“There’s a stigma to being on unemployment and receiving any type of benefits and being ‘lazy,’” notes Dennis Chisholm. “I’d rather receive an education than unemployment benefits any day.”
And it’s just this inspired and motivated attitude that led NCWorks Career Center staff to deem Chisholm “the perfect candidate” to receive that education through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s Classroom Training Grant program.
An information technology (IT) professional, he first visited an NCWorks Center about two years ago to inquire about receiving unemployment benefits. He’d researched the resources available to him, and asked about entering the then-Workforce Investment Act (WIA) training program.
And he was impressed by the “programs based around building the qualities that one needs to prepare to enter the workforce – resume-building, counseling about how to handle being unemployed and making yourself marketable,” recalls Chisholm.
He took advantage of printing and Internet access in the Resource Center and career coaching.
When his most recent IT contract ended in December 2015, he returned to the Center and met with Career Advisor Andrew Davila. “He was supportive from Day One,” Chisholm says. “The way he handled it was empathetic to my needs and structured with a certain level of accountability such that I knew that he actually cared about whether or not I found work.”
He describes his initial work with Davila this way:
When you first come in, they’re adamant about making sure you understand the requirements of the program. There’s a structured plan for you to be successful. The program provides questions that draw out that plan. I recall having to go out and research various careers and what type of education is needed to get that career, and create a back-up plan in case that wasn’t possible. It’s not just, ‘Hey, here – you can go to school.’ It’s, ‘Let’s sit down and figure out the steps you need to take not just to be successful in our program, but in finding your calling within the workforce.’
In January, Chisholm enrolled in Central Piedmont Community College’s computer technology integration program. “It took a while to decide what program to choose,” he says. “I chose this program because it’s an interdisciplinary program that allows you to study several technologies. I’m concentrating in software development and cloud and virtualization technology. You end up with an associate’s degree and vendor-specific certifications that a lot of employers are looking for.”
His goal is to land a position as a cloud solutions architect.
When he’s not in class, Chisholm continues his search. He attends job-search groups and IT meet-ups to network. He also works on personal projects, such as taking online tutorials and contributing to the development of open-source technologies, to showcase his talent and hopefully “build a case to get into” his target companies. Chisholm also provides pro bono IT assistance to nonprofit organizations.
And last year, he served as a co-contributor to Charlotte’s DevOps Days, an international conference that brings together software developers and IT professionals to discuss trends in managing IT infrastructure.
“You’ve got to have drive. You’ve got to engage in self-studies online, a project – something that complements your job search,” Chisholm says.
To his fellow IT job-seekers, he says this:
There are a lot of talented people without jobs in the market right now because they were long-term employees of big local companies who have been released. It can be daunting to go into something else after 14 years. They’re displaced. They’re lost. They have to find something similar to what they did or move into something completely new. My advice is to go to community college. You get exactly what you need to hit the ground running when it’s time to produce. For people actively looking for employment: if you’re displaced, there’s help! This program will provide the means to get an education to get the job. And it will educate you on how to prepare to look and apply for employment. It provides the tools that are needed for your success. A support system and education are the things that are needed to help people, and they’ll find it here.
Dennis Chisholm’s advice for fellow job-seekers
- A career is about being better, not making more. Don’t gauge the success of your career as so many do, based on your salary-step increases. It’s about opportunity, and that isn’t always reflected monetary compensation.
- Treat what you do as a craft. Become what you do. Embrace what you’re trying to learn and become excellent.
- Educate yourself by going back to school, engaging in self-study, researching online tutorials, going to conferences and visiting forums. Become disciplined and empower yourself. There are programs that can provide the means to supplement your quest to achieve excellence in the workplace; NCWorks has help me do so.
- Learn and share information with peers by joining meet-ups and community support groups and getting unique opinions from others with similar areas of interest.
- Be patient; experience takes time, and mistakes are the catalyst of growth.