Durelle McPherson
Durelle McPherson

When Larissa Bonilla found herself out of a job and running out of unemployment benefits last year, she turned to United Way of Northern New Jersey’s free career coaching program for help. Shortly after meeting with a volunteer coach, the Montclair resident and single mother of a teenage daughter landed a job.

“It was a godsend,” said Bonilla about her job, which pays more than her previous one and offers her opportunity for advancement. “I would recommend the career coaching program to anybody.”

Created six years ago, the Career Coaching program offers residents in the Suburban Essex area who are seeking a job due to downsizing or life-transitions, a much needed free resource. Job seekers meet one-on-one with volunteer coaches to learn résumé and interviewing tips and gain access to resources for job training. They also learn skills needed in today’s workforce, things such as setting up and using Linkedin accounts, social media and creating digital resumes.

Perhaps, more importantly, they leave with a feeling of optimism. “At one point you may feel you have come to the end of the road and need support. You leave here with a sense of hope,” says United Way Manager Durelle McPherson.

McPherson tells Baristanet that, on average, the program helps 12 people a month and they range from high school graduates looking for advice on their career path to older individuals who have been laid off from there long-term careers. United Way currently has six volunteer coaches who are available monthly by appointment and at coaching sessions at United Way’s Montclair office, located at 60 South Fullerton Avenue.

Job seekers have the option of meeting with the coach of their choice:

  • Joshua Aaronson, a human resources and employee benefits professional with experience in the health care, nonprofit, higher education and corporate sectors.
  • Joanne Bowman, a human resources professional with corporate and higher education experience and author of the eBook “Transition with Grace: A Job Search Guide.”
  • Matthew Frankel, a communications professional with experience working as a press secretary on Capitol Hill and leading corporate communication departments for large media companies.
  • Laurie Kessler, a marketing, media and entertainment professional.
  • Kate Potters, the co-founder of executive search firm Glenmont Group, where she leads the firm’s senior-level professional management searches.
  • Judy Scherer, a career counselor, work strategist and co-author of “The Geography of the App Economy.”

Matthew Frankel, who has been a volunteer career coach for five years, says “What we have created at the Center is having a real impact on families throughout Essex County. Each week professional volunteers give back, with one on one advice, counseling, and development. People from all ages and economic backgrounds come to the Center to seek advice. Aside from Fatherhood, being a Coach at the Center has become one of my greatest passions. It has become such an important resource and we hope to expand its reach in the years ahead.”

New sessions will resume in September. To make an appointment with a volunteer coach or to find out how to volunteer, call 973.993.1160, x210 or email Durelle McPherson.