For 20 years, Nikkisha Wright worked for State Farm Insurance on the agent staff team. She enjoyed the field and was a valuable asset through many transitions within the company. Although she had many responsibilities, she longed to one day have her own branch as a lead agent.
When Nikkisha became a mother, her circumstances changed—her job offered few benefits, and she struggled to make ends meet and cover her child’s healthcare needs. After two years of hardship, she began receiving public assistance and was referred to the City of Pittsburgh’s EARN program. EARN matched Nikkisha with JobLinks, where she began working with Program Assistant Lorene Barksdale to try regaining financial independence.
Lorene helped Nikkisha update her resume and cover letter to better highlight her valuable experiences at State Farm and her education.
“I was at State Farm for so long that I didn’t have to formally apply to different positions. All I had to do was make a call; I didn’t have to market myself,” Nikkisha said. “Last time I applied to jobs, there were still typewriters. Lorene helped me learn the new layout of the resume and the new job application process. I started getting a lot of hits with my new resume.”
JobLinks Employment Specialist Chris Kendall also offered her encouragement about getting back into the workforce.
“She was humble about her experience, but had a skill set you cannot be humble about. I wanted to help her crack that shell,” Chris reported. “When she worked at State Farm, she helped open an office branch in New Jersey. I wanted to show her that what she had done innately and with such talent, others would have to go through leadership training to achieve.”
Chris would cold-call her and disguise his identity to give her meaningful practice. She proved her knowledge of the industry was strong, so Chris moved on to teaching her behavioral-based interviewing techniques.
JobLinks helped Nikkisha navigate jobs at UPMC, where she hoped to find something. To her surprise, Farmers Insurance called her for an interview. Because of her past, she was reluctant to go to the interview. JobLinks encouraged her to attend the interview, even as practice, just to “get [her] feet wet.”
The interview turned out to be more than a practice session. The recruiter called back Nikkisha the next day and told her that they wanted to skip the second interview and go straight to the third so Nikkisha could start on Monday. They offered her an agency branch position, with her own agency office, a base salary, and commission.
“This isn’t very common in the insurance industry. Usually, the work is all commission-based, which can be problematic: sometimes you have a good month, sometimes you have a bad month,” Nikkisha explained. “Farmers Insurance offered me something more consistent and more secure.”
Commissioned and approved by August 1, Nikkisha opened her own agency office in Shadyside.
“I have to thank JobLinks for this opportunity.” Nikkisha said. “They made me more marketable and made my resume grab the attention of recruiters. I just did the rest!”
Since starting at Farmer Insurance, Nikkisha checks in with JobLinks often, letting its staff know about job openings and training programs within her company. She will also be interviewing her first JobLinks candidate this month to work as an employee for her office.
“We love to see JobLinks participants helping each other, both in the program and out,” Chris said.
JobLinks offers training and placement services to job seekers and employers city-wide. We are located in the Oakland Career Center at 294 Semple Street in Central Oakland. Contact us at 412.621.3821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.