Jewish Family & Career Services is taking applicants for a new program preparing college graduates to pursue the careers of their choice.

Known as gPATH — helping graduates prepare, aim, train and get hired — the program is open to college juniors and seniors and anyone who has graduated within the past three years, said Mandy Wright, the program’s coordinator.

Mandy Wright

Mandy Wright

“Ideally, I’d like to do it before graduation” and thus before young adults with their new degrees become freaked out by the real world.

“I think it’s really one of the most robust programs the agency has put together in the last several years,” said Brenda Fiske, the chief marketing officer of JF&CS.

The purpose of gPATH is not to help graduates decide what they want to do with their lives, but instead to provide the professional and personal skills they need to find and win the jobs they want and launch their careers.

Many of those skills, such as making eye contact, have been lost in the smartphone era, Fiske said.

The program features five workshop sessions:

  • Job search plan, résumé and cover letter.
  • Interview skills, including not only how to answer, but why certain questions are asked.
  • Workplace success and networking.
  • LinkedIn.
  • Financial basics, plus a panel of three to five hiring managers leading to a capstone networking event.

GPATH also has some individual elements, such as a résumé review and an offsite mock interview session with volunteers recruited by Wright. She said the interviewers are open to hiring program participants who wow them.

After completing the course, each participant is matched with a career guide, who Wright said is like an informal mentor. It’s a person who can advise you about whether it’s OK to wear the same outfit to a third interview, for example, and who should buy the coffee when you meet a hiring manager at a coffee shop.

That relationship with the guide lasts six months, at which point it’s up to the two people to decide whether to continue.

People who complete the program also can get help through JF&CS job placement services, and Wright is reaching out to employers with lots of entry-level positions.

Some of the skills taught in the program might be available at a good university career services center, but Wright said those centers connect with only about 20 percent of undergraduates — in part because of the students themselves. “Often they don’t come to terms with the fact that they need help until they’re a few months out of school and they don’t have a job yet.”

JF&CS ran a pilot of the program in February with 11 participants, and seven of them had jobs by the beginning of May. Job searches typically take eight to 10 months.

Of the four who hadn’t found jobs as of this writing, one just graduated from Emory University on Monday, May 9, and one still isn’t sure what he wants to do. Another was close to a job placement after overcoming the challenge of how to talk about a four-year period out of school.

“We had an interesting mix of individuals in this first class with very diverse challenges,” Fiske said.

She mentioned one young woman who had a great résumé but had gone through 32 job interviews without a job offer. After going through gPATH and getting extensive one-on-one coaching on the interview process, she was offered a job right away.

Wright said the first group’s extensive feedback led to the expansion of some parts of the program and the reduction of others, but the overall structure was a success.

The program is valuable regardless of a graduate’s intended field, Wright said, although liberal arts majors often feel a little more lost. From networking to interviewing to using LinkedIn, she said, “everyone needs some help with some piece of that.”

The second gPATH group runs from June 5 to 16, and JF&CS is accepting applications for 12 to 16 participants at ytfl.org/gpath.

The cost of the program is $250, and some need-based scholarship money is available. For more information, contact Wright at awright@jfcs-atlanta.org.