For over 12 years my role with Goodwill has been primarily to train individuals on technical job tasks and transferable job-readiness skills such as teamwork and interpersonal communication. This role is at the very core of the Goodwill mission statement:
Goodwill provides training, employment, and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence.
My educational background is in psychology and counseling, so I’ve always approached training from the perspective of a therapeutic relationship. I see myself as trying to create a change in someone else’s life and examining what needs to happen for the person to be willing to make that change. I need to develop rapport, so the other person is willing to trust that a change is even needed. I then need to develop a trainer-trainee relationship strong enough that the other person is also trusting that the training I am offering can create this change. Even when all that happens success is still not a guarantee. A supportive safety net of friends, family, and caregivers makes this process much easier.
When you’re talking about how to train someone to sanitize a counter top this framework can seem a little silly. However, when trying to train someone to be more open to feedback and coaching this approach seems a little more relevant. If critical feedback hasn’t always been shared to someone in a supportive and caring manner, then being defensive and dismissive of feedback has likely been a necessary coping strategy in life.
Last year, there was an individual that I worked with who used Goodwill’s services to make a big change in her life. She had an intellectual disability, and very little formal work experience in her past. But she was motivated to find a job and had a charm that seemed to indicate she could be successful. Her first few weeks of training at Goodwill were rough. She was learning what probably seemed like an overwhelming number of new skills all at once: how to work on a team, how to communicate with coworkers and supervisors, how to properly clean a mirror, etc. When it got overwhelming for her she did what likely worked well in the past for her: quit before the other person can let her go. So about twice a week for the first month she quit on us. Sometimes it was a more casual, “I quit. I can’t do this.” Other times it meant actually walking to the front door of Goodwill and stating that she would sit and wait until her ride arrived—5+ hours from now.
Slowly, eventually, we started making progress. She was willing to take a risk, willing to push herself out of her comfort zone, and she trusted that my team would support her and keep her safe along this journey. It helped that she also got tremendous support outside of Goodwill too. She has a wonderful group of supportive people who helped her focus on the positives and recognize that she can achieve her dreams.
Of course, this story has a happy ending. She successfully completed her full training program. She even joked during her graduation speech about how many times she wanted to quit. She now works outside of Goodwill in the Milwaukee area with support from a Goodwill job coach. She is living the Goodwill mission. She’s more independent in life because of the training and continuing support she receives from Goodwill.