After pandemic-related layoff, Brenda finds fulfilling work thanks to support from CareerForce

photo of Brenda, who utilized CareerForce in her successful job search

Brenda utilized many CareerForce services following a job loss during the early days of the pandemic. Now, she is working in great job that fits her skill set, thanks to support from family, friends, former co-workers and many others plus CareerForce assistance, including education paid for through the Dislocated Worker program. Brenda shares her story in her own words below.

“I was laid off on July 24, 2020. My field was teaching English language classes to multilingual adult learners. With the international borders closed and the field of international education quite uncertain, I began looking for employment in other career fields including higher education student services, county government, state government, and the private sector in human resources assistant or customer service specialist positions. I was making a career change, and I was over 50. I also realized I needed to be a prepared and knowledgeable applicant, especially in today's digital world. It had been 14 years since I had looked for a full-time job, and so much had changed. That's when I turned to    

“I followed all the advice on including setting up an account, putting multiple versions of my resume on, watching and learning from the virtual workshops offered by, and making an appointment with Barb Napier, (CareerForce West St. Paul), for resume and cover letter critiques (by e-mail and phone).  I also received a referral to meet with Jim Sutton (CareerForce Burnsville), who became my job coach and approved funding for the Dislocated Worker program, which paid for five Human Resources courses through the University of Minnesota College of Continuing and Professional Studies. 

“I also give Jim credit for recommending that I join a job support group, and I chose Wooddale Church Job Transition Support Group (which I joined every Monday morning at 7:15 on Zoom). I connected with volunteers from this group who critiqued my resume and offered interview coaching advice over Zoom, as well as offered a different workshop each Monday. Through this club, I gained LinkedIn connections, and I contacted people before or after applying for a job at an organization for a conversation about working there. 

“CareerForce workshops that were most helpful to me include: Resume Writing with Microsoft Word parts 1, 2, 3; Tools of the Trade: Resumes; Interviewing Skills; Internet and Social Media: LinkedIn; Creative Job Search Over 50; Job Search Strategies; and Job Applications, Skills, and Portfolios. Special thanks to Art Larsen, Marney Curfman, Robin Johnson, and Samuel Kuehl. I also benefited from taking virtual workshops offered by Cindy Hinderks (CareerForce Woodbury), attending virtual and in-person job fairs at CareerForce West Saint Paul and Woodbury, and attending virtual career-specific panel discussions organized by CareerForce’s Liz Jennings.

“I received many rejections from the state of Minnesota before I got an invitation for an interview, so my advice is to keep applying. I custom-tailored each resume to match the job description and used many of the exact words and phrases in the minimum and preferred qualifications parts of the job posting. I made sure that my resume addressed every item in the minimum qualifications (and as many as possible in the preferred characteristics).  I prepared a T-chart to compare the job description with my own skills before applying to the job. This helped me prepare my customized resume and assisted me before the interview (but I did not show the T-chart to the employer). I also wrote a three-paragraph cover letter for each job I applied for, and I was able to update my online application each time by adding or revising skills and other elements. The most important tip is when I knew I was qualified to apply for a position, I made sure my resume’s top third section that listed my summary, skills, and competencies matched those that were in the job posting. That is why customizing each resume for each position is essential.  Interviewing coaching was really essential, and I practiced by preparing up to 20 STAR stories before each interview so I could pull them out quickly from memory with a relevant example if asked about a particular topic.

“The events that were the most important for me were attending the virtual workshops and my weekly job club and setting up individual coaching sessions for interviewing skills. I would recommend attending all relevant workshops on, joining a networking or support group, and contacting your local CareerForce location to have a career counselor give you feedback on your resume and cover letter and provide you with interviewing coaching virtually or by phone. I utilized multiple CareerForce centers for workshops and job fairs and networking sessions.  Be prepared to spend 40 hours or more per week on your job search process.

“I also credit the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for providing me access to Coursera (NOTE: REGISTRATION FOR FREE COURSERA TRAINING VIA THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (DEED) CLOSED ON DECEMBER 31, 2020.) while I was unemployed. I completed two virtual certificates: “Finding Purpose and Meaning in Life: Living for What Matters Most” (Nov. 2020) and “Human Resource Management: HR for People Managers” (April-July 2021). I was overjoyed when I received an email from the state of MN Department of Public Safety inviting me for an in-person interview. This was almost two months after applying for the job. I was even more thrilled when I got an email just 10 days after  stating I had a contingent job offer. I had to read it twice. Two weeks after that, after passing background and reference checks, I was given a formal job offer.  My job is a Customer Service Specialist with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.  Through this experience, I gained an appreciation for re-learning, new learning, and patiently waiting.

“The reason I kept applying to county and state government jobs is I wanted to work in public service, and there were so many jobs that looked interesting to me. Plus, I had many transferable skills from my days as an English instructor to adult learners. I felt prepared submitting each resume and cover letter because of CareerForce's counselors, workshops, coaches, and website resources, plus the resources from Wooddale Job Transition Support Group. I was also ready for each interview because of the tips and resources from CareerForce's great interviewing workshops and the individual coaching I received. One is never too old to learn new things. I am very grateful to all the people who helped me along the way. I appreciate every instructor, counselor, coach, and program manager through CareerForce and Wooddale Church Job Transition Support Group.  I also credit my family, friends, and former co-workers (who were cheering me on and giving me encouragement and positive messages). Keep going; you can do it too!”

If you are looking for work now or exploring your career options, CareerForce is ready to help you! Contact staff at a CareerForce location near you and get started with expert, no-fee assistance today.

You are also invited to Explore Careers in State Government. A virtual state government careers meet and greet is taking place on February 28 from 2:30-4pm, find out more and register now.