Finding Mentors and Role Models
By Joanne Hager
I couldn’t go through another layoff as a tradeswoman and breadwinner. My mental health and my bank account couldn’t handle it. While I loved my work as a construction laborer, I had to find a more stable career with higher wages to sustain my family. A friend introduced me to Teamsters Service Bureau | Minnesota Job Partners. She learned about them at a job fair and encouraged me to reach out.
I attended orientation right away and was blessed to be paired with Shelley Jensen-Decker as my Career Counselor. She taught me to job hunt with clarity and confidence. Through assessments and exercises, we narrowed my search to a few career choices. First, I gravitated to my comfort zone: construction code compliance. The Dislocated Worker Program helped me achieve certification required to work in that field.
But without a four-year degree, I quickly discovered that code compliance jobs didn’t pay enough to support my family, so I kept looking for other careers. Next, I explored construction technology because I love research and had already completed a construction apprenticeship program. Finally, I chose to become a building inspector.
That seed was planted by Silvia Gonzalez, Inspection Supervisor for the City of Minneapolis. Her representation helped me envision myself in a job dominated by men. Silvia is a role model who encouraged tradeswomen to explore a career in building inspections. She explained the qualifications and requirements to succeed in her profession.
Teamsters helped me attend the Building Inspection Technology (BIT) program at North Hennepin Community College (NHCC). My program ran from January through December 2020. While studying, I polished my résumé and participated in numerous job fairs hosted by the Teamsters. Despite COVID-19, I did informational interviews and was fortunate to be a mentee with Be Bold, Break the Mold, led by Maria Vittone at NHCC. That opportunity was my turning point. It provided me access to industry role models and mentors so I could learn from other nontraditional career professionals. I was paired with Ann Jacklitch, Director of Building Inspection Services for the City of Maple Grove, where I trained for several weeks with their knowledgeable staff. Later, I was selected for a six-month paid internship with Greg Brady at the City of Coon Rapids.
My training with Maple Grove and Coon Rapids solidified my choice to become a building inspector. I knew I was on the best career track after I received plenty of "windshield time" performing inspections. That hands-on experience, plus my certification, was my ticket to a full-time job.
My goal, after my internship, was to find work with City of Minneapolis or one of the first-tier suburbs. Minneapolis was the best fit for me, so I applied for a housing inspector position, hoping to eventually move up to building inspections. Last month, my dream came true. I am now a Building Inspector for the City of Minneapolis, and I could not be happier! I earn $87,830 a year, significantly more than when I was a construction worker, due to the full-time permanent status of the job.
It took the help of a village to be where I am today. I so appreciated the résumé development and negotiating tips I received from Christine Chelstrom at Teamsters | Minnesota Job Partners. I will be forever grateful to Shelley for her patience, guidance, and understanding. She was exactly who I needed, and Teamsters were exactly what I needed to find a career I love. I am SO full of gratitude!