Catholic parish’s ministry offers support for job-seekers amid pandemic

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A graph explaining the unemployment insurance process in Kentucky is seen in this photo illustration. CNS photo/Jessica Able, The Record

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) — While millions of Americans have suddenly found themselves unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new ministry sponsored by Epiphany Church in Louisville seeks to help.

“Rethinking Employment: New-Age Branding” offers support for the unemployed, underemployed and those seeking new opportunities, said Brayton Bowen, a parishioner of Epiphany who leads the ministry.

As unemployment rates rise and job opportunities decline, job seekers are confronted with significant challenges, Bowen said.

“We recognize how the market has changed. We focus on how we can brand individuals and utilize skills they already possess,” he said in a phone interview with The Record, Louisville’s archdiocesan newspaper.

The ministry has a team of advisers who specialize in different fields of work. An interested candidate first contacts Bowen and he connects the candidate with an adviser or subject-matter expert.

The two meet — either virtually or in-person as is safe — to discuss the job-seekers’ needs and interests. Participation is open to the public. A job-seeker need not be a member of Epiphany Parish or be Catholic.

“Instead of the traditional ‘tombstone’ layout resume, we work at incorporating a visual presentation along with a marketing document,” said Bowen, who has more than 20 years of experience in human resources.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the job market and economy, first with the widespread closures and now, in some cases, the reclosing of local and state economies as the number of coronavirus cases resurges.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported July 2 the unemployment rate in the U.S. fell slightly to 11.1% in June, a little better than the previous month’s percentage, which was 13.3%.

Bowen suspects the market will decline before it gets better. All the more reason to have professionals assist candidates who are searching for more meaningful employment, he said.

The ministry provides periodic workshops on such subjects as resume writing, networking, personal branding, interviewing skills, managing finances during unemployed periods and franchising.

The ministry also periodically publishes notices on job leads, personal branding tips, job fairs and networking opportunities. Another component of the ministry is spiritual and emotional support, Bowen said.

“I’ll be the first to admit, a loss of a job is more than a loss of income. Job loss is something I’ve experienced and a number of our advisers have experienced,” he said.

Oftentimes, he said, those who have lost jobs rush back to the market place to find another job. It’s understandable, he said, but a more thoughtful approach may prove beneficial.

Searching for a new job takes organization, persistence and “relentless” networking, Bowen said. The added support of the ministry is intended to increase a candidate’s likelihood of securing employment.

Bowen said he feels called to “walk with individuals” and to remind them of their inherent human dignity.

“We tell individuals, ‘A job is not who you are, but what you do. You are a fine human being with a lot of talent. You are just in between opportunities,'” he said.

This isn’t the first time Epiphany parishioners have reached out to those seeking employment. A similar ministry emerged following the Great Recession more than a decade ago. Called Network Employment Transition, the program met with success, Bowen said.

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