Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

Julia’s Story

by | Feb 12, 2014

Ignatian Volunteer Julia Albrecht is in her fourteenth year writing resumes for the unemployed and underemployed.  She began at Jubilee Jobs, recognized as one of the best nonprofit organizations in DC, and has spent the last 7 years working with Catholic Charities’ Welcome Home Re-Entry Program at Montgomery County’s Pre-Release Center.  She supports men and women residents as they transition back to the community after being incarcerated for months or many years.  Her clients call her “The Resume Lady”, and many come to her for the first time saying, “I hear you’re the best!”

Julia works on a resume with a resident at the pre-release center

Julia works on a resume with a resident at the pre-release center

“Most residents that I meet have been convicted of a felony,” says Julia.  “In many cases, drugs or alcohol has been an issue.  The age range is from 19 to 75, and the level of education includes many high school dropouts and some residents with college or advanced degrees.  Their occupations are varied—plumbers and masons, heavy equipment operators, tow truck drivers, IT specialists, medical personnel, painters, tree men, roofers, sales reps and cashiers, warehouse workers and many kitchen workers.”

“My most important role is to be a representative of the community that’s welcoming them back.  It’s important for them to be able to talk with someone and feel that they’re important to somebody.  They have resident supervisors, case workers, and great support at the facility.  I serve a different role.  I can be ‘Miss Julia.’  I’m old enough to be their great-grandmother, so I’m approachable and easy to relate to.”

Julia spends one-on-one time with residents, interviewing them, brainstorming about their job search, and writing resumes, cover letters, and letters to potential employers about their offenses.  She collaborates with the facility’s staff on a structured job-seeking exercise that includes instruction about locating vacancies and applying for jobs on the Internet, interviewing, and other related skills.

“People are often surprised, when their only work experience has been under the table in landscaping, or taking care of their younger brothers and sisters so a parent could work, or volunteering as a coach, to learn that we can present all of this as work experience on a resume in a way that potential employers can relate to.”

“She gets that all out of them very patiently,” adds her husband Tony.

“It’s just a question of being friendly, asking questions and getting it on paper in a straightforward way,” says Julia.  “To have this conversation about their experiences can give someone a spark.”

“You’re a whiz at it”, Tony replies.

“For someone who feels utterly unequipped, it’s a Godsend.  Sometimes people say, ‘Gee, I didn’t realize I’d done so much.’  It’s about being with young residents and encouraging them.”

When asked what keeps her coming back for 14 years, Julia says, “I keep going back because there is no one assigned there to write resumes.  Also, I enjoy the work and being thanked by staff and residents.  I’m treated like staff; I’m proud to wear my county ID that reads ‘Welcome Home Volunteer.’ It reminds me of my first job—I was a Social Worker in the Department of Welfare in Westchester County, New York .”

“I feel bad that I haven’t recruited anyone to take over.  Now in our 80s, Tony and I are eager to attract the volunteers who will backfill our positions when we finally retire from IVC.   The need is great.”

Julia occasionally witnesses the results of her work when she’s out in the community.  “Two men came out of Marshall’s, looked at each other, and said, ‘There’s the lady who does resumes’.  Another time, we were grocery shopping when an employee called out ‘Miss Julia!’.  We hugged and I told her how great it was to see her working there.”