Pushing Forward

~ Erika finds a new path to success.

Erika working at Safeway pushing baskets and assisting at the counter..To say that Erika Kahn likes to move around is an understatement. She adeptly transitions from task to task at her job as a courtesy clerk at one of the local Tucson Safeway stores. One moment she is gathering and pushing a long line of carts from the parking lot to inside the store. The next moment she jumps into bagging groceries at the end of a cashier’s line. She proudly touts with smile, “I like to move around and move all over the place. I just can’t be in one spot. My family, we are all hard workers. It runs in my family.”

In her nearly eight months on the job, Erika has earned the respect of her coworkers and quickly impressed her manager Amanda Clark. “I just really appreciate Erika’s work ethic. I think she is really hard working, and sometimes that is really hard to find these days. She does things without having to be asked. Everything she does is really appreciated around here.”

Erika’s journey to success has had many turns. She has learning disabilities as well as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and is hearing impaired. Coming originally to Beacon in 2007, Erika worked part-time at a local restaurant chain eegee’s. Beacon provided ongoing support through job coaching, but after more than ten years on the job and changes in management structures, Erika needed to find another employment option. As it had been over a decade since Erika had looked for a job, her Beacon employment support team suggested that she start job searching with Sara Hogan, Lead Job Coach. Having less experience in interviewing, Sara explains, “Erika used to get frazzled and would chew on her lip and yell “huh” during the interview. I helped coach her out of this by reversing the roles to show Erika how she was coming across. Erika and I would also do research on the places she was applying, so she could answer questions with confidence and impress her employer.”

Simultaneously, Erika also enrolled in Beacon’s Transition to Employment (TTE) program to further develop her job searching and working skills. TTE, a 7-week curriculum with hands on learning components, provides meaningful and individualized job training. In both a classroom setting and throughout the community, students explore diverse work settings as well as their likes, dislikes, and abilities. They learn practical work related skills like developing work positive behaviors, developing a resume and job related tools, and budgeting skills. Students also volunteer at community organizations like the Tucson Botanical Gardens and Saint Augustine. For Erika, one challenge she needed to work on was making sure that she fully understands instructions before beginning a task; this helps to alleviate frustration later if tasks don’t go as planned. Erika comments, “TTE helped me be prepared. They helped me be prepared for the interview and helped me research about the company. We also did mock interviews.” During the TTE course because she completed the first module with such a high success rate, Erika was made a mentor for the remainder of the class.

Taking multiple approaches through job coaching, participating in TTE, and then demonstrating her newly acquired job searching skills in an interview, paid off when Erika landed her job at Safeway. As Sara her job coach explains, “Ultimately, I believe that’s how she landed her job at Safeway. Amanda made a surprised face when Erika answered questions with knowledge of the position and company. I only took Erika to that one interview at Safeway as a Job Developer, and she was hired technically on the spot.”

On the job, Erika’s dedication and job skills continue to amaze. Her willingness to approach tasks head-on and apply a meticulousness ensures tasks are complete the first time around. As her manager Amanda compliments, “She is very determined for sure. She always gets the job done great. I never have anything to worry about when Erika is here.”

For more information about Beacon job placement services, or about hiring people with disabilities, contact Employment Services in Tucson at 520-622-4874 ext. 158, or Phoenix at 602-685-9703.