Isaac cooks up confidence, success with Transitional Jobs program

March 24, 2015

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Issac, left, and President/CEO Clark Brekke serve Thanksgiving to employees at the downtown location on November 26, 2014

When Isaac first came to Goodwill, he was living at home with his parents, unemployed, and lost in his own world, spending most of his days playing video games. He had completed Job Corps training in culinary arts a year ago but, due to his overwhelming social anxiety and lack of computer skills, was unable to progress to employment. His fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others due to his stuttering had an emotional and social impact as Isaac isolated himself from public situations in which he had to speak.

Isaac loves food, and his dream was to work in the restaurant industry. When he became a participant in the Transitional Jobs Program learning food service skills in Goodwill’s Smiling G’s Cafeteria, he was initially apprehensive and anxious about interacting with others. He stated adamantly, “I only want to do things in the back and nothing with customer service.”

Initially, Isaac stayed behind the scenes, learning how to operate the commercial dishwasher, sanitizing, and food prep for the daily specials and menu items. As he mastered these tasks, he slowly eased out of his comfort zone into areas of more customer interactions. At first, it was answering the phone occasionally, then taking a customer’s order, then ringing up customers at the cash register. His confidence grew with each successful interaction. The encouraging and supportive environment of his work site training and coworkers made him feel at home, at ease, and, most importantly, accepted.

In addition, Isaac received weekly soft skills training that were aimed at increasing his employability. These interactive classes taught Isaac basic interpersonal communication skills, problem solving, and teamwork.

He never missed a class and actively participated in learning and polishing his skills to become a good employee.

After his training ended and it was time for him to look for work, he was hesitant to leave his newly found work family and comfort zone. He built his confidence with each interaction with employers: introducing himself and asking or returning job applications. He went to an interview at the Broadway Diner, dressed professionally, self-assured, and ready to present himself as a competent candidate for the job. He returned from the interview, clutching two monogrammed work shirts, a company hat, an employee handbook, and a broad smile. Isaac had successfully landed his first job.

He began his first week of work with two scheduled days. By the end of the week, the employer was so impressed by his work skills and great attitude that he was promoted to five days a week. The Transitional Jobs Program provided the work and job readiness skills, and Isaac did his part by participating and applying those newly learned abilities to successfully transition into community employment and beginning his exciting journey on the road to independence.