written by Kathy McAuliffe and Bryan Lindstrom
Mikaela Wellington, 19 years old, held jobs at Jewel-Osco and KFC, yet knew these would not become careers for her. “You had to work really hard to make very little money and it’s something you can’t grow out of, and if you can, it’s going to take a lot of time,” says Mikaela. She now has a full-time front desk job at Embassy Suites in Lombard, with more possibilities for advancement in the future.
Here is Mikaela’s story:
When Mikaela first came to the workNet DuPage Career Center, she wasn’t looking for anything in particular. “I did not know what I wanted to learn. I was just coming in to sit down and be a part of a class again,” says Mikaela. “I knew I wanted to go back to school and this was the closest I could get to it.” Through the Make Your Way (MYWay) program, she participated in 5 weeks of career exploration and career readiness classes, then she landed a 4-week internship at Embassy Suites in Lombard
Transportation to and from work was provided by the MYWay program, five days a week. She would be picked up every work day at 7:30 a.m. and would get to the internship around 8:00 a.m., half an hour before her work day officially started. She says she learned a lot in those first 30 minutes, just by sitting and listening, or sometimes talking with employees to learn about their day-to-day processes.
At 8:30 a.m., Mikaela would report to the Accounting department, and ask her supervisor what her task for the day would be. “It was always different. I would sometimes make Expedia reports through spreadsheets, and other times I would be sorting papers and packets or do work that got left behind. Other times I would be sorting invoice spreadsheets. I also answered phone calls and checked customers out of the hotel at the front desk from time to time. ”
Mikaela feels that her internship at Embassy Suites definitely helped her move forward. “I worked with HR a little at my internship and I was thinking of going to school for HR. The internship gave me an idea of what I wanted to do. It also helped me get into an industry unlike jobs at Jewel, and I could see this turning into a career.”
The Benefit of Having a Mentor
At first, Mikaela didn’t think she was going to get hired for her current, full-time position because Embassy Suites was already interviewing other people for it. The first couple of weeks into the internship, however, her supervisor told her she needed to show her potential if she wanted to get the job. That is when her Embassy Suites mentor, Helen stepped in.
“Helen took me aside and under her wing… In two weeks she taught me how to properly interview and how to…enter people’s information into the system and other foundations,” says Mikaela. “I am very thankful for her because without her, to be honest, I don’t think I would have my position; she helped me prove to my general manager that I was meant to have this job.”
Learning Through the MYWay Program
In addition to the internship, Mikaela also liked a lot of things about the career exploration part of the MYWay program. “When you came into class from 9 a.m. to noon, you knew what you were going to be doing. Every day was a little bit different… which made it fun. We got to go on field trips and experience different companies and what they look like.”
Mikaela also points out that MYWay participants learned a lot of soft skills; these skills were essential to her landing the full-time job at Embassy Suites.
Mikaela will continue to recommend the MYWay program to other people. “I had a friend that asked me how I got my job. I told her I got it through the MyWay program and they set me up with an internship which helped me find my job. I told her it just doesn’t happen overnight and when classes start back up you can enroll in them. ”
While it wasn’t always easy, Mikaela is very glad she went through the MYWay program. “I am really happy and proud of myself for sticking to it; sometimes you don’t have the motivation but you have to get through it.”
Nina McMahon, Mikaela’s Career Counselor, is thrilled with Mikaela’s results. “She made the most changes of anyone in the program; she worked hard, learned what would be the best options for her through meeting with our team, and became very successful.”
McMahon says Mikaela “became super professional, super happy, has a great attitude and confidence in her new career. She loves her job and is really happy with what she’s doing. She feels like she’s making a difference!” says McMahon.
And that is what we would call a true success.
The Make Your Way Program
DuPage County’s Make Your Way (MYWay) program is for young adults ages 18 to 24. The program offers opportunities for career exploration, as well as paid internships that can turn into full time employment!