This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2015 issue of Pipeline Quarterly, from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities
While Jeff Gossett experienced a few bumps along the way, a little support and a lot of persistence helped him find the right job in the community. After high school, Jeff admits he struggled a bit – his confidence wasn’t great, and he was nervous to try something new.
He started at Alpha Industries of The Alpha Group, Inc. in Delaware County, where his mom, Barb, works. But that wasn’t the right fit, and he still struggled. “I didn’t enjoy it all that much,” he said. “I felt like I was there as a charity.”
His mom said there were many days Jeff didn’t want to go to work. Even though it wasn’t the right fit for him, the workshop gave Jeff a few things he’d been missing – self-confidence, and the courage to try something new. That something new was an adult bible study group, where he met other young adults and became even more self-assured. With more self-confidence, and a little tough love from his mom, Jeff was ready to look for a job in the community.
He started working with Leslie, a Job Developer from the Alpha Community Services, who helped him with completing applications, writing his resume, and working on interview skills, then supported him as he started looking for a job.
Jeff practically led his own job search – he knew which jobs he was interested in, and arranged several interviews. Ultimately, he decided to take a job offer with JCPenney at the Polaris Fashion Place. “Leslie did this with him, not for him,” Barb said. Jeff is thriving in his new job and said he enjoys the variety, and his employer has reported great things about his work.
On his first day, he went above and beyond to help a customer who was from out of town find the perfect last-minute Christmas gift. He often covered shifts at the last minute and was recognized as Employee of the Month in March. Jeff credits his success to the support his supervisor and coworkers at JCPenney.
Barb said Jeff has blossomed since beginning the job at JCPenney, and it’s been a springboard for other opportunities such as sitting on the Human Rights Committee with the Delaware County Board, and participating in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program at The Ohio State University, which brings college students together with incarcerated men and women to study as peers.
He has shared his experience with the Inside-Out Program at regional conferences, and will be leading an upcoming seminar with the group. He’s also preparing an application for a volunteer position to help him gain more experience and work skills.
His advice for others who are thinking about pursuing community employment is to push yourself. “If you go on your first day and see it’s not that bad, you’ll get over the hump,” he said.