Three years ago, Stefanie Steinberg, of Waterford, needed a job. More than that, she needed support to get back to work after a ten-year hiatus. Like so many “stay-at-home-moms,” Stefanie had planned to jump back into the workforce when her son entered kindergarten. What she didn’t plan on was the break-up of her marriage, a difficult divorce and the need to earn a living as the solo breadwinner to provide for her young son.

“I was an emotional wreck and in financial crisis,” Stefanie recalls. “I was going through this terrible time in my life. I didn’t know what I was going to do. My son, who was five, had emotional problems dealing with the situation as well. And, in fact, we’re still going through some of that.”

Fortunately, Stefanie had some highly marketable skills. A certified gemologist, she had worked for Tapper’s Jewelers, where she took the initiative to launch the company’s co-operative advertising program. With her strengths in “problem solving” and “fixing things,” she also is an A+ Certified Computer Technician.

For Stefanie, the search for a job would seem to be only a matter of finding the right fit. Unfortunately, that was not the case. As Michigan’s economy was still in slow recovery, Stefanie found herself on an employment roller coaster, cobbling together a series of part-time jobs, taking short stints of work without hesitation, just plugging along, hoping to find the key to unlock a more stable, full-time opportunity.

That was then. Today Stefanie is a new person, confident and upbeat, and well matched in the position of Communications and Technology Coordinator at Temple Emanu-El, in Oak Park, where her computer skills, creativity and interest in graphics and web design are an asset.  Additionally, she is working as an assistant to the Executive Director of the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety.

Stephanie Steinberg
Stephanie Steinberg, Communications and Technology Coordinator at Temple Emanu-El, is to be honored as the recipient of the JVS Women to Work Award, presented in March at JVS’s 7th Annual Trade Secrets fundraiser.

Thanks to JVS

Rebuilding her confidence, now finding fulfillment in work she enjoys, Stefanie readily shares that she has JVS to thank for helping her get back on her feet three years ago. At the advice of a friend – a “networker of networkers” — Stefani called Judy Richmond, who coordinates the JVS Women to Work program. Judy encouraged Stefanie to enroll in the program, a commitment involving ten intensive group sessions (two days a week, for three hours each) as well as individual vocational assessment, counseling plus follow-up.

Women to Work is a long-established JVS program with proven and measurable success, serving women of all ages and stages of life. “Typically women turn to the program in the aftermath of major life changes – a divorce, the death of a spouse, disability or unemployment of their spouse or partner,” says Judy. Out of 16 women in a recent group, one third of the participants had husbands who had been laid off unexpectedly. This year there has been a 26% increase in breadwinners seeking employment at JVS. The need of single moms to find significant employment also has increased. In a recent group, over 70% of the participants were raising children on their own.

New beginnings

Flipping through her notes and the workbook from the course, Stefanie recalled a guest speaker who made all the difference for her midway through the course. “I remember day five as the turning point for me. We talked about life cycles – the kind of turbulence that everyone goes through approximately every ten years – and suddenly I realized I was not alone. It was like a light turned on for me and I could see my circumstance as an opportunity and a new beginning.”

“There’s a notable change in the women as they complete the program,” observes Kim Graziosi, APR, JVS Communications Director. “You actually can see the transformation from week to week. On day one, the room is very quiet; all eyes are averted and downcast. By the second week, everyone is sitting up a little taller, speaking with more confidence. By the end of the ten weeks, there’s clearly a different vibe in the room, a brighter outlook all around.”

A course of action

Women to Work is a comprehensive course of action designed to empower participants to identify their skills, strengths, abilities, values and personal styles as related to workplace relationships. Holistic in its approach, the program also can be a healing process for many as participants work on their resumé development, networking skills, goal-setting processes and stress management.

For more information on Women to Work, visit JVS or contact Judy Richmond at 248-233-4232 or jrichmond@jvsdetroit.org.

“What the program can’t do is to guarantee a job or solve everyone’s problems,” says Judy. “But, we can provide the tools necessary to help people find new ways of thinking about themselves, their skills and their potential in the workplace.”

Sitting tall at her workstation today, solving problems and ever eager to learn new skills, Stefanie Steinberg is proof positive that the program works. For her success in retooling herself to re-enter the workforce, she has been named the recipient of the JVS Women to Work Award to be presented in March at JVS’s seventh annual Trade Secrets fundraiser.

“I used to worry,” says Stefanie. “I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself and my son. Now I know I can, no matter what.”

“After completing the program, as Stefanie has, 85% of participants are employed or go back to school for further training or education. The other 15% continue to receive services until they find a job” said Judy, “The program has changed the lives of hundreds of women and their children, making a cross-generational difference for families throughout southeast Michigan.”