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Connect-to-Care Event at JJC

At the UJA-Federation of New York’s Connect-to-Care Networking Event, held at Jericho Jewish Center on May 6, participants had any misconceptions that they may have had about networking swept away: “If you’re here to sell somebody something, the door is there,” said Steven Krauser, president of Jericho Jewish Center and Network Associates Inc., at the start of the event. Whether or not participants came away from the event with new business contacts, the message – that networking is a tool, perhaps even a mindset, and not a sales pitch – was powerful.

“Networking is the single most powerful tool for growing your business, but it can also be a huge waste of time,” said Krauser, citing many examples of failed networking profiles: the professional who gives out business cards by the handful, but never takes the time to get to know anyone, or the shy participant who may spend an entire event talking to the one person they already know. He then went on to explain the steps to successful networking, like setting a goal – even if the goal is something as deceptively simple as meeting three new people. “It’s not what you know, it’s not who you know – it’s who knows you.”

Connect-to-Care – a program created by UJA-Federation in response to the recession – is an initiative that capitalizes on the organization’s capacity to respond to a communitywide crisis, and leverage the services and strengths of many of the New York area’s human-service agencies and Jewish community centers. The program provides access to a wide range of services, including employment and career-transition services. financial consulting, debt counseling, budget assistance, legal services, supportive counseling and Jewish spiritual care.

The networking event was the first such event to be held at the synagogue; it was co-hosted by Jericho Jewish Center and the Jewish Congregation of Brookville. The evening’s activities were specifically organized to be useful to both working professionals and those currently seeking a position. In the sanctuary, career counselor Francine Fabricant, MA, EdM presented a seminar to those currently seeking jobs on the topic of how to harness one’s personal strengths in order to network more effectively, utilizing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory. The professionals in transition learned about the four dimensions of personality type: extroversion versus introversion, sensing versus intuition, thinking versus feeling, and judging versus perceiving. Fabricant then detailed the most effective strategies for different personality types.

While the networking seminar was in progress, the business-to-business meeting took place in the cocktail lounge, where participants from a wide variety of fields took the opportunity to get to know one another and exchange cards. After both the seminar and the meeting had concluded, all participants met in the ballroom for dessert, coffee, and the chance to put all the networking skills they had just learned to the test.

For some job-seekers, this event was one of several Connect-to-Care functions they had attended. Alan Fromm, an online ethics and compliance learning specialist, commented that he had made personal connections through Connect-to-Care as well as new business contacts. “If I come home with one name I didn’t have before, it was a success – it all contributes to my getting a job,” said Fromm, who is doing some work in real estate while he looks for a full-time position in his field of corporate learning. Fromm is interested in staying in the same field, to be able to best utilize his skills as an educator.

However, for some, staying in the same field isn’t the top priority. Alan Wechsler, a former reporter for the Times Union newspaper in Albany for 11 years, said he was interested in transitioning to a career in public relations. For those like Wechsler, who are seeking a new field as well as a new job, it’s clear how getting out and meeting new people can be not only useful, but critically important.

In some fields, networking helps professionals to keep pace in a rapidly changing business landscape. Joyce Aronin, who specializes in consumer package goods (CPG) marketing and has run major print and television campaigns for products ranging from cosmetics to vitamins, has seen her field change tremendously in the last few years due to the explosion of internet marketing, particularly with the advent of social media. In this turbulent environment, employers have become hyper-specific: “If you have experience selling round tables, and they’re selling square tables, they don’t want you – they want someone who’s sold square tables,” commented Aronin. She said that she’s working with the career counselors at Connect-to-Care to stay competitive in this new environment, and is considering getting a professional certificate in digital media marketing. Aronin noted that she’s made valuable personal connections through Connect-to-Care as well.

For Lori Scollo, a human resources manager who has provided operations support to major bank integrations and mergers, her involvement in Connect-to-Care is twofold; she utilizes their services, and also keeps her skills fresh by volunteering for the organization for 40 to 60 hours a month. “Being unemployed can be a very isolating experience; it’s good to be involved. It creates the right environment, and opens a lot of doors.” Like Aronin, Scollo also noted the extraordinarily specific work experience that many current employers are seeking, and how that specificity can create difficulties for professionals like herself, with varied experience and global business acumen, who may be passed over for positions they are, in actuality, well-qualified for, due to the limitations of a résumé as a communicator of an individual’s true skills. Still, by keeping active with Connect-to-Care, and giving back to the community in the process, Scollo feels that she’s on the right track: “I believe in Connect-to-Care; it’s a wonderful program,” she commented.

Many subjects of Connect-to-Care success stories are likely to agree with Scollo- the program has helped approximately 600 people in Nassau County, 70 of whom have gotten jobs as a direct result. Connect-to-Care’s success is partially due to the integration of Judaism; the program is presented, with good reason, as part of a larger spiritual responsibility to help others. Or, as Jericho Jewish Center’s Rabbi Moscovitz put it, “It’s not just Connect-to-Care; it’s caring to connect.”

It’s likely that local residents will get the opportunity to do more of both; according to Krauser, the success of the networking event makes it likely that Jericho Jewish Center will host similar programs in the near future. Looking around the ballroom, where approximately three hundred professionals were still chatting and making connections long after the scheduled 9 p.m. end time, the president was elated: “This is a home run.” he said. “This is the kind of ‘economic stimulus’ we really need.”

For more information about Connect to Care, you can visit the program’s website at www.ujafedny.org/connect-to-care. To find out about future events at Jericho Jewish Center, go to www.jerichojc.com.