By Deanna Kirk
Corsicana Daily Sun
Imagine if you came the aid of a friend, someone who’d lost their job, their means of support, and you helped them find employment. How warm would the feeling of satisfaction be?
Now imagine that feeling times about 40,000 — and that’s how Linda Coleman must feel after 27 years of helping people find jobs at the Workforce Solutions, North Central Texas.
Coleman was raised in Coushatta and Shreveport areas of Louisiana, the 12th child of a preacher. Sometimes pastors are paid in chickens, so the family grew up poor.
“But he always taught us to stand tall, walk proud, and believe in ourselves no matter how many cents were in our pocket,” Coleman said. “I like the underdog, because I’ve been the underdog.”
Migrating to Dallas in 1969, Coleman then found herself in Corsicana in 1979, and looking for work.
“I came to the Workforce in 1985 to find a job, and they had a position open for the summer youth program,” she said. “They picked someone else initially, so I told them they messed up. Two weeks later they called me, and I’ve been here ever since,”
Coleman has done nearly every job in the building since 1985, speaking with employers, trying to develop jobs for job seekers, and teaching them preparation techniques for landing good jobs.
“Self-esteem, appearance, we address the whole person, not just their skill set,” Coleman said. “We also teach them how to accept rejection. We do a variety of things here.”
For instance, in this tough job market, Coleman says a person might hold a degree, but is not being hired because of low self-esteem which comes across in the interview.
“We reveal skills they already have, as well as steering them toward getting more skills,” she said.
In her time, she’s served as receptionist all the way to helping economically disadvantaged and dislocated workers to be trained with new skills through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
During her time with Workforce, she found a new “little brother,” a co-worker named John Abraham, who just complimented her skills with his own, and they simply “clicked.”
“I started with a private provider, then crossed over to the state program,” Abraham said. “Linda was my mentor, my trainer. She showed me how to help job seekers blossom and become self-sufficient.”
“We are like a big family, we care about each other,” Coleman said.
“Linda is the backbone of this office, she’s the rock we stand on here,” he said. “So many people in this town have depended on her to help them get employed.”
Coleman has plans to travel and deepen relationships with some relatives across the U.S. after she retires on June 28, and she has some other dreams she plans to follow, too.
“I am going to miss everyone here, but I truly will miss John,” she said. “He’s always been there with me, for me and for my family.”
“The biggest losers will be the job seekers who come in,” Abraham said.
Coleman maintains that looking for a job IS a job, but that the job market is getting better. One thing she said folks need to accept is that a job is a job — it may not be in your field, but sometimes people have to start over.
“We literally jump through hoops for everyone, but we are seeing more and more highly educated people who have been laid off,” she said.
One of the saddest things she has seen lately is a man who was making very good money, and was laid off. His wife had never worked, and he didn’t know how to ask for help.
“There’s no set way to do this job,” Abraham said. “All people are different.”
A conservative estimate is that Coleman has probably helped 40,000 job seekers find employment, and that doesn’t include employers that she has helped in her time with Workforce Solutions.
“It has been a blessing, been a terrific journey,” she said. “I have made some terrific lifetime friends.
“I have always thought of myself as a servant. And I have received encouragement from people who didn’t even have a job, but showed me kindness in a tough time I was going through. It has been a good journey for me, and there are many, many people I am going to miss.”