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What hooked me on working for Goodwill

Posted by Steve Hansen on July 13, 2018

I’ve been working at Goodwill for over 12 years. And have learned a great deal from the individuals here at Goodwill.I’ve been working at Goodwill for over 12 years. It’s hard to believe because originally, I took the job on a whim. While every person’s life story is unique, there are certainly themes to my own that many will find familiar:

  • A college degree that I wasn’t sure what to do with,
  • Being early in my career and uncertain what I wanted to do,
  • And feeling stuck in a former job that you’re desperate to get out of.

With all that uncertainty, I took a job as a case manager at a Goodwill work center for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities on the south side of Milwaukee. The only thing I felt certain about was that there were many case manager jobs posted online, and if I didn’t like this job I could probably get a job working as a case manager with a different population. 

What I found working for Goodwill changed that whim into passion.

I found that working at Goodwill changed my whim into a passion.The individuals at our work center were happy on Monday mornings because it meant a new work week had begun. Conversely, they were bummed to see the clock hit 2:30 pm on Friday. So many of them had a tremendous work ethic and a genuine love of work. For me this difference was refreshing and it became contagious.

It was also the first time I saw people using simple adaptations to make work easier and more accessible for their unique situation. It was eye opening. Having spent six years in college earning a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree I became a little too immersed in theory and research. Simple, practical application of these fancy text book ideas was almost revolutionary.

What I also came to discover was that I was working alongside a largely untapped pool of employees that far too many employers were overlooking. In sports, we all love to root for the underdog, and now here I was working alongside many people that could be considered the underdog. All they needed was an opportunity to show what they were capable of.

Fast forward a decade and thankfully things are changing. A greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion, as well as a lower unemployment rate is helping to provide greater opportunities to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Today I’m confident that many employers are getting the same contagious opportunity that I got 12 years ago, and that their new employee is developing a passion in them that will change their life.

Written by Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen manages Explore WORK, a job-readiness training program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He appreciates the challenge and occasional chaos of seeing people attempt, sometimes fail, grow, and ultimately succeed in learning new skills. Steve began working for Goodwill in 2006 as a case manager. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UW-Whitewater, and a Masters in Counseling Psychology from UW-Madison. He met his wife at Goodwill and is the proud father of two smart, silly daughters.

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