David Hendrick is the perfect person to walk you through the process of making a mouthwatering Qdoba burrito. He doesn’t skip a detail as he describes each step: from steaming the tortilla (white or wheat), to piling on the toppings (this part – in itself – takes a few minutes to explain), and wrapping it up precisely “so that everything fits in and the tortilla doesn’t break.”
David got a job in November working three nights a week at a Madison-area Qdoba, after being out of the workforce for nearly 10 years (with the exception of occasional contract work) while he focused on stabilizing his mental health. He was growing frustrated with the minimal job leads and lackluster results of his independent job search after some time, and so he started working with Chrysalis, a Dane County non-profit organization whose mission is to provide individualized vocational and work-related services to persons in the community who have mental illnesses.
He met weekly with an employment specialist to learn about job leads, fill out applications, practice how to talk with potential employers, and identify areas for improvement after interviews.
“From working with Chrysalis, I got good advice about filling out applications and learned things about the job search I didn’t know before,” David said. “The regular, weekly meetings kept the momentum going and helped me to persist. I also felt encouragement. It’s easier to persist with someone working alongside you.”
Ashley Glass, his employment specialist at Chrysalis, echoed the valuable nature of the partnership.
“Neither of us gave up,” she said. “We both kept at it, together.”
Due to David’s busier schedule and growing independence, the two don’t meet as regularly, but they still connect every other week to talk about his work experiences and cope with any issues he faces.
Although much of David is the same as before he secured employment (he still likes reading science fiction, listening to classical music, collecting comic books, and watching and talking about football extensively), much has changed within him as well.
“Having this job has really improved my mood. It gives me something to do,” David said. “It’s an outlet for my energy so I’m not stressed out about other things. I was stressed before finding work, but I didn’t really know why. I got depressed in early afternoon. Now it’s gotten a lot better.”
He also notices a positive difference in his self-esteem. “I feel a lot better about my life and I feel like I’m doing something productive. I have more self-esteem because my life has more purpose.”
For David, each burrito, each order to be rung up at the cash register, each shift is a “mini challenge.” He observes how his coworkers complete tasks so he can incorporate helpful techniques into his own work style, and after each shift he finds that he reflects upon how he can do better next time.
When asked what advice he would give to others who experience mental health challenges and who are looking for work, a smile appears on his face: “Persist. It seems hard at first, but you’ll know when you have a good opportunity. It’ll be a pleasant surprise. It’s unpredictable.”
While he’s more than happy to encourage others along on their journeys to find meaningful work, David can’t sit still and dole out advice for long. He gets to go to work tonight.
And before that? Well, he has a reading list “a mile long.”