“I really feel as though I’m making somebody’s life better,” says Charlotte Works’ volunteer Howard Ross. “I’m not here just to give them hope – I’m here to help them with the facts on the ground and get them hired.”
And give clients more than hope is what he does: he offers straightforward, practical, sometimes uncomfortable insight into the hiring process and the human soul.
A student (and teacher) of communications, and informally, the psychology of behavior; an entrepreneur and employee; coach and mentor, Ross brings a wealth of skills and experiences to his role as a job-search team facilitator and resume coach.
“I was looking for a place to put my energies [post-retirement] and found this to be a perfect match because I can sit at a job-search team and see part of myself in every person sitting around the table,” he says. “I can see myself 20, 30 years ago, and I’d like to think I have the answers they need now.”
Ross was “born into” his family’s jewelry business in Bay Shore, N.Y., which he ran for 23 years, during which he tripled its size through a combination of networking and skills improvement. He also served as a teaching assistant, lecturer and debate coach at Syracuse University and Dowling College in New York.
“I worked for myself before moving to Charlotte, and then I worked for somebody else because I wasn’t ready to retire,” notes Ross. “I’ve been on both sides. I know what bosses want: how can you help me? What tools do you have in your toolkit that will help my bottom line?”
He retired three years ago and today, devotes his time not only to Charlotte Works, but also to serving as a mentor for SCORE (SCORE Association, previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives) and an English-as-a-Second-Language conversation facilitator and instructor at International House.
People being unemployed has nothing to do with competence and everything to do with the ability to communicate effectively. It’s my job to help them communicate their competencies effectively – you’re in sales and marketing of yourself – to get hired.
Ross joined Charlotte Works’ volunteer ranks in spring 2013. “I find it to be very creative, and when you can go someplace and be creative, that’s good,” he says. “I analyze each person’s situation and, based on everything I’ve learned over the years, I can give them information and a direction to go that will open doors for them. I can be objective as to what they can do to better their situation so they don’t trip over their negative emotions and continue to stumble.”
Of his two roles here, Ross particularly enjoys facilitating a job-search team. “The interchanges between people are powerful. I can have a silent person who will speak up when they relate to something. People will help others more than they’ll help themselves,” he observes. “It’s a significant cooperative effort and significant bridges are built.”
Recently, he’s been teaching both his job-search team members and individual coaching clients the difference between accountability and responsibility. In his mind, accountability means you pay for your actions with money and/or time, and people are most accountable to themselves.
“I tell my people, ‘you are accountable to yourself.’ If you’re not working, we have to get to work to solve this issue. We don’t have time to fool around. We have to find the issue that’s preventing you from getting to where you want to be,” says Ross, who employs a variety of techniques including examples, comparisons/contrasts and the power of choice to fix a situation to bring a heightened sense of self-awareness to job-search team and coaching participants alike.
“It’s like being a refugee from the economy. You have no choice – there is no alternative but to go on. You cannot give up,” he says. “I’m firmly convinced that change is possible and you can get to where you want to be. I believe the impossible can be accomplished. Most people who come in here don’t believe that, but it’s the mission.”