Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Parish Groups Provide New Hope For Job Seekers

Published July 1, 2004

Job seekers, recruiters, volunteers and employers gathered at St. Brigid Church in Alpharetta on Tuesday, May 11, for a night of greeting and job networking with one another.

This “Network Extravaganza” was organized as a collaborative event by Jon Coriell of St. Brendan Church in Cumming and Cecil Clontz of St. Brigid’s, who sent over 400 e-mails to recruiters and job seekers to make the evening a success.

For the past five years, networking has been the job seeker’s best friend. In fact 85 percent of all jobs are found through networking. But trying to get in touch with people who hire in a particular field may be difficult.

Parishes around the archdiocese are starting to explore their key role in helping parishioners overcome the current unemployment slump through career networking groups that help with everything from resumes and interviews to networking events and e-mail job listings.

Coordinator of St. Brigid’s Career Transition Networking Group Ministry and a parish board member, Clontz knows well what these groups can provide, having been unemployed and just recently hired. He believes this group of people is one of the best employee candidate groups, since they have such a drive to get back to work.

Clontz wants others to realize that the job market is not just the unemployed person’s problem—that neighbors, friends and family members have all been touched by this uncertain economic time. Everyone can give back to the community by helping to put people in touch with those who can help. Even one job seeker can help another job seeker.

“You never know where your next lead might come from,” remarked Wayne Hughes, a job seeker in the information technology and management field.

Clontz and Coriell understand that parish groups like these help job seekers recognize that they are not alone. This mentality is needed to build the confidence and passion it takes to find a job.

As people gathered in the St. Brigid parish hall before the Networking Extravaganza, a screen with motivating quotes and advice set the stage: “One person with passion is equivalent to 99 who only have interest”; “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”; and “Renew daily on to maximize exposure.”

Colored nametags identified recruiters versus job seekers, and an informal poll of field specializations was taken among attendees. IT (information technology) made up over 70 percent of the professions of the job seekers there, while finance and sales were the next largest groups. People in clerical, marketing, legal, operations, management and insurance fields were also in attendance.

Well-qualified persons with MBAs, doctorates and numerous years of experience were at the event as job seekers. Grover Paulsen and Gary Pietras have both been in the telecom industry for years—Paulsen with BT Telecom and Pietras with three separate carriers.

“It is an odd market. In the past you were recruited; now it is very different,” said Pietras. He remarked on the catch-22 dilemma for many—that employers think applicants will want a high salary since they are so well qualified or think they will use this job as a stepping stone to a better one, which he believes is not always the case. Paulsen sees the fact that there are so many qualified people as another hurdle. Recruiters will only look at applicants if they have the 15 or 20 job qualifications that employers want.

“It is a buyer’s market,” said Paulsen. One way he is looking to get hired is through consulting work.

Erasmo Briceno spent 25 years in architectural construction. He has recently seen a slowdown with many laid off in his industry. He described the networking event as having a good atmosphere that made him feel comfortable, and he hoped to find new contacts, ones that would lead him to a stable job, since he is married with two children. At the end of the evening, Briceno said that he felt good about the contacts he made and hopeful for what they might bring.

Parish career transition groups tend to provide a warm, helpful atmosphere, which can be in stark contrast to the difficult task of interviewing and finding a job. Louis Lombardy, who has a background in human resources and currently works in insurance fraud investigations, reviews resumes, goes over interview tactics, and specializes in background checks for St. Brigid’s Career Transition Networking Group Ministry. He has noticed a real surge in the job market in 2004 with many of the people he helps getting interviews.

“I am more dedicated to my job than ever. I know what it is like not to work, and I don’t want to be in that position again,” said Clontz. He now heads the St. Brigid’s group as his way of giving back.

Many parishes are giving back to each other. St. Brigid’s Career Transition Networking Group Ministry was founded with help from Jay Litton of the Roswell United Methodist Career Networking Group. St. Brendan, St. Brigid, St. Ann Church, Marietta, and St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, are part of an extensive career e-mail listing. St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, has an Industry Guide Program that uses 100 volunteers who help give advice and job leads to job seekers in the parish through “warm calling.” St. Brendan’s has a professional forum group whose purpose is education and networking. St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw, has a recently established group and can be reached at

As job seekers left the networking event in May, many had made contacts they felt positive about, but they knew this is where the work of finding a job actually starts. Following up and continuing to follow up on job leads is essential, as well as maintaining the passion and drive to be employed.