Ashley, who spent six years as an intelligence specialist in the U.S. Navy, moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, from Washington, D.C. in July of 2017. She was in search of a less stressful lifestyle but lacked motivation to build her professional network and needed help overcoming unique barriers to employment.
“After serving on a mission-critical team in the military – working 12-hour days and only getting one holiday off a year – I had gotten tired,” Ashley said. “I didn’t care about people, and I didn’t want to know about anything going on around me. I just wanted to be in my own little world.”
One day, Ashley’s friend told her that Goodwill helped veterans and encouraged her to attend a Veterans Job Club networking lunch sponsored by Operation: GoodJobs – Goodwill’s job training and placement program specifically designed for veterans and military service members, their spouses and their dependents – at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus. Initially, Ashley was skeptical about going because she didn’t think she would meet people who would understand her unique struggles and empathize with her individual needs.
“I was tired of going to veterans groups,” Ashley said. “Don’t get me wrong, I can talk to anybody. But I was having a hard time finding someone I could really connect with.”
Despite her skepticism, Ashley attended the luncheon and connected with one of Goodwill’s partner organizations, The Center for Community Transitions (CCT). She was drawn to CCT’s mission – to strengthen the community by helping those with unique barriers to employment navigate paths towards healthy and productive lives – and soon enrolled in its LifeWorks! and Working Smart program.
While attending these programs, Ashley learned about rebranding her self-image and connecting with other people, and found support from CCT, Goodwill staff and her fellow veterans. Ashley’s career development specialist assisted her with creating a career path, which led her to apply for an open position at GW, Goodwill’s specialty store. Armed with new skills, a strong support system and a fresh outlook on life, Ashley was hired as a full-time cashier at GW, a position of which she is extremely proud.
“Just between December and now, the change I’ve seen in myself has been amazing. I never realized how deep into myself I had fallen,” Ashely said. “Now, I find myself so interested in other people that I have to pull myself away from talking to my customers!”
Ashley plans to continue her career path with Goodwill and hopes to work her way into a management position soon, with the ultimate goal of running her own home organization and design business one day. Meanwhile, she’s learning as much as she can.
“Having a business mentor is important to me, and I have that here” Ashley said. “I’ve been learning a lot from my manager and other leaders at Goodwill. I’ve learned a lot of systems and efficiencies, and about selling, merchandizing and how the back of house works.”
Most importantly, Ashley is proud of the path she has chosen and is looking forward to where her path may lead.
“The way I think about my life is: there are two paths. The goal is to get to the mountain top. There’s a straight path and a winding path. Whichever path you choose is ok, but the biggest thing to keep in mind is if you don’t stick to one path – if you keep going back and forth between paths – you’ll never get to the mountain top,” Ashley said. “Me personally, I’ve chosen the winding path because I realized that I don’t want the quickest way. I want the path that’s going to allow me to learn and see things.”