For many job seekers with a criminal background, getting the opportunity at a fresh start is hard to find. Jake faced the challenges like many of those with a background so often do – decreased employer interest, limited career options, employer skepticism, and low self-confidence. One day, a friend told Jake that Goodwill was a resource for those with barriers to employment, and he decided to check it out.
Jake came to Goodwill’s Career Development Center and was immediately welcomed by a team of people ready and willing to help him get back on his feet. A team member in the Job Connection met with Jake, learned about his skills and interests, then referred him to Goodwill’s hospitality and tourism training program. At first, Jake was uncertain and hesitant about receiving services, but soon found hope and a home at Goodwill.
“That first week, I was skeptical, thinking to myself ‘Is this really going to be good? Is this really going to help me?’” Jake said. “Then two weeks into it, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is really going to help me a lot and change my life for the better.’ Soon after that, Goodwill just felt like home.”
Through Goodwill’s hospitality and tourism training program, Jake learned about the hotel industry, learned skills related to hosting and catering events, improved his networking skills, practiced his interviewing skills, and learned how to brand himself as an employee. Most importantly, Jake regained the self-confidence that he had lost along the way.
“I have more confidence today than I ever have,” Jake said. “If it wasn’t for Goodwill and that class, I would be the same broken person I was back then.”
After graduating from the hospitality and tourism training program in 2009, Jake was hired full-time at Hilton Charlotte University Place Hotel. He then moved away for a few years, in which time he worked full-time at another hotel.
Upon his return to Charlotte in 2013, he and his friend started a dirt track racing team. Together, they have built the business from the ground up, and today, Jake is the proud co-owner of Gular Enterprise Motor Sports. He oversees 150 employees, manages the team’s sponsorships, and handles the team’s marketing efforts and media interactions. He is proud of his newfound career and the fulfillment that comes with it. Moreover, he makes a point to hire people with criminal backgrounds as a way to pay it forward.
“We want to hire people with backgrounds because Goodwill helped me out and got me to where I am today, even though I have a background,” Jake said. “Not only is it my Christian duty, but I feel inspired to return something back to Goodwill.”
Jake’s advice to anyone needing help getting back on their feet is to always stay positive.
“Don’t put yourself down, no matter what you go through,” Jake said. “It’s easy to put yourself down, but it’s even harder to pick yourself back up.”
Jake’s hard work and determination, along with the help of Goodwill, have opened up an entire future of possibility for him.
“In five years, we want to expand the race shop, be racing nationwide, and be a national brand,” Jake said. “I’m very excited for what the future holds.”