Pay it Forward

Active Job Seekers of America

Photo by Dante Fontana

"It’s not rocket science and you don’t need a rocket to start, you need a candle,” says Steven Lease.

Laid off in 2009 with a new baby coming in one month, Lease listened to another job seeker’s advice who said “don’t wait.” He didn’t. He decided to hit the pavement. He attended a chamber of commerce meeting in Auburn to start and then got even more ambitious by walking door to door to businesses, introducing himself and learning more about his community. His “aha” moment came after walking into the Placer Arts building in Auburn and realizing how his words visibly inspired the director. He thought, “Hmm…why can’t I do this for others?”

Active Job Seekers of America (AJSA) was born. It began with a group of two, meeting regularly at a local coffee house, and now it boasts over 700 members (many who are now employed) with five active groups in the Sacramento region. A truly spectacular fact is that AJSA works with no financial resources! All members are volunteers  and in addition to providing support during unemployment, they offer a network for others; it is a win-win situation for all. With support and networking, Lease was hired as a financial advisor with a major company in Roseville that same year.

Needing an executive director for the Roseville chapter, Lease met Melissa Washington and enlisted her for the job. Washington has played a major role in the organization’s success. Her social media expertise with LinkedIn was called upon and used to help many members discover a new resource for job hunting. Workshops, seminars, a resource and job seeker checklist, and the development of media coverage have shown, in part, why Washington was acknowledged as the Sacramento Business Journal’s 2011, “40 under 40” winner.

Washington equates AJSA group meetings to “getting a shot of vitamin C and getting energized.” The meetings are all about information-sharing, support and networking. Life coaches, counselors and community leaders are enlisted to provide positive reinforcement to groups. The desired end result is obtaining a job, but in the process, members are given the support needed “to stay out of the valleys and canyons” of being unemployed. “The individual goal for the group is to leave with a little bit more motivation than what they came in with, Lease says. We want them to leave feeling inspired and able to continue through the next week.”

The future for Active Job Seekers of America promises national support as AJSA has been called upon by other organizations, community partners, high schools and support groups to share their knowledge and experience. Expansion into the Bay Area, as well as to the East Coast is planned. Lease talks sincerely about paying it forward. “We need to help other people,” he says.


Visit activejobseekers.org for more information.

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