Jen Bright is confined to a wheelchair and only has use of two fingers on her left hand. She has cerebral palsy.
But Bright, 37, doesn’t see herself as being handicapped and wishes nobody else would either.
With a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and a bachelor’s in human services on her resume, Bright was looking for an internship and was confident she would get one.
Over an 18-month period, Bright went on 78 job interviews and was rejected 78 times.
“I have a tendency not to recognize my limitations,” Bright said. “There is no reason I shouldn’t be able to find employment somewhere.”
While she was reluctant to ask for help, Bright reached out to Goodwill of Orange County’s Supported Employment Services program, which helps job seekers with special needs find employment.
“I knew she was going to be the biggest challenge ever,” said Eric Bisaillon, Goodwill of Orange County’s business development manager. “But once I started speaking to her, I could see her drive to be successful.”
Bisaillon and Bright went on one job interview together, but the outcome was the same as the previous 78.
Then in August 2017, Bisaillon and Bright met with Will Crist, owner of GlobalMarc, a Santa Ana company that helps entrepreneurs make their businesses more successful through a specialized program.
Crist, who needed an administrative assistant, acknowledges initially being skeptical of Bright but was impressed by her determination.
“Seventy-eight job interviews … that tells me she is a persistent person,” Crist said.
Crist started by giving Bright small tasks, such as organizing his calendar, scheduling and confirming appointments.
Bright blew Crist away with her computer skills.
And with assistance from a nurse who is with her at all times, Bright organized files, constructed a book shelf, streamlined Crist’s e-mails and arranged her own office.
As the internship winded down, Crist wanted to hire Bright full time.
On a Friday afternoon, Crist asked Bright to go home, take a couple of days and list tasks she couldn’t perform. He said he would give her a job suited to her abilities.
Two days later, Bright came back and handed Crist a blank piece of paper.
“She said she has no limitations,” Crist said.
Now Bright is a full-time administrative assistant who continues to take on more roles.
“We call her the integrator,” Crist said. “She is the one who makes things happen.”
After 18 months of rejection, Bright said she had lost confidence.
But since working at GlobalMarc, her self-assurance has skyrocketed.
“I like the idea of making my own money,” she said. “I like being dressed up and being professional. I don’t want to just sit home and watch TV all day. I really wanted to feel like someone else depended on me, and I’m helping others rather than being someone who needs the help.”
Bright’s high level of productively has had a ripple effect.
Business owners who work with Crist have gone to Goodwill, hoping they could get an employee as efficient as Bright.
“I’m so proud of Jen,” Bisaillon said. “Jen has overcome more obstacles and barriers than anyone I’ve ever met.”
Bright is also thankful for the help she received from Goodwill and wrote a letter to Bisaillon expressing her gratitude.
She closed the letter by writing: “Thank you for treating me like a human.”