Success Stories

From retail management to career advisor, Keeley’s successful career shift

Photo credit to Guided Lens Photography

Keeley could not find a job due to her bipolar disorder. She wanted to work, but employers were reluctant to hire her. That is, until she got a job at the Goodwill store in Waterville, Maine. Keeley shared her story about working with a disability over a year ago. We checked in to see how she was doing, and found out she had a successful career shift.

Keeley had an opportunity to move from the Augusta, Maine store for Goodwill’s Workforce Services. Now she is a Career Advisor for the Bootcamp program with Vocational Rehabilitation through the Department of Labor. She teaches high school students job skills to prepare them for the workforce. All of her students have disabilities. In Bootcamp, over a 20-week period, Keeley teaches her students skills that include exploring their interests; resume writing and interview techniques; and how to find and keep a job.

“I’ve been at Goodwill for six and a half years now, and I am a die-hard Goodwill fanatic. I am always talking about how much I love Goodwill. There’s always something different to do. If you get bored of one position, there’s something else to try. There’s so much to do! If you’re willing to put in the effort and you’re willing to work, you will find something. I love working for Goodwill. I am happy that I’m able to give back to what they gave me,” she said.

Goodwill hires people who want a job

Keeley said with her career change, she approaches her days in a different way than she has in the past. She had only ever worked in retail. Going from the fast-paced environment of a Goodwill store to teaching and being in an office was a big shift. While there was a learning curve, her bachelor’s degree in social sciences prepared her for this role of a career advisor. Plus, she is working with people with disabilities, something she did in the store. Her favorite part of working in the store was giving people a chance at a job. For whatever reason, whether it be criminal background, a disability, or something else, Goodwill is always open to hiring people who want a job.

That’s why she loves teaching Bootcamp. She can show students they can work and achieve their dreams. She said many of her students were told that they couldn’t get a job or have dreams because they have a disability. Someone may need an accommodation or a job coach, but if they want to work, they should be able to work. Communication is an important tool she teaches in Bootcamp. She highlights to her students they need to let people know when they need support.

Students get paid work experience

After Bootcamp, students are placed in a paid work-based learning experience. There they receive a real job with a job coach if they need one. Wages for this temporary work experience are paid for by the funding through Vocational Rehabilitation. That lets the student try out the business — and it lets the business “hire” the student for free, to see if they could be a good long-term candidate to work at their organization .

About 20-30 students work with Keeley, and those numbers are growing. As Vocational Rehabilitation referrals increase, so do the students she oversees. The entirety of Goodwill’s Bootcamp includes about 100 students from nine Maine counties, but numbers may increase to 150 students soon. Goodwill’s Bootcamp is in Oxford, Franklin, Androscoggin, Kennebec, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, and Somerset counties in Maine.

“I love working for Goodwill. I am happy that I am able to give back to that they gave me.”

-Keeley M.

When asked about her education goals, Keeley shared she withdraw from her graduate program for now. The stress of a new job and balancing her classes was too much for her mental health.

But she continues to grow, learn, and advance in her position in Goodwill’s Workforce team. She has the usual challenges like everyone else, but at the end of the day, she loves her job and her life.

“I’m happy and that’s the takeaway, even with bipolar disorder and dealing with the ups and the downs. I found a career that makes me happy.”

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