An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?
For Lisa Melendez, “local” means much more than where she buys her groceries or sees a movie. It’s a way of life, a way of connecting with others, a way of giving back.
“I’m a community activist at heart, and a person who can find and identify opportunities where a lot of people don’t,” she says. “I love bringing people together. I love making conversations happen. I love convening.”
Lisa was born and raised in East Harlem, NY and has a wide range of experience working on community initiatives. She’s done everything from lobbying local government to change welfare laws to coordinating an international HIV/AIDS panel to matching prospective board members with nonprofits to working in administration at a hospital.
A mother of two, Lisa is now living in upstate NY as a stay-at-home mom. When she’s not taking her kids to extracurricular activities or attending school events, she spends her spare time developing a new organization geared towards matching early childcare providers with local families.
She’s ready to jump back into the workforce, this time with a different focus. Tech companies seeking to improve the quality of life are appealing to her, but she lacks the skillset required for most positions. Still, she’s hopeful and has been applying nonetheless.
“I’m not afraid of first times. Just because I’ve never done this before doesn’t mean I am not capable or shouldn’t do it,” she says.
Given her experience looking for jobs, and the experience of many in the U.S., Lisa would like to connect prospective job seekers looking to switch industries with the right resources to give them the best chance of success.
Starting with her home state, New York, her target audience is middle-aged, male and female displaced workers.
“We have no real choice here but to begin embracing the notion that your career can begin in one place and end up in another,” Lisa says. “I see it everywhere. People are reinventing themselves all the time.”
She envisions three components:
- On-line product/community that includes a search engine, services clearinghouse, emerging industry profiles, career paths, industry-specific skill profiles, and more.
- Live tour for candidates who want to meet an actual person and learn about a particular industry from an insider. This would also be a chance to identify shadowing, returnship, and matching opportunities.
- Matching of non-traditional, prospective job seekers for shadowing of established employees in area of interest.
“In a time where so many of us feel as if we are submitting our resumes into the great abyss, we are having to become innovative in how we present ourselves to potential employers,” she says. “Many are asking the question, “How can I get employers to see I can do this job?”
This is the first time Lisa has shared her idea. Here are the challenges she currently faces:
- She doesn’t know where to start.
- It’s been hard for her to anticipate the resources – human, financial, and otherwise – she needs to move it forward.
How you can help
- Besides VocationVacations, which Lisa finds pricey, does this idea exist somewhere else?
- Has there been any thinking around this issue, and if so, what kind of progress has been made?
- Who are the key players and organizations she should tap into?
- Where can she find more information on career transitions?
- What kinds of expertise would be most helpful in the technical development? Are there low-cost or pro-bono services?
- For the live tour component, how can she best identify experts who’d be willing to share insider information?
- Given job competitiveness, would folks even be interested in having somebody shadow them? Why or why not?
- Regardless of which industry you work in, would people be interested in participating?
- Would you be interested in talking about or helping out with this idea?
Leave a comment below or send her a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!
Are you a practical dreamer with an idea that’s just starting to take shape? If you’d like to be part of this series, or know someone who would be a good fit, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.