You know your career is off to a good start when a major retailer names you “employee of the month” with just one month on the job.
That’s exactly what happened with 25-year-old Holly Spencer when she accepted a position as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens a mere two days after graduating from the Springdale Job Corps Center outside of Portland, Oregon.
Her journey to finding the right job was a long one. After high school, Holly lacked direction and couldn’t afford college. She earned a nursing certificate at the Tongue Point Job Corps Center in Astoria, but – after getting some actual experience in the field – she decided against a long-term career. She then joined AmeriCorps, helping children in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
From that experience, Holly realized she wanted a career helping people but needed more stability. So she applied for the pharmacy tech program at Job Corps, where she was allowed to re-enroll because she was under the program’s maximum age limit of 24.
Today Holly loves working as a pharmacy technician. And even though this vocation has its challenges – yes, doctors’ prescriptions really are hard to read – she shows up to work every day enthused about helping people get the medications they need to feel better.
“I like showing that I actually care about the patients and instead of giving them a ‘robotic sequence’ of steps when they get here,” she said. “They usually leave with a smile on their face.”
Holly was recognized by Walgreens as a star employee for going beyond typical duties; for example, helping customers find other items in the store and making sure they know about assistance programs like “Good Rx” that help people in need pay for medicine.
Her response to the honor? The Oregon native requested a transfer to another Walgreens store in Phoenix to get away from the rainy weather. Today she won’t even use air conditioning while driving to work, opting to roll all the windows down and bask in the hot breeze.
Looking back, she credits Job Corps with teaching her self-respect and patience. Her advice to other young people searching for a more affordable education option: “If you have your heart set on a career and Job Corps offers it, go for it.”
Editor’s note: The “DOL Working for You” series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other blog posts in the series here.
Leo Kay is the regional director of the department’s Office of Public Affairs in San Francisco.