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Mariah Invests in Herself with Skills & BMO Harris Bank

Nothing gives you clarity quite like a crisis. As COVID-19 disrupted industries and job seekers reevaluated their priorities, Skills launched the Career Navigator. This virtual program gave participants the opportunity to find a new direction by attending an info session and group interview, three biweekly Career Readiness Trainings—covering workplace success, personal competencies, resume reviews, and interview skills— nine weeks of mentorship, and a round of mock interviews. At the end of the program, candidates were given four possible paths to follow: direct placement with BMO Harris Bank, the program's funding partner; continued education through a certificate or City College  program; entry into one of Skills' Pivot to Success programs; or additional career readiness training with a Skills CBO partner.

One of our program participants was Mariah, a determined young woman looking to one day open her own business. She recently sat down with us to share her success story with Skills and BMO Harris Bank.

What brought you to Skills?

I actually heard about Skills through IDES. My job history was in retail, so I applied for a role as a pharmacy tech, but I was turned down. I didn't let that discourage me or anything. I just went back on the website and kept looking for something that aligned with what I'm going to school for, Sales & Marketing. With my cash handling and customer service experience, I got this job through Skills. Now, I'm a Customer Experience Representative at BMO Harris Bank.

How would you describe your time in Career Navigator?

I was dedicated more than anything. I had the strengths, and I kept my personal bearings. So I gave it a shot!

My experience working with Skills was good because not only did I gain a job, but also life skills I can keep applying in multiple areas. And I liked being in a cohort. The people that I was doing my training with were wonderful. I kept in touch with one because we both got hired, but she wasn't able to start, and that made her feel discouraged. And that made me feel some type of way because I know the hard work we both put in to get the results we wanted. So I wanted to be there for her.

Terry and Yesenia from Skills were great, too! And my mentor Stephanie works in banking, too. And along the way, she helped. She was kinda on me. Teachers and everyone would get on my case a lot because I have so much potential, I do the work, and I'm committed, but I just play around sometimes. But Stephanie was a wonderful help. She pushed me, and I needed it. I told her, "I don't want you to beat around the bush. I want everything brutal, you know? I want to work for it." 

I was working on my own a lot throughout the program, so I was doing things on the side to speed up my process. Like researching something that my cohort wasn't really talking about. Anything to make you stand out, basically.

Now that you're at BMO Harris, how are you liking it?

I feel that it's the place for me because it's helping me open up more, and my manager, he's good. The program is doing what it's supposed to be doing. I'm learning the ins and outs of the bank and banking language. It's a little challenging because you have a lot of information to remember, and I have to be very cautious and safe. But it's good working at BMO. I've learned a lot of new things. 

I've actually started working on my business that I'm trying to open up right now, so BMO's actually put me in alignment with my life purpose and what I have going for myself. So I really think—and I'm no actor here, this is from the heart—I really appreciate getting the help and support that I truly need 

How have Skills and BMO Harris Bank helped you grow?

I've become more confident, and I've become more people-oriented. I'm learning how to interact with people more. That's good because when I started the Career Navigator, I wasn't really confident in myself.

During the Skills program, we made a roadmap. So to me, I feel like I'm completing my life goals. 

What advice would you give to other job seekers working with Skills?

I'd tell them, just be what you feel in your heart, and be consistent and be very ambitious. Believe in anything you put your mind to. Because Skills is basically giving you a blueprint, and you just follow it. You should give it a try.

I liked how much they care because I'm still part of the cohort. They still check up on me and tried to see if I was doing well or if I got the job. And if I hadn't gotten the job, there were other opportunities. And they teach you and train you. It's just a very good support system, and they do their best to help you earn more, and open up. So if you have the drive, Skills is a perfect organization to look up.

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