Aron Steck had nearly 40 years of experience before he found himself unemployed. He was having a hard time finding a job and enrolled in the Employment Recovery Initiative (ERI) bootcamp earlier this year. Here, Aron tells us about his experience, road to employment and how the ERI bootcamp changed his perspective.
Prior to entering the ERI bootcamp in January 2021, I had been seeking a position without success for about six months. I became unemployed because my position was eliminated due to loss of business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I had an excellent position as senior manager of events for a company providing event management services to corporations and associations for their conferences and tradeshows. It was particularly devastating because it had taken me a couple of years to find that position and I had only been in the role for about four months before the pandemic hit in March 2020.
I do not remember how I found myself at the San Diego Workforce Partnership career centers, but I met with Meldoney Webb, a career agent who introduced me to the ERI bootcamp. I was immediately interested because I knew that my strategies had not been successful and I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. She was very helpful and facilitated my enrollment.
The program made a huge difference in my life. As someone who has been in the workforce full-time for nearly 40 years, I thought I had learned a lot about the job search process. During the bootcamp I realized just how little I actually knew about conducting a successful job search. It was pretty humbling coming to that point, but it meant that I was much more receptive to the things we learned.
The bootcamp also came at a point in my job search where I was very discouraged and feeling a lot of despair about my chances of finding a job that I would like. Not only did I gain a renewed sense of purpose and focus, but I also found some of the confidence that I had lost during a period when I suffered constant rejection and felt like a failure. Our coaches–Cam, Kristi and Olga–were very helpful in getting me through the miasma of despair and cynicism in which I found myself.
The curriculum was superb. It was well organized, specific and comprehensive. For me, the areas that helped me the most were those that focused on resume building and interview skills. For example, I had no previous understanding of the role that applicant tracking systems played. I also did not fully understand how to approach behavioral questions in an interview. Another thing I learned was to broaden my search to include positions that might leverage my skills and experience without being precisely the role that I thought I wanted.
Finally, I remain incredibly grateful to Olga and Kristi for the personal interest they took in my job search and the time that they took to coach me and prepare me for some key interviews. My favorite experience that will stay with me forever is doing a mock interview with them. I had never done a mock interview before and it was incredibly helpful, especially getting their feedback. While I felt that I absolutely aced the interview for which they prepared me, ultimately I did not get the job.
However, I didn’t let that discourage me and I was finally successful in securing a position at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps as their special events operations and sales manager. It is a position that leverages all my event planning and sales experience. In addition, the Aquarium’s mission and values are in alignment with my own core values, so I feel very pleased to be part of an organization that makes a difference in the world and people’s lives. It is a wonderful place to work with a relaxed and congenial culture and you can’t beat the view! While it was not exactly what I sought, a position as a corporate event planner, it has turned out to be a great fit for me. It is an opportunity for me to learn about events from a much different perspective than I had experienced previously.
For now, I am content to enjoy my current role and to learn and improve every day. If the position eventually leads to something else, I will approach that when it happens.
The one piece of advice I have is to approach the ERI bootcamp as you would a new job: Be on time. Have a great attitude. Contribute to the discussion. Do the homework. Be inquisitive. Take advantage of the great coaching.
I am so grateful to the program and the support I received from the staff during my job search. They provided me with the confidence and tools to persist and achieve my goals. Thank you for making such a positive difference in my life.