Goodwill Revamps Services to Help Newly Employed Individuals Succeed

As part of its strategy to create long-term employment stability for the people it serves, Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia now provides success coaches to support individuals for 12 months after they secure employment.

“Success coaches help individuals overcome barriers that exist outside the employment environment,” said Shawn Smith, Goodwill’s director of community workforce. “We realize that life happens and we believe people shouldn’t lose their job just because they don’t have the tools to figuratively climb over a mountain,” he said.

Issues employees may be dealing with range from transportation, child care, housing, health concerns, or family and relationship problems.

Job seekers work with Goodwill’s career advisors to create individualized plans that include job readiness training, skills training and education. When individuals secure employment, one of Goodwill’s four success coaches is assigned as a personal resource to them. This new service allows the career advisors to focus on developing paths to employment for current job seekers, and for success coaches to provide holistic support to those who have completed Goodwill’s programs and are now employed in the community.

Success coaches also work with people while they are in Goodwill programs to help remove barriers as part of their preparation for work.  Once employed, the services are extended for a year.

“Our team has the unique ability of building connections with agencies that assist people in overcoming life’s barriers,” said Cheryl Robinson, Goodwill’s success coach manager. A licensed clinical psychologist with 30 years of experience, Robinson says success coaches work hard to build networks and facilitate relationships between individuals needing support and specific people at agencies who can provide specialized assistance.

“We’re not just handing out phone numbers to government agencies or crisis counselors,” explained Robinson. “We personally connect people to the places and things they need to find everything from child care to transportation and affordable housing, to creating a plan to leave an abusive relationship,” she added. “That connection empowers and educates individuals so they can learn how to navigate their own lives and stay positive,” she said.

Views from Success Coaches

In addition to tangible tools to find resources, success coaches provide a listening ear and, if needed, a shoulder on which to cry.

“Sometimes people need someone to listen to their struggle and believe in them so they don’t feel alone,” said Deborah Hall, a success coach in Richmond. “Ultimately, they must make their own decisions, but knowing someone is in your corner is comforting,” she said.

Vanessa Harper, a success coach in Norfolk, said she enjoys hearing individuals’ positive stories on how they solved an issue and still prospered at work. “I love helping people,” she said. “I never take the credit when my clients say I did it. I put it back on them and say, ‘No, YOU did it.’”

“A great way to describe my job is that of a football coach,” said Collin Jones, a success coach in Richmond. “If one of my players has a bad game, I pull them aside and talk to them about what’s going on. It could be family or school or personal issues. I listen to them, offer suggestions and connect them with someone who can help,” said Jones.

Sherita Cotten, a success coach with more than 15 years working with probation and parole cases, said this job is special. “I’m able to share some of my personal stories with individuals,” she said, “so they can realize everyone has something to overcome.”

Job seekers interested in getting career planning and support from Goodwill, at no charge, can contact 804-745-6300 in Central Virginia or 757-248-9405 in Hampton Roads.

Employers interested in hiring Goodwill candidates who have received soft skills and job readiness training can contact 804-745-6300 in Central Virginia or 757-248-9405 in Hampton Roads.