When David Mitchell was laid off from his food service job at a DC charter school, he did not expect to be unemployed for long. He’d worked there successfully for six years, and his layoff was simply due to a budget cut. But three years and countless job interviews later, David was still unemployed. At 32-years-old and living with his grandmother, he lost his confidence and stopped looking for work.
So when David was handed a flyer for Community of Hope’s customer service soft skills training program last year, he looked at it skeptically. “Is this just another program,” he wondered, “or is this really going to help me?”
Deciding it was worth the risk, he signed up for the six-week, 40-hour course, at our Conway Health and Resource Center in Ward 8. There, David learned a range of soft skills – intangible, interpersonal competencies that are vital for success in any workplace. He role-played how to be patient with frustrated customers, and learned how to accept feedback from supervisors and stay out of coworker conflicts. “I was a good student, but I was the quiet one,” he reported. Lacking confidence, he was not often the first person to raise his hand.
When the time came for mock interviews, being ‘the quiet one’ meant that he didn’t wow his interviewers. “They told me, ‘You can be the most exceptional employee for their company, but if they don’t see your skills when you’re sitting in that chair in an interview, you’ll never even get a chance.'” He took the feedback, practiced, and worked on presenting himself professionally and confidently. By the second round of mock interviews, he reported, “My interviewers told me I was so energetic and confident, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a change.’”
After graduation, he brought that energy to a real-world interview for a position at Dulles Airport, and, he reported, “At the end of the interview, the interviewer went to get the W-2 and I just wanted to smile. I could go home to my grandmother and tell her, ‘I have a full-time job again.'"
David has been a Wheelchair Escort at Dulles Airport for over six months now, and he uses his customer service soft skills every day. “Being nice to people even when they’re not nice to you, knowing the right thing to say, how you come off to people and your presentation - that’s huge,” he said. His supervisors appreciate the positive attitude, and so do the customers. In fact, he thinks his excellent soft skills lead to better tips.
David likes the work and is glad to be making steady income again. “Community of Hope saw something in me,” he said. "I found it, and now I’ve been working for six months. I’m going to be proud to do my taxes this year.”