Finding Success with the Career Network
August 10, 2016

For quite a few people, their chosen career becomes an integral part of who they are and how they see themselves. For others, the barriers to gainful employment become too many and too difficult to overcome without help. But everyday, the Career Network at CUCS provides many clients with encouraging help to overcome their barriers.

When a client expresses interest in working, the Career Network ensures they each “get the individualized support they need in order to obtain and maintain employment”, Gabby Gomez, a Career Network coordinator explains. This support translates to assisting with applications, preparing for interviews and working as a team to trouble-shoot issues that may arise once a client has landed a job—ensuring that they stay employed.

The Career Network has myriad opportunities for clients to pursue. CUCS’ employment specialists (ES) know participants come in with a wide variety of skills and abilities and each ES works to match their clients with positions where they will excel. Gabby explains, “Participants have been hired as front desk workers, retail/consumer service workers, security guards, greens-keepers and tutors” at companies like Macys, Burlington Coat Factory, Phoenix Recycling, and Gristedes. Many have even been hired for special events such as the US Open tennis tournament and with the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates, among other attractions, the famed Bronx Zoo.

There, at the Bronx Zoo gift shop located very near to the ever-popular Children’s Zoo, is where Christine, a Career Network participant, has worked for a little over 6 months.

Christine speaks about her duties at the Bronx Zoo with infectious enthusiasm, saying “I love it. I work behind the register, on the floor, greeting people with a smile, and engaging them in conversation.” She enjoys seeing the zoo’s youngest visitors running with excitement and meeting people from all over the country and the world.

But more than offering a chance to work around many diverse people, Christine credits her job with showing her how to be more responsible and independent, more akin to how she felt before she struggled with addiction.  She’s been sober for 6 years and explains that her position at the zoo has reinforced how much she enjoys her sober life.   “[Being sober] brought me closer to my family than I was before … I have nieces and nephews and I am a very big part of their life,” she says.

Christine recently put in applications for a number of permanent, full-time careers, but the lessons she learned with the CUCS Career Network will stay with her even after she leaves the Bronx Zoo. “I learned how to trust again, I learned how to stay strong” she says of her time with Megan, her Career Network employment specialist. “Megan had patience with me, she accepts me, and she believed in me.”

Christine first came to CUCS in early 2015 after 18 years of homelessness.  She met Megan during her year-long stay at the Kelly, one of CUCS’ transitional living communities.  She has recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment but emphasizes her appreciation for how much Megan and CUCS has meant to her, stating, “Since I’ve been with her, I’ve had so much support.”

Megan’s steady encouragement has prompted Christine to say, for the first time in a long time, “I’m proud of myself.”

Gabby and her colleagues like Megan look forward to seeing participants experience such positive change. Gabby describes the mission of the Career Network as much more than simply getting a person a job.  “It’s seeing participants realize their own potential and self worth…finding the strength to succeed.”