Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona has sold secondhand goods at its thrift stores for decades, but the nonprofit organization also connects people with career services such as resume-building. Now, it’s expanding those services online to reach an even broader audience.
The organization’s new website—mycareeradvisor.com—offers the same free services that Goodwill has offered at its in-person career centers for years, but with the added flexibility that an online environment allows.
“We’re looking at ways that job seekers are getting connected to employers or getting the information that they need,” said Courtney Nelson, Vice President of Marketing & Communications at Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona. “And we’ve seen that there’s been a lot of need for not coming into a brick-and-mortar necessarily, but they’re going online.”
The new service allows users to chat with career advisors over the internet for assistance with interviewing, looking for jobs, and building a resume. The service also offers grant-funded digital skills training to help users develop computer literacy.
Nelson said the new website is just one way Goodwill is working towards its new vision statement: “ending poverty through the power of work.”
“Our vision used to be focused about ending unemployment, and when we looked at our community and what the needs look like, it was much greater than that,” Nelson said. The issue is not just unemployment, she said, but under-employment—a situation in which people with jobs just aren’t making enough to support themselves.
One current Goodwill employee who has experienced both unemployment and underemployment is Mary Wolf-Francis, Director of Philanthropy at Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona. With three children to raise, Wolf-Francis said the recession hit her family hard, forcing them to sell their home and some of their cars.
“While I had a job, it was not the amount of money that was required for us to sustain ourselves,” she said. “When we talk about moving away from that idea of unemployment, what we’re really talking about is making sure everybody has the opportunity to earn a wage that is sufficient for themselves and their families.”
In 2017, Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona placed over 45,000 people in jobs, both internally and with outside organizations. But bringing services online isn’t the only way Goodwill is increasing its impact in Arizona.
The organization recently expanded its retail operations center from 200,000 to 300,000 square feet to account for an increase in the amount of donations it receives, as well as to facilitate a steady growth into ecommerce. With the expansion, Goodwill converted the career center attached to the building to a designated hiring center specifically for the facility. Before the expansion, the retail operations center had about 250 employees Wolf-Francis said—that number is now even higher.
“There’s been a lot of need to grow even our own internal employees, and as we looked at the West Valley, there was definitely a need for hiring directly at this location,” Nelson said.
Goodwill is also planning on opening a few new thrift stores this year in places like Payson and Show Low, Nelson said, although their overall growth in the brick-and-mortar realm likely won’t be as high as in previous years.
Nelson emphasized that even with Goodwill’s continued evolution, there will always be a need for community support.
“Donations are the lifeblood of our organization, so we always encourage the community to continue to give to us,” she said. “We know that we owe it to our community, we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the businesses that are coming in here, to be able to make a difference.”