“Working to Fulfill Spiritual Needs,” Ensign, July 2009, 75–76
Patti Stanley searched for a job for a month and a half. She had been out of the job market for a couple of years and felt overwhelmed looking for employment. She had stayed at home raising her children, but because of her family’s economic situation, she and her husband, who was self-employed, decided she needed to work to help support their family.
Throughout the world, the economic downturn has left many in need of jobs and many with financial stress.
Dale Willis, president of the Mesa Arizona Alta Mesa Stake, said he is concerned not only for the members’ temporal needs but also for their spiritual needs. He said if the members in his stake cannot provide adequately for their families, it can negatively affect their ability to serve in the Lord’s kingdom. If they cannot serve, he said, they miss out on essential opportunities for spiritual growth.
In the Mesa, Arizona, USA, area, President Willis said, the unemployment rate has risen in the past few years among Church members.
Concerned about the trend, leaders of several stakes in Mesa began organizing free careers fairs to help address unemployment in the area. The fairs bring together members of the community who are searching for jobs and employers who need to fill job vacancies.
The Mesa stakes, in cooperation with the Mesa Employment Center, have held the annual Career Expo since 2006. The one-day event has grown to attract from 500 to 800 people and dozens of companies.
The organizing committee invites companies in a variety of fields to the expo. They also send out invitations to Church members and the community.
As part of the expo, the committee plans workshops to teach ward and community members how to improve their résumés and their interviewing skills as well as the importance of having a positive attitude when pursuing a job.
In preparation for the career fair, bishops invite members to take classes at the employment center regardless of their background or current employment status.
Sister Stanley attended the expo in 2008, which was held at a Church institute of religion building. The people who came to the expo attended workshops in classrooms. They also walked through aisles of booths in the gym, where they met with potential employers and distributed their résumés.
Sister Stanley talked to employers and gave them copies of her résumé and letters of recommendation. There were many types of businesses at the expo, she said, but it was not until she visited the last booth that she found a position that matched her interests and experience. She talked with the employer, and he took her résumé. The following week he called her and offered her the position.
“I don’t believe in coincidence; I don’t believe in sheer luck,” Sister Stanley said. Without the career expo and the Lord’s help, she said, she would not have found this company.
The Mesa area career fairs don’t help just those who are unemployed. They also provide an opportunity for employed people to consider other career options.
The bishop in Caroline Kirkham’s ward in the Mesa area recommended she attend the employment center classes even though she already had a job. The company she worked for did not offer the medical benefits she wanted, and she was concerned about retirement.
While at the employment center, she updated and improved her résumé. She also learned about the career expo and decided to attend.
Before she went to the expo, Sister Kirkham researched each of the companies that would be participating. When she got there, she targeted the companies that interested her. She met with several company representatives, gave them her résumé, and scheduled follow-up appointments. Eventually she met with a national business publication. That meeting led to a series of interviews and a new job. It was in a similar field as her previous job but had better benefits. She said her new job also brought her peace of mind because it would help her be better prepared for retirement.
“We all have something to offer,” Sister Kirkham said. “Work on the assumption that your Heavenly Father loves you, He knows your situation, and at some point in time, something different will happen. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from God and from others in your ward.”
Organizers feel that the career expos have been a wonderful success on many levels, not just helping people find employment.
Scott Farmer, a manager of Employment Resources in Mesa, said, regarding visitors’ experiences at the career expo: “You see faith rebuilt. The ward will help take care of people, but when they go out and prove to themselves that they are of value, it lifts their souls and helps them see that things are not hopeless.”
Paul Sanders, who helped develop the multistake career fair while serving as a welfare employment specialist, said, “There was no question that the Lord’s hand was in its creation.”