Earning a New Outlook: Ben’s Goodwill Story

  • Michael Fox |
  • | Mission

Struggling to find gainful employment after college is a familiar story for millennials. Years can be spent at gap-filling jobs that don’t allow you to plan for the future. Add student loans into the mix and the results can be overwhelming. Self-worth can be impacted and the perspective on life darkened. Ben Lewis found himself in a similar scenario in 2015.

Post-Graduation Blues

After Ben graduated from Grand View University, he couldn’t find a long-term position so he went back to working in the parks department of Colfax. The job had helped him get through college, but, as much as he enjoyed working for the city, it wouldn’t be able to sustain him forever. When the position ended, he tried working at a manufacturing plant to make ends meet, but he hated that it didn’t allow him to use his full potential.

“I was struggling,” said Ben. “I was applying for lots of jobs, but nothing was sticking. I’d get an interview and I wouldn’t hear anything back.”

Months of trying led him to feel more pessimistic. Nevertheless, he kept at it.

Ben was at the Newton DMACC location almost every day, using their computer lab to search for jobs. It was at this point that he discovered the Goodwill Career Connection Center located inside the DMACC campus. Goodwill Career Connection Centers provide absolutely free job readiness services to anyone who is unemployed or underemployed. Our team of career connectors work one-on-one with individuals to give them the skills needed to confidently pursue a career. When Ben asked some friends from Newton what Goodwill of Central Iowa was all about, he received stellar feedback and knew he needed to work with them to improve his job prospects.

Time to Make a Change

Ben would find himself working with Career Connectors Rachel Colburn and Mary Beth Lawson. The duo is known for their ability to connect with businesses and get people hired through tireless efforts to create employment opportunities for jobseekers in the area.

Their first order of business was to rework Ben’s resume. It was something that he developed in college, but its quality was hindering his chances at employment.

“The resume he had created was not working,” explained Colburn. “Redoing that resume really gave him an edge that opened doors that he didn’t think were there.”

Once they fixed his resume, Rachel would locate job leads with him and helped him in the application process. Several times a week, they would discuss what he did and didn’t like about each position. This helped her hone in on what Ben was looking for in a career.

“Part of our job is listening and finding exactly what people want to do,” said Rachel. “It’s important for people to want to be happy. When you take a job just because you need a job, it’s hard to be successful.”

Through the process Ben discovered that he was drawn to positions in city governments because they have the possibility of letting him grow within the institution.


Making Progress

Once Ben started getting his foot in the door and received meeting invitations, the career connectors worked with him to improve his interview skills. They put him through mock interviews to get him comfortable and confident in the environment. Soon after, Ben received a job offer from the City of Altoona.

“I felt like my blood pressure dropped,” Ben said. “The stress just kind of built up over time, and once I knew I had a job I could rest easy.”

Ben is now working for the Streets Department of Altoona as an equipment operator. He loves working all over the city.

“I work at the office sometimes, but a lot of the time I’m out around the town. All of Altoona is my office. That’s really cool.”

He will have the chance to learn and advance through the Altoona government as the city grows and opportunities seem promising, as Altoona is one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in Iowa.

What Lies Ahead

Now that Ben is more financially stable, he can start planning for the future; something that used to be a luxury.

“My outlook on life has gotten so much better,” he shared. “I can now look 10, 15 years down the road.”

When asked why he thinks people should come to Goodwill of Central Iowa when they’re in need, he said, “Everybody needs help. Some people just get lucky, and some struggle. If I hadn’t worked with Goodwill, I don’t think I’d be in the position I’m in now.”

When you donate and shop at Goodwill of Central Iowa, you make successes like Ben’s possible. In fact, 85 cents of every dollar earned in our retail stores and through Shopgoodwill.com goes to support our mission of improving the quality of life for all individuals by providing skills training and helping people find jobs. Find the location closest to you.

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