New Year, New Me

Sunburst Mental Health Services event aimed to help community members find and maintain employment

By Clare Menzel
Ken Gary, left, and Jason Tuller revise resumes during a job training seminar at The Village at Sunburst Mental Health Services in Kalispell on Jan. 8, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Job-hunting can be stressful, but organizers of a job-training seminar hosted at The Village at Sunburst Mental Health on Jan. 8 and 9 hope that the event equipped the 15 attendees with the skills and savvy to make the process less intimidating and more successful.

The two-day event, called “New Year, New Me,” kicked off on Friday with a resume, application, and interview workshop, then continued on Saturday with a free makeover provided by volunteers from the Pela Beauty Academy and Soucie Soucie Salon. The Garden of Eden Thrift & Variety Store and Flathead Industries also donated racks of professional attire.

“The population that we serve here at Sunburst, they’ve been told their entire diagnosed life that you have this [diagnosis], and they almost look at it as a disability,” said Josh Starcher, village service coordinator. “It’s not a hindrance, it doesn’t define you. You can still do whatever every other citizen does, you can get a job and employment.”

The workshop, led by Flathead Job Service workforce consultant Robbin Gard, focused on resume building and the interview, which Starcher acknowledged can be a “big nervous point.” Flathead Job Service, a Montana Department of Labor & Industry center, matches job seekers with employers and provides free services including practice interviews.

Gard covered many topics during the two-hour class, including when to introduce a service dog to an interviewer and how to deal with potential hard-to-explain points in a job history, like frequent job-hopping or stretches of time when the attendee was not formally employed and dealing with a disability or depression. The attendees also offered each other advice, such as explaining that people who have trouble with spelling or grammar might find it helpful to pick up two copies of an application.

“I’m job hunting, but I don’t have a resume,” said Amy Bailey, one attendee who asked how to include on her resume time spent as a homemaker. “This was a lot of information.”

On the following day, six volunteers from the local beauty salons spent two hours styling hair, painting fingernails, and showing attendees how to apply makeup.

“When you have the ability to keep your hair trimmed or styled, you have way more confidence because you know you look better,” said Melissa Totzauer, owner of Pela Beauty Academy. “The ladies that we worked on were awesome, and hopefully they felt empowered.”

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