What is a Job Coach?
SETTING EMPLOYEES UP FOR SUCCESS
The role of a coach is to give guidance and strategy for success. They help train you to achieve your goals and encourage you to grow in ways that you may not have realized were possible. A sports coach is seen as a necessity; it’s hard to think of a team without a coach. But what about business? Job coaches can play an important role in setting employees up for success and helping them work through barriers they may face.
WHAT IS A JOB COACH?
The Relay Resources team includes over 500 janitorial employees, most of whom are part of the AbilityOne Program designed for people with a wide range of disabilities. We take our diverse workforce into account as we design our training programs. Job coaches are available to help trainees transition to their permanent positions as well as helping current employees trouble shoot areas for improvement.
We caught up with Job Coach Michael Best as he was starting his overnight shift at Portland International Airport, voted Travel + Leisure Best Domestic Airport in the United States for six years in a row.
FROM JANITOR TO JOB COACH
“Before starting at Relay, I had worked as a cook at a bar then was unemployed and living on SSI (Supplemental Security Income). I knew that I was capable of way more than that,” says Michael. “Then a friend referred me for a janitorial job at Relay. When I started working full time in 2012 I was able to clear off some debts, move to a new place, and felt like I had some real personal growth.”
After working as a janitor for five years at places like the East County Courthouse and Portland Police training facility, Michael was looking to do something a little different. He spoke with his supervisor Khodi Dow about other opportunities at Relay. “Mike wanted something more,” says Khodi, “but didn’t want to move from Relay. He was outwardly looking at other areas, so I took the opportunity to print out the job listings we had at the time and went over that with him.” Michael showed interest in the job coach position. Relay provided job application resources such as resume assistance and kiosks in the main office lobby where applications can be submitted online. “I don’t have a degree, but I do have experience,” says Michael. “So I applied and talked with Toni Delgado, one of the Relay recruiters, about the position.” Michael began his new position as a job coach in the summer of 2018.
WORKING WITH A JOB COACH
“I had an interaction with a job coach, Holly, when I was a janitor,” remembers Michael. “First, I spoke with my supervisor to let him know what was happening and that it was burning me out. He asked if I would like to work with a job coach. I appreciate that it’s offered as a resource and not forced on you. When Holly came to the job site, I got to walk her through from start to finish and show her what was happening. It allowed the opportunity for a fresh perspective and gave an appropriate amount of time and effort to solving the situation. It was great.”
BECOMING A JOB COACH
Being a job coach takes both understanding the needs of the position as well as the needs of the employee. “Out of all the routes I supervise, the police training facility where Mike was working is probably one of the most difficult because it’s not a scheduled route,” explains Khodi. “You don’t start in one area and work in a set order to completion. Certain areas you can only work on at certain times depending if there’s a conference or if there’s only specific times you can gain access, like at the shooting range. So, Mike had to be very precise in his timing and be able to adapt. Speaking with him now, I can see he has carried a lot of that into his coaching abilities. Coming from a front-line position and knowing how the person he’s coaching feels means he can relate to that person. He can help them grow and adapt to their surroundings by giving them the feedback they need.”
Michael is applying what he knows and continuing to grow in his new position. “So far, I feel like a sponge just trying to soak in as much as I can,” says Michael. “Personally and professionally, I’ve learned a lot and grown in ways I couldn’t imagine since being at Relay. Other places, your growth is limited. When you have physical limitations other people sometimes get this idea of how far they think you can advance. But there’s opportunities for advancement here at Relay. I’m not limited based on someone’s observation of my physical appearance.”
“It’s interesting being able to see life from the other side of the fence; from the management side versus the direct labor side. It’s so different,” says Michael. “I’m getting a more complete understanding of different expectations, where they come from, and helping connect the dots. I’m excited because I get to share my knowledge and experience with someone new. Helping others with their growth and pleasing the customer is an important balance. You’re helping employees to accomplish their goal. At the same time, this is their chance to tell you why it wasn’t working before, and how they feel about things like their supervision or the customer’s expectation. When you get that feedback, you can help explain. Sometimes we just want to know why.”
LESSONS LEARNED IN JANITORIAL
“When you first start in janitorial, you’re really trying to work on making sure that you get stuff done right. Organization and time management is a big factor in janitorial work. Now, as a job coach, trying to teach those key points can be challenging. It’s about trying to show employees that you need to focus on the small tasks, but also see the route as a whole. Everyone learns differently, so you really have to figure out how each person learns and go from there. I like to engage the employee in the process, asking them how they feel they are doing. Because sometimes employees just want to work away and they don’t want to tell you they don’t like it or it’s not for them. They want to make sure they are doing a good job and feel like they are contributing. But there might be something they’re struggling with and if they can’t overcome that thing they will end up hating it. Now, as a job coach, I’m another set of eyes to help see what it is they’re seeing. Sometimes it’s just a matter of spending time with someone to help them work out the kinks.”
JANITORIAL JOB COACHING TIPS FROM MICHAEL
Tip #1: Timing and Organization is Key in Janitorial
“You want to make sure you’re getting both your timing and organization to your route. It’s important to give yourself a little leeway so that you can walk back through and double check your work before moving on to the next project.”
Tip #2: Show Your Determination
“Your skillset and determination can take you where you want to go. People are willing to help you get where you want to be, wherever that is. Working with an organization like Relay, who is both willing and supportive in accommodation, is important. They will keep trying to help you be successful.”
Tip #3: Pay it forward
“Even if you feel like you’re starting at the bottom, you don’t have to stay there. There are opportunities for advancement and growth. What you put into it is what you’re going to get back. It’s refreshing. Creating opportunities is part of the mission at Relay. We all contribute to each individual. Like in my case, that means that someone is contributing to me and I’m passing that down. The whole idea of paying-it-forward is really big at Relay. And that’s what’s nice. I had to get that help and now I can offer that help to someone else.”
CAREER GROWTH TIPS FROM KHODI
Tip #1: Tell Your Supervisor
“Let your supervisor know that you are interested in a job change. Often people may mention peer-to-peer that they would like to move up and not really make it known to their supervisor that they are interested. If Mike hadn’t said that he wanted to do more I would have never known that he would be interested in a position like job coach. I wouldn’t have been able to assist in that. I feel like that could really open a lot of doors for someone interested in moving forward or changing their position.”
Tip #2: Know Your Skillset
“Qualifications on a piece of paper are not everything when you are applying for a job. I have personally experienced that myself. Sometimes you have to have faith and step toward that goal, knowing that you may not have all of the qualifications listed, but you know you’re strong in some of them.”
Tip #3: Look Towards Your Next Opportunity
“One thing I’ve learned recently is that the word no, looked at in a different light, can mean next opportunity. There is no harm in trying because then you can learn what it is you need to improve on if you don’t get the job at that moment. Ask what you need to work on, what can you work on in the role that you’re in now to further improve those skills, so that when you do apply for the job the next time it comes around, you’re ready for it.”
Are you ready for your next opportunity? Check out the current Relay Resources career opportunities at relayresources.org/careers.