By Martha Nodar

JumpSTART Your Career, a charitable, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing women with a forum to discover and embrace their own potential, launched the first of its six-week series of free workshops for the year at the Community Action Center in Hightower Trail, Sandy Springs on Jan. 13. The seminars run through Feb. 17.
Rebecca Smith, JumpSTART’s executive director, said the workshops are offered on Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:30p.m. Typically, the location alternates between one six-week workshop in Buckhead and one in Sandy Springs. Smith said plans are underway to have the next workshop, March 31 through May 5, in Buckhead.
The program is for all women, of any age, at any stage in their careers who hold a minimum of a high-school diploma, or may be returning to work after a period of absence.
“According to the program’s statistics, approximately 83 percent of all the women attending the workshops are divorced with the average age of 40,” Smith said.
Founded in Atlanta and operating under the umbrella of the Alexandra Surdyk Jones Foundation, the JumpSTART program is an opportunity to learn about different career paths and apply self-marketing tools through informational and empowering seminars.
It all began almost four years ago when the program’s founder, Suzé Jones, compelled to honor her daughter, Alexandra, after losing her at the young age of 31, approached Smith, a veteran in the nonprofit arena, to direct the day-to-day operation of the JumpSTART program in Alexandra’s memory.
“Alexandra was a college graduate who found work,” Smith said, “but spent most of her short adult life unsuccessfully searching for a career path that was consistent with her skills and interests. Alexandra yearned to have a job that had a future. She told her mother that many women she worked with also felt the same way.”
Joan Hill, a Buckhead resident and bank executive, said women need to connect the skills gained through volunteering and managing a household to the paid positions they are seeking.
“Women need to find a way to convey to the hiring manager that they are bringing important transferable skills to the workplace,” she added.
This advice resonated with Shellie Arnold. Out of the workforce for two decades while volunteering and raising her family, Arnold, a Buckhead resident and a recent graduate of the JumpSTART program said, the workshops taught her how to describe herself to potential employers “in 30 seconds or less, research the company before the interview, prepare a resume and network.”
Hill said fear of failure might be the biggest obstacle for many women to overcome.
JumpSTART also offers two additional workshops a year, spring and fall, solely geared for victims of domestic violence. For more information visit, www.jumpstartyourcareer.org.

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