“I was thinking of changing my career as an employee relations specialist because I was burned out,” says Janice Thompson-Grant. “But the WIA allowed me to get my feet wet in human resources [HR] again. I always wanted to go back and get my master’s degree, but I got so caught up in my job. This has allowed me to go back to school and inspired me to go back and get my master’s.”
Thompson-Grant relocated to the Charlotte area with her family from New Jersey, where she worked at Merck Pharmaceuticals. At a meeting of her job-search team in Davidson, a guest speaker mentioned Charlotte Works. Feeling that the group wasn’t teaching her the skills to be successful in her job search, she explored the Charlotte Works website and registered in October 2012.
She attended resume development workshops and coaching sessions, personal branding sessions, mock interviews and Interview Boot Camp. Fatefully, Thompson-Grant joined a job-search team, where she says the entire team participated in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Classroom Training.
“I knew what I wanted to do, which was get my human resources and PHR [Professional in Human Resources] certifications,” she says. “These are certifications that tell employers that I’m solid in HR, that I know my stuff.”
Thompson-Grant began classes in September and will take the PHR exam just before Christmas. The WIA Classroom Training Program is funding both the classes and the cost of the PHR exam. When she passes, she’ll be able to add those three letters after her name.
Thompson-Grant’s 23 months of unemployment ended on November 4. Shortly after beginning the certification process, she applied for and landed a position as an HR representative with MetLife. While she’ll be supporting the company’s HR business consultants, she’ll also be learning their role.
“MetLife is combining this role with the next level up because I have so many skills. My aspiration is to become an HR business consultant,” Thompson-Grant says. “MetLife was impressed because they asked how I kept myself up-to-date with trends in HR and what I was doing to continue my education. I told them I was getting ready to start the certifications.”
She credits her job-search team with encouraging her to explore the WIA Classroom Training program and in landing her new position. “Charlotte Works is such a good place to network. There were days I didn’t want to come, but the job-search team is a safe place where people genuinely care about each other. I was discouraged, but you’ve got to have faith. I couldn’t travel because my funds were low, so [job-search team leader] Paul Villegas said, ‘I’ll come to you.’ He and several other people met me at Panera Bread and he began to pull up jobs on his laptop and MetLife was one of them.”
Thompson-Grant also notes that Charlotte Works “taught me you’ve got to open your mouth. If you don’t ask, you don’t get anything.” This lesson hit home when three of her former Merck colleagues turned up as LinkedIn connections to MetLife, including one of her references, who she didn’t realize had moved on. “I reached out to all three,” she says. “Charlotte Works built my confidence level. I’m not scared to go in a room where I don’t know anyone and walk up and introduce myself.”
She encourages other transplants to make Charlotte Works their first stop. “Whenever I see a New Jersey license plate, I ask if they’re visiting or have moved. If they say they’ve moved, then I say, ‘You need to go to Charlotte Works!’” says Thompson-Grant. “The tools and resources are here. It works if you apply yourself. Just come here for the support. You can stay at home and get into a real funk and not do anything. Just get up and get dressed and come here – you never know who you’re going to talk to, who you’re going to meet, who you’re going to hear, what you may learn. This is a great place to start.”