Group offers options for women seeking career change
Special to The Telegram
It took four years for Donna Moore to work up the nerve to register for Women Interested in Successful Employment (WISE). Now, four years after completing the program, she says, "The best thing I have done for myself, other than giving birth to my two daughters, was walk through the door of the WISE program."
Women Interested in Successful Employment was formed more than 20 years ago to provide services to women in the community such as, job search, career planning and women's empowerment. Cathy LeDrew, a team facilitator and career counsellor at the WISE St. John's Office, says they work hard to remain current and to respond to the needs of individuals seeking their help.
"We have groups now for career planning, job search or individual services. We have also done, more recently, an essential skills program - a pre-career planning program for women who are not yet ready to go out in the world and do occupational research, who feel they need to get a little more grounded before doing that."
WISE has offices in St. John's, Carbonear and Gander and the group is looking at expanding into the Grand Falls area.
Each WISE group consists of about 20 women, with a huge range of ages, skills, education and interests, and LeDrew says there is no typical client.
"The typical woman would be a woman who says 'at this time I am looking for up-to-date career information.' In some cases they are looking for a career focus and are really wondering, 'Who am I and where am I going in the future?'
"A lot of women today are feeling really isolated, and need support. They need to know it is OK to look for support." WISE aims to provide that support in a non-judgmental, all-female environment, which can be an important factor for many participants.
Moore says, "It's just a natural bond with women, and women draw strength from each other that way."
Moore was a stay-at-home mom and child-care provider for 18 years before joining WISE, but after her own kids grew up she wanted to do something for herself, to develop her own skills. Thanks to her WISE training, she was able to identify her preferences and her skill set and she is now the recreation director of the Meadowcreek Retirement Centre in Paradise.
Like Moore, Ruth MacDonald completed a 12-week WISE program in 2005. At 35, after the birth of her third son, she had realized that she did not want to go back to retail shift work and she turned to WISE to help her make the most of her skills. She now works with the Vibrant Communities project of the Community Services Council. She is also the Newfoundland/Labrador board member for Canada Without Poverty (a national anti-poverty organization).
"I truly believe that had I not done this program I would not be sitting in my current position today," she says, "because I would have not found these skills that I had in myself without WISE pulling them out of me."
The programs provide a variety of skills and opportunities for growth that combine to encourage a self-confident, knowledgeable approach to career planning.
"Through the WISE program you'll get the training, the communication, the networking, it's just all one lovely package," says Moore. "Every piece that you do all fits together like a puzzle and it all comes out to be a wonderful networking, educational program."
While WISE is not a placement agency, it does offer training that prepares clients to be very motivated employees, and helps them to see how their life experience translates into work skills.
Judy Kirby, owner of Meadowcreek Retirement Centre and Moore's employer, found that her experience with WISE was a great asset on the job.
"Donna was very well prepared when she came here. She was mature, had a lot of life experience when she came here and that really helped, I found, with the seniors. She could really identify with them."
Kirby supports the WISE program through job shadowing opportunities and by allowing Moore time to visit WISE classes as a role model and success story.
LeDrew says the staff at WISE continue to offer support to women who have completed the program, because "Once a WISE woman, always a WISE woman." And McDonald has found this to be the case,
"The women teaching these courses are with you always. Almost five years have passed and I am still very connected to Daphne, Cathy and Valerie. I believe that the support of this team has been so valuable to me back then and still today."
The boost in self-confidence, the new skills, and the ongoing support work together to create graduates that are enthusiastic supporters of the program.
"I would recommend WISE from the bottom of my heart," says Moore, "and I like to tell other women too, it doesn't matter what other people think, it's what you feel in your heart what you want to do, this is your second chance."
McDonald feels the same way, "If you have not done this program and you want a change in your life … please believe me: WISE is where it's at!"
For more information about how to participate in Women Interested in Successful Employment, see www.wiseprograms.com , call 739-1369 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org