Theodore B. has lived in Chicago his entire life. Born in Bronzeville in 1950, and raised in Park Manor & Chatham after turning three, he moved downtown in 1976 after getting married. Theodore and his family were well-established small-business owners in their community, and he has worked independently for the length of his professional life. Over the years, he made a living providing fashion valet services for wedding planners (making sure the groomsmen's tuxedos were "crisp"), designing and setting up displays for fashion retailers, and briefly running an interior decorating business out of his home.
Theodore and his family also owned a restaurant in Bronzeville, Mama Lou’s Comfort Kitchen, and a neighborhood clothing store. The cost of operating a business—and wanting to spend extra time with his two grandchildren—prompted him to close both businesses by 2016. As "income streams dried up when Covid-19 started," he searched for a job that was stable, close to home, and flexible.
Theodore found a Skills job posting on Indeed for a role at Chase Bank, one of our earliest hiring partners committed to inclusive hiring. He wanted to work with people and was interested in their customer service position— but he also applied to receptionist positions with other companies for good measure. In February 2021, a Skills recruiter reached out to Theodore for an initial interview. The recruiter recognized his restaurant's name from his resume and remembered dining there years before. She recalled the great customer service she experienced; this shared sense of community led Theodore and the recruiter into a candid conversation.
The recruiter found Theodore to be a great customer service candidate and referred him to our hiring partners at Chase. He participated in two phone interviews and was hired for the Associate Banker role in March 2021.
Theodore describes his new role as being the quarterback: “I initiate all the plays by assessing the customers’ needs and passing them to right person." His job is to greet people as they come into the branch, assist them with ATM transactions, and help them with account maintenance.
For his future goals at the company, Theodore wants to keep making people feel welcomed. He just turned 71 years old and believes he has met all his aspirations.
In October 2021, Chase invited Theodore to attend Skills for Chicagoland’s Future’s 7th Annual Employment Champions Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. He was inspired by the stories he heard and the work Skills had done around the city.
“I was impressed that Skills saw the South Side as a market for talent,” Theodore expressed. “The problem with under-resourced areas is that no one takes time to engage those areas for talent. The community members have to leave the community to find ways to use their talent. When I heard about your work in Chatham, it impressed me. I've even given people that I know access to the Skills website.”
Theodore believes Skills can be of greater help to candidates in historically underserved communities by providing soft skills training: "Teaching communications skills is key. People have to learn what other people want and need and like. They have to learn cultural things about other people in order to impress them when looking for jobs, making purchases, and finding housing. Learning to communicate better could bridge gaps and help make those impressions."
During the pandemic, Skills' Career Access team developed training sessions to further support local talent in their professional and personal lives.
Chicago job seekers can find additional resources from Skills and our network of community partners.