Do you work in a diverse work environment? I do and I love it. Working in a diverse work setting with people from all walks of life, brings a certain excitement to everyday life. Where I work, people celebrate different holidays, speak different languages, eat and cook different food and have an array of disabilities. If you work at Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley, you get to be yourself and celebrate your abilities. Today, I’d like to introduce guest blogger, Linda Pelfrey, as she shares her personal story about diversity in the workplace.
As a blind middle-aged woman, I found that companies weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to hire me. I recall sharing with friends that I felt like one of those women who had devoted herself to working in the home, and suddenly, circumstances forced her into a competitive and grueling job market.
I have worked nearly all of my adult life. So when the position I’d held for 18 years ended, I entered a time of unemployment. It lasted for 3 years and there were moments I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a paid position again. I kept myself busy with unpaid work such as volunteering for a food pantry and answering phones at my church. This was all rewarding, but didn’t pay the bills.
I started receiving job placement services through a county agency, but after 3 years of financial struggle, I became weary of the process. There was consideration of ending my placement services. It seemed that the agency was unable to find anyone willing to give me a chance as an employee; but then I was called for an interview with the Computer Recycling department of Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley. I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful as I knew next to nothing about computers. To my surprise and delight, I was offered the position. It was wonderful and challenging to be back in the workforce again. I love having order to my days, and a paycheck didn’t hurt. Eventually, I was hired as a Phone Navigator answering Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley inbound calls.
I was in my zone. I was able to once again use the skills I’d developed. However, I soon discovered that transferring inbound calls is about much more than hitting a few buttons. Not everyone knows who or what they need. Many call with multiple concerns and this requires referring them to one or more of our programs. I learn something new every day.
The 3 years I spent as an unemployed person were full of anxiety. I was blessed with a wonderful support system, and my knowledge of social services helped me navigate complex systems. This time in my life gave me a perspective which helps me as I speak with callers. I’ve been on both sides of the desk as a client and as a provider of service to others. I know the frustration of being a blind woman who wants and needs to work in a world in which having a disability makes job seeking a challenging process.
Of course, my life is much easier with a steady income. I won’t forget the lessons of those 3 years as I navigate calls for Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley.