Mark On Employment First

04/10/2015 12:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2015

(Left to right) Friendship Place Board Member and AimHire Volunteer, Lynne Tag, AimHire Director, Jermaine Hampton and AimHire Graduate, Mark Gordon.

"It was the casualness ... it felt comfortable ... just like two people talking ... It did not feel stilted ... like an office"

Mark remembers what it felt like to walk into the AimHire office two years ago looking for a way to rebuild his life.

The high-paying job in the mortgage industry in California was gone. It went with the crisis. Mark hung on for a long time there. He spent all his savings. He kept waiting, trying to get back into the game but he could not. By the time he left the "middle class lifestyle I had" and everything else was gone.

Mark was depressed, coming back to the DC job market that did not have any room for him either.

He looked within and without. He needed to find a solution.

A fellow congregant at Metropolitan United Memorial Church told him about the AimHire Program at Friendship Place and the job placement shelter for men the church sponsors at St Luke's Church.

AimHire places people in jobs in an average of 60 days and resolves housing issues in 90 days. It is a privately funded program operated by Friendship Place in the DC Metropolitan Area.

Mark had his mind set on staying in his industry. That was difficult. A lot of the jobs were gone. As he looks back, the turning point came when he was able to get past this with the help of staff and volunteers.

He agreed to apply for a job with a concierge service in the city. Mark is very professional, polished and articulate. He got an offer almost immediately and managed to work himself up from the concierge desk to the offices. Things were shaping up. Mark started to feel better about his life. He felt confident enough to rebuild ties with his family.

He now shares an apartment with his son in Columbia Heights.

Recently, Mark was able to go back to the mortgage industry. He is working in Montgomery County. You can hear in his voice that he is on his way now.

Mark volunteers in the Friendship Place Speakers Bureau, sharing his story with community groups to help others.

"It's cathartic, it helps me, too."

Public speaking is helping him gain a perspective on what happened and giving some meaning or purpose to what he lived through because there is some new value in it now. He is helping others who may be going through it or motivating people to get involved and help.

Mark's message is one of hope and of facing life with what it brings without getting broken by it.

He will be one of our panelists at the Employment First Symposium we're organizing at Johns Hopkins University on April 22nd.

That evening, we will look at what works in Employment First, the new job placement model that expedites job placements as it helps job seekers quickly address other issues in their lives.

Employment First is based on the assumption that everybody is employable. The team looks for the skill set, expedites the soft skills training and moves toward the placement as soon as possible.

Financial stabilization starts immediately so the person knows that things are not getting worse with debt and credit. It's followed by financial literacy training when needed.

Housing also factors in so the newly-hired folks can feel comfortable in the evening and get some rest, which also increases job retention.

Professional training for advancement is accessible once the person has settled in the new position. The order is simply reversed: the job comes first, not the training. This is because people who come to Employment First programs for help have no other options. They need jobs and paychecks now.

The whole model rests on robust job development and fruitful partnerships with a wide range of employers.

To hear Mark and other local experts speak on the Employment First model, join us at John Hopkins for the Friendship Place Spring Symposium on Wednesday, April 22. Free tickets and information are available here.