With so many people out of work in this tough economy, one would think that those who help the unemployed would be safe with a steady job. However, that’s not what has happened for Nadina Patterson of South Philadelphia who specializes in counseling, especially helping those who have a hard time finding themselves within a career.
As a rebellious teen, Patterson decided to live based on her own rules and regulations. However, that life soon proved unreliable and she straightened herself out, understanding the importance of education and a stable career. From then on, Patterson devoted herself to helping others figure themselves out. Her jobs had different names – case manager, employment counselor, outreach worker, advocate, but the work was the same, whether it was in the for-profit or nonprofit realm. Patterson found herself enjoying the assistance she could give to others.
“I learned to look into them and say ‘I’ve been there and we’ll help each other through this,’” she said.
Patterson currently works part time as an outreach worker for a program in South Philadelphia. Her last fulltime job was in her sweet spot, working at one of Pennsylvania’s CareerLink centers, helping the unemployed understand state services available to them. The irony of this job wasn’t lost on Patterson. She landed the job because she was unemployed. Patterson’s CareerLinks job came through a short-lived program known as Way To Work. The federally-funded initiative paid businesses and nonprofits to hire the unemployed. The idea was that the organizations would get a break on their payrolls for a few months, thus enabling them to afford to keep the person on after the program ended. Good in theory, but just as the program was ending on Sept. 30, state governments, including Pennsylvania, were implementing cost cutting measures. That meant no job for Patterson. “I loved that job,” she sighed.
Counseling comes naturally to Patterson. “You must be sensitive, a good listener, and basically get into the person,” Patterson said. “But you cannot be too lenient.
“You have to know when not to [interfere] and when to,” she said. “Most of the time when you are helping the person, they are helping you.”
For someone with her skills, job hunting has been frustrating. Job fairs seem to be a waste of time, she said, and hiring managers tell her she’s either too qualified or not qualified enough. Meanwhile, she is relying on savings to make ends meet. And, she keeps her hand in by volunteering at the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, a nonprofit group.
“It’s very scary at this point,” she said. “I’m very frustrated.”
Update: As of December, 2011, Patterson is working parttime.
- Nadina Patterson
- Hometown: Philadelphia.
- Profession: Counselor, outreach worker, advocate
- Experience: Helped unemployed learn about state services. Case manager for 80 families, verifying medical information, particularly for children. Counseled clients on employment and training.
- Education: St. Joseph's University and Community College of Philadelphia, course work.
- E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nadina Patterson's resume
Read past profiles in the Looking for Work series.
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The Inquirer is not endorsing this individual as a job candidate; potential employers should do their own background checks.
Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or email@example.com.