Want Help With Your Job Hunt? Ask Your Bank

December 5, 2014 | By and

Just getting a job is a job all by itself. And it can take a long time to find a good one.

The job market continues to grow and add more jobs, but finding the job that’s right for you still isn’t easy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job searches take longer. Many more job seekers now spend longer than a year searching before they are successful, even though job boards and websites make it easier to find and apply for jobs.

Randall Jackson, a homeowner in Chicago, is a prime example. After losing his job, he spent many hours fruitlessly posting his resume on corporate job sites with no results. “The whole job search process is very frustrating. These days you can put out hundreds of resumes and not get any callbacks,” says Jackson.

When the bills start to pile up, the stress gets even bigger.

Fortunately, Jackson’s home mortgage is with Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank, which since 2012 has taken action to help 230 unemployed homeowners get back to work. When Fifth Third homeowners fall two months behind on their mortgage, a field outreach advisor knocks on their door.

“This face-to-face opportunity allows us to hone in on the issues causing delinquency,” explains Jon Meade, senior vice president of Fifth Third Bank.

When the issue is unemployment, Fifth Third offers homeowners free enrollment in a 16-week online job-assistance program from a professional career-coaching firm, where they’ll get help from professional career coaches with resume writing, job selection, interviewing skills, and more.

The program ended up being a pleasant surprise to a skeptical Jackson. “My job coach helped guide me strategically through the job search process, customizing my search based on my skills, and I felt 100 percent more productive,” he says.

During a recent interview with Voice of America, Fifth Third spokesperson Larry Magnesen referred to this practice as “a good business decision.” According to Magnesen, “foreclosure is a disaster for all concerned. It’s a tragedy for the family. It’s not a good thing for the community.”

In addition to one-on-one job coaching, Fifth Third offers an online training program and weekly coach-led job club webinars.

The program has a 40 percent success rate for long term unemployed clients re-entering the workforce versus the national average of 11 percent.

Coming to a Bank Near You?

The idea of job assistance programs is catching on with other financial institutions.

M&T Bank of Buffalo, NY, launched its own national job assistance pilot program in November 2013. A random sampling of eligible homeowners — unemployed or underemployed and in the early stages of delinquency — received a phone call about the program. Of 150 homeowners, approximately 38 percent of those solicited participated in the program. During the first 16 weeks, homeowners worked one-on-one with their assigned job coach to build resumes and practice interviewing skills; the final 13 weeks provided virtual on-demand training on additional topics related to job seeking.

Based on the success of the pilot, M&T Bank is preparing for a second wave of the program that will be offered randomly to customers, says Ann Schlifke, M&T’s vice president for corporate communications.

All positive results cannot be measured with numbers, says Aimiamia Amadasu, vice president for customer asset management and the program’s administrator. “M&T is a community bank and by offering this program to our borrowers, we are assisting entire communities by keeping people in their homes,” she says.

A USAA Bank branch based in Dallas is testing its own jobs program to help unemployed service members. In the pilot program, members who are unable to make their home equity loan payments receive 16 weeks of free career coaching and support to help them get back on their feet.

The bank says that it is extremely happy the job coaches are adept at supporting military members so they can help with things like creating a demilitarized resume and showing participants how to market themselves in the civilian world. The program is small now, but USAA is hopeful it will grow as they help members find solid jobs.

The Big Pay Off

Lenders are sharing program results with other banks and companies that invest in home loans in hopes of seeing similar programs become available to reach even more homeowners.

But with many homeowners still struggling to find work, the stakes are enormous, says Schlifke. “Neighborhoods across the country benefit from people staying in their homes, and those who’ve been unemployed or underemployed are finally re-entering the workforce or in some cases securing higher-paying jobs,” says Schlifke.

While early results of these programs may be hard to quantify, they are making a difference for customers like Jackson, who landed his new job within weeks of completing the jobs coaching program. “I’m so thankful to my bank for helping me through this process,” he says.

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