Sharon Woolum hit her low point in the fall of 2011 when her husband suddenly passed away and she was thrust into the role of being her family’s primary caregiver.
“I felt like I needed focus in my life,” Woolum said. “I was at the lowest point in my life that I’d ever been. Just emotionally drained, stressed and unsure of what the future held.”
A native of Bell County, Woolum was primarily a stay-at-home mother, though she did have skills gained while helping her late husband with their business. But she didn’t have any sort of professional certificate or degree and wasn’t sure how to go about promoting herself while searching for a job.
That all changed in 2012 after Woolum arrived at the Pineville Public Library to return some books. There, she happened to notice a flyer for the Bell County Job Club.
“At the time I wasn’t working, and I needed to be,” Woolum said.
A job club is a small group of jobseekers that meets weekly to share leads and networking opportunities. The Bell County Job Club is sponsored by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program Inc. (EKCEP). Its Kentucky Career Center JobSight workforce network is in collaboration with the Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency and the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training.
Job clubs also offer jobseekers opportunities to develop more successful methods of searching for employment, including honing resumes and improving interview skills.
“I didn’t know that they would have all of those resources,” Woolum said. “All of the help, all the assistance and the support or the connection to available jobs in the area.”
Woolum came to the job club during the second week of a multi-week session. She decided very early on to put everything she could into making her experience there a success.
“I gave it my all, just like a kid in school really trying to make a good grade,” she said.
Woolum discovered how to market the skills she gained while helping with the family business. Expert career advisers helped focus her resume for specific jobs. She participated in mock job interviews that helped prepared her for the real thing.
Perhaps most importantly, Woolum was encouraged to succeed through the support of others also participating in the Bell County Job Club — people just like her also looking for a new job.
“Everybody in job club has something in common,” she said. “You get support and encouragement, and you learn from each other. It’s a good support group.”
It was the job club network that ultimately led Woolum to apply for a job with her current employer, Gambrel & Wilder Law Office in Pineville.
While in a job club meeting at the Pineville library, Woolum discovered that a law office in London was hiring. She applied and was given an opportunity to interview for the position.
The employer was ultimately looking for someone with more legal experience, according to Woolum. During the interview, she learned that the Gambrel & Wilder Law Office was seeking a receptionist.
She applied and was granted an interview, something for which she was prepared, she added, thanks to the skills learned at the Bell County Job Club.
“I went into the interview knowing what to expect,” she said. “That really helped my confidence.”
Woolum received an offer of employment and began working at Gambrel & Wilder in August 2012. She steadily progressed, and a year later was promoted to legal secretary. She is currently enrolled in classes through Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College to become a paralegal.
It took only a few weeks after attending her first job club session for Woolum to enter the labor market with a new confidence, and it all started one day while simply returning books to the library.
It was a day, she said, that presented her with a new path in life.
“The Bell County Job Club was a launching pad for me,” Woolum said. “I feel like that’s where I got my start, I got the support, the information and the assistance I needed to get done what I needed to do.”
To find a job club near you, send a message to Job Clubs of Eastern Kentucky on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jobclubseky, or call the Bell-Whitley CAA at 606-337-3044, or EKCEP at 606-435-5751.