The phrase “working yourself to death” weighed a bit heavier with Perry County native Dustin Combs around the end of 2015.
A string of misfortunes in employment that year found Combs working at a construction job with odd hours and backbreaking work.
Looking about half awake, Combs, a broad-shouldered man in a blue T-shirt and backwards baseball cap, swivels back and forth in a computer chair, the screen on the computer behind him glowing with the Teleworks USA website.
“I was doing a job that required me to work from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.,” he explains as he sits in his office at the Teleworks USA Hazard Teleworks Hub. “Last Saturday and Sunday I worked 30 hours combined in two days.”
This work schedule was not uncommon for Combs in the six months he worked at the construction job.
“The job I was doing was really, really horrible on your body and your mind,” he says.
It was this wear on him that drove Combs to look for different employment—specifically at Teleworks USA.
An initiative of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), Teleworks USA identifies and develops legitimate remote-work, distance learning opportunities, and helps people prepare for and land these jobs through its website, teleworks.com. Teleworks USA also operates hubs in Annville, Beattyville, Booneville, Harlan, Hazard, and Pike County that offer workspace and workshop learning opportunities for teleworkers who may not have access to suitable internet speeds or computer equipment at home.
“I really wasn’t sure what they were capable of doing. I didn’t really have a lot of information about them,” he admits.
Combs explains that he had heard of Teleworks more than a year ago, but, at the time, was not in a situation where he was looking for a job, so he didn’t think much about it. Luckily, he remembered that the program existed, and made a trip to the Hazard hub to talk with the hub manager, Theresa Noble.
“Within minutes (of talking to her) she already had ideas of what jobs would be good for me,” he says of his first meeting with Noble. “She was a really big help. She actually helped me through every single step of the process.”
That process began by taking a look at Combs’ résumé, making sure that it was up to par with what the teleworking companies would want from an applicant.
“She helped me with all of the applications, and showed me how to use everything (on the website), where to look, and she showed me things I’d be interested in,” Combs adds.
The first company Combs applied for was with a global gaming and software company through Sutherland CloudSource—an opportunity he never imagined he’d have in rural Eastern Kentucky.
“I didn’t even realize this job existed until I talked to Theresa,” he admits.
After applying, Combs says he received a swift response from the company, and a week later began the lengthy interview process.
“If I had done it on my own, the odds of me getting the job may have been a three of four out of 10,” Combs says. “With Theresa’s help, it was more like a nine out of 10.”
Combs explains that Noble role played with him to help prepare him for what the interviewers may ask him during the five interviews he would have to go through to get the job.
“She made me go from being really nervous to being able to speak and tell them what I thought. It made it so much easier,” he says.
By the end of April 2016, Combs found out he had landed the job and would be starting the eight-week training process.
“I can do the training right here at the hub, and I may just stay at the hub after because the internet and everything’s so fast here,” he says, smiling.
Since completing the training, Combs has decided to transition to working from home as opposed to using the hub. He says, though, that the hub is a great asset to his community.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone because you drive to the next town and you’re looking at 60 or 70 miles, and then for a job that may not pay as much as you could get here at the hub,” he says. “The hub was designed for an area like this, in my opinion.”
Combs adds that if anyone is questioning whether or not they should give Teleworks a chance, whether they want to work from home or not, they should definitely look into it.
“First off, I’d tell them to go talk to Theresa because she was such a big help for me,” he says. “If you’re not employed and you’re looking for a job, why wouldn’t you try here? You have nothing to lose. Once you come and talk to someone like Theresa, you’ll see all the opportunities they have to offer and then you can decide.”
EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides an array of workforce development services, administers the Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) program for dislocated coal miners and their spouses, and is the White House-designated lead organization for the federal TechHire designation for Eastern Kentucky. Learn more about us at http://www.ekcep.org, http://www.jobsight.organd http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.