue this journey in helping others.

If you would like more information on Project Displaced or would like to volunteer your services, go to https://projectdisplaced.com/

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