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NOVA Success Story: Monica McDowell

ProMatch, a collaborative of NOVA and the California Employment Development Department, is a member-driven program where job seekers from the professional fields obtain the right connections, resources, and encouragement necessary to engage in a proactive job search leading to successful reemployment. ProMatch customer Monica McDowell describes her success story:

When my previous employer laid me off, I was really at a loss. It had been decades since I’d had to look for work, since I was hired at HP while still in college. I left that job when my mom was ill, and then I started my family. While my daughter was small, I was volunteering with a nonprofit and they asked me if I’d be interested in being their office manager, so I worked there until they shut down last year. Since I’d never had to actively seek work, I didn’t know how to go about it effectively.

After looking for a while on my own, I realized I couldn’t do it myself – the job market today was really different than “way back when” – and I needed to learn some new skills, which led me to NOVA. I spent time learning about my strengths and values, which confirmed my interest in the nonprofit field since my highest value is supporting people and being of service. My job search really took off, though, when my brother recommended I join ProMatch (he’s also a ProMatch member).

At ProMatch, what really helped me was to have that sense of community – a place where I could develop relationships with people in the same situation as me. I found a common purpose in running ProMatch together with the other members, supporting each other, and learning new skills. It gave me a place to work in a work-like environment. I found a huge sense of fulfillment in being able to be of service and volunteering to do whatever was necessary. I have to admit that at first ProMatch was painful – I had to introduce myself and ask for connections - but I kept pushing myself until my comfort zone got larger and I ended up totally comfortable as a co-manager. My accomplishments and contributions gave me back my self-esteem!

At the same time, the workshops I took on writing and targeting my resume, interviewing skills, and using new tools such as Google Docs, Drive, and Groups were super useful. Before I took a workshop on negotiation skills, it never would have occurred to me to negotiate!

Then a neighbor told me about openings at Planned Parenthood in the development department. I went on their website to see where I might fit and applied for an assistant position. Though I felt I could do more than what the job entailed, I was willing to take the job as a way to get my foot in the door. My brother was helping me practice for my interview and felt that I was holding back, but I didn’t want to seem over qualified. He said, “Don’t dumb down – just show who you are,” and I was so grateful for his advice. When I interviewed with one of the managers, she asked me if I was aware they also had a development operations manager position open, and wondered why I hadn’t applied, as she felt I’d be happier in that position! I ended up applying and used my new negotiation skills to increase my salary. The result – I started work as the development operations manager on October 24.

ProMatch takes time, but I viewed it as “this is serving me.” It’s important to balance learning skills and just getting yourself out there. I encourage job seekers to step up into leadership – that’s where you’ll be challenged but the rewards are worth it!