Success Stories

Chad Leighton “The Job Whisperer” finds careers for people with disabilities

A woman and a man smiling with the coast of Maine behind them
Chad with his wife, Melonie, in Kennebunk, Maine.

Chad Leighton has helped more than 50 people with disabilities find a career in the community. Within Goodwill, he’s called “The Job Whisperer.”

Chad works for Goodwill’s Workforce Services. When a client has a tough time finding a job, Chad’s patience, persistence, and a good attitude are the keys to helping his clients land a great career opportunity.  For one client, it took over a year and a half to find the right job. But Chad kept following up on job leads, checking in with the client, and showing up. He said people appreciate that he doesn’t give up on them.   

“My human side develops a relationship with the client. It’s not just someone that’s looking for a job. I get to understand what’s going on in their lives,” he said.  

Chad manages referrals for Bootcamp, a Vocational Rehabilitation program through the Maine Department of Labor. At Bootcamp, Goodwill staff teach high school students who have disabilities job skills to prepare them for the workforce. People with disabilities have higher unemployment rates, so Bootcamp works to set young people up for success to move into the workforce after high school. Chad also works directly with adults in central Maine who receive supports from Vocational Rehabilitation.   

Recognizing that a job is more than a paycheck, Chad said people also get a sense of pride. It’s a reason to get up every day and function as a person. This is what many people look for in life — dignity and purpose. Of course, for some people a job is only about the paycheck, but for many of the people he serves, it is for that sense of purpose.  

It can be hard for someone with a disability to find a job they love. Sometimes a hiring manager has difficulty looking beyond a disability to find the person’s abilities. Chad helps with that matchmaking. He helps employers and hiring managers understand how an employee can add value, and he helps the client build skills and learn the job to become as independent as possible. Often Chad can offer a free-to-the-employer paid work experience. This allows a potential employer to “try out” a client for several weeks to see if they would be a good fit. The client gets on-the-job support during this time, and for as long as they need it after — all while working to become as independent as possible.

One of Chad’s clients is visually impaired. This man lives in a rural town in Maine, and experienced social isolation. A job became his outlet to the world. It helped build his confidence and connection to society. 

The passion Chad brings to his job comes from a personal level. He had the same issue in his life when he had to stop work due to his own disability. He knows it is overwhelming.

Chad said, “For me, getting back into doing this work has been the most fulfilling type of work that I’ve done. I hope that I can translate that into the success of the clients that I work with. You know, being able to relate to them and then seeing them succeed.” 

Like this? Share it: