Honoring Robert: Determination to Succeed
Robert M. has called Chicago “home” for the majority of his life. As a teenager, Robert and his family moved from Mississippi to Chicago’s South side, in pursuit of a better life and environment. For Robert, growing up in rural Mississippi was a challenge, with schools and other resources spread far apart. In Chicago, “the surroundings were much better, very friendly, [with] more opportunities for education and work.”
Since moving to the city, Robert has pushed himself to succeed in his career, which has taken him as far as San Diego, where he served in the United States Navy as a Radio Communications Officer. Reflecting on his service in the Navy, Robert says, “I wanted to take on responsibilities and fulfill a sense of adventure. I wanted to travel, and I was curious about the challenge.” After receiving an Honorable Discharge from the Navy, Robert returned to the Midwest, where he settled with his wife in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, only a few blocks away from the local LIFT office.
Back in Chicago, Robert worked for the Chicago Transit Authority as a Security Officer at a nearby platform. He held this position for thirteen years, maintaining the security of the platform and ensuring the safe passage of countless “El” riders, all done with a brilliant smile and hearty laugh. In 2013, company-wide layoffs forced Robert to search for a new job. After applying for work on his own, Robert reached out to a local community organization for support with his search, and a case worker encouraged him to visit LIFT. “Before LIFT, I was looking everywhere, searching for jobs, but I was just lost. I didn’t have any direction. I was trying to find my way but I didn’t know where to start.”
The search and application process can be a discouraging one. For every job opening, there are thousands of other qualified applicants. However, Robert also has people in his corner, from LIFT advocates, to former co-workers and supervisors, to family, friends, and his church community. The strong support network formed by these personal foundations are cornerstone of Robert’s success. The support of his wife, Keysha, and his family are critical to his progress and perseverance after many months of searching: “my wife is my rock, we have each other, and we support each other by being there, by listening.” In the LIFT office, Robert finds a continuation of this support. “LIFT was able to give me the push and the encouragement that I needed. They help motivate me to keep going,” says Robert.
During his weekly meetings at LIFT, Robert works consistently with volunteer advocates writing cover letters, applying for jobs, and practicing interview skills. “At LIFT,” says Robert, “we are always striving towards the goal of full time employment… they help me develop the tools I need for my search.” Robert builds on the progress made during his time at LIFT by attending job fairs and networking events, researching job openings, and volunteering at his church. The job search process has been long and challenging, but, together, Robert and LIFT advocates pursue promising leads and locate resources that will help strengthen Robert’s applications. “Things are really starting to look up,” says Robert, “I’ve started getting more calls about interviews for jobs.”
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