Melina Martinez knows first-hand what it’s like to be out of work and looking for employment. Before she started helping others get back on their feet, she was the one looking for an opportunity.
For five years, she was a special education substitute teacher in Yuma County. When she found herself in need of a job and new direction, she went to ARIZONA @ WORK.
Here’s her story:
Melina Martinez is a Talent Engagement Specialist with the Yuma Private Industry Council (YPIC) at the ARIZONA @ WORK office in Yuma. She is the warm face that welcomes clients into the building and assists them with benefits and services.
After losing her substitute teaching position, a pregnant Martinez was soon receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits and on the job hunt. Since she was receiving unemployment assistance, she was required to attend reemployment orientation to learn about no-cost workforce services available through ARIZONA @ WORK.
She was referred to the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Center in Yuma and spoke to a career advisor.
Inside the Yuma Youth Center
“I sat down and spoke to my case manager for a good hour. At first, I wanted to do something in the medical field, but then when speaking to me, he said, ‘I really don’t see you in a medical office, I see you more (personally) helping people,’” Martinez said.
With that advice, she attended a customer service workshop, which taught her how to identify customer problems and handle various situations. She also attended an Interviewing with Confidence workshop. There, she learned tips and techniques on how to dress, conduct herself in a professional manner and answer interview questions.
Upon completion, she was offered an internship with the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) for a front desk position — a position that she learned a lot about during her workshop training.
DES Workforce Supervisor, Valentin Casillas, and his team helped Martinez expand upon the knowledge she obtained at the Youth Center.
“I saw a lot of potential in her,” said Casillas. “I told her ‘You know what, you’re going to do great, there are a lot of transferable skills you can bring with you; everything’s going to be just fine.’”
Every Thursday, Casillas’ team would keep Martinez’s training exciting by playing a Family Feud-style game with her and another intern. They would ask the two job seeker questions pertaining to customer service.
Martinez proved to be a hard worker. She learned how to assist people with Unemployment Insurance information. She knew everything about DES’ priority of service for veterans, and understood how to talk with clients on a personal level. Casillas was impressed with how natural everything was for her.
“There are several steps for someone working the front, but she caught on quickly. After the first week, going into the second, she was already running with it. She caught on so fast and she just blew our minds how quickly she learned,” Casillas laughed.
Typically, internships last about three months, and then they leave to continue their search for employment. Martinez, however, had only been there for one month before the opportunity with YPIC came knocking.
Six months later, Martinez is enjoying everything about her position as she was recently promoted to Quality Assurance Coordinator. She also attained a certification from Arizona Western College to be a Microsoft Office Word Specialist and was one of the few to score a perfect grade.
“I love [my job]. Honestly, being able to help people and give them a little bit of hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that’s the best feeling for me; because I was there, and I know how it feels,” Martinez said. “You may come in feeling like a failure, but then you go out through those doors there is hope and another way.”
To learn more about no-cost employment services, please visit www.ARIZONAatWORK.com.
By Ben Flores