When Abraham moved out of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls last fall, his future looked bright. He was working full-time as a third-party claims assistant and quickly earned a promotion. By all means, he could have settled into a nice routine. But something was still nagging him.

In 2014, Abraham completed a certificate in computer information systems at Year Up, a professional development program providing young adults with the skills, experience, and support needed to reach their potential through in-demand careers and higher education. Upon graduation, he accepted an information technology internship with All State Insurance in Northbrook, but not before he turned down a sales internship with industrial supply company, Grainger.

“To be quite honest, I was miserable during that internship. I regretted not sticking with the initial sales internship,” Abraham said. “I just found myself twittling my thumbs. I wasn’t passionate. I had no interest in IT whatsoever.”

Enter re:work, an intensive 10-week program in Chicago that trains students without college degrees for entry-level sales positions at top employers in the city.

“When I found out about re:work and their sales program, I was excited,” Abraham said. “I felt like it gave me a chance to redeem myself and tap into an industry I was always interested in.”

But that meant carrying a heavy workload, since the trainings occurred on weekends. Regardless, Abraham dug in, continued working full-time, and relied on his deep reserve of tenacity whenever faced with obstacles.

At re:work, he became a sponge, absorbing knowledge about sales software as he learned about prospecting clients via cold calls and emails.

“The number one objective is to set meetings for account executives, so you can hand off the prospects to them,” Abraham said. “This was all new to me. Prior to the program I had no exposure to sales.”

Founder and CEO of re:work, Harrison Horan, took note of his new student’s drive to succeed.

“Our business model banks on people with grit, or strong ‘sales character.’ Abraham has this in abundance,” Harrison said. “Beyond that, though, he also has a unique desire to learn, which will serve him well as his sales career blossoms. I’m excited to watch him create new opportunities for himself by doing the right things.”

Harrison didn’t have to wait long, as Abraham recently landed a position as a sales development representative at LearnCore, a tech company that sells software. He says that the sales industry fits his tenacious personality because it’s up to him to prove himself and control his own career destiny, especially since he doesn’t have a traditional four-year degree.

“As long as the candidate possesses the right attitude and brings the right characteristics to the job – which means being highly driven, disciplined, focused, a self-starter, and organized – many employers are willing overlook not having a degree for entry-level positions,” he said.

Abraham points to re:work’s high rate of positive job placement reviews as a testament to the program’s success, lending itself to the argument, he says, that today’s education system needs to be evaluated.

“In 2017, essentially you see more training boot camps for a lot of different industries, whether it be sales or computer science,” he said. “Traditional classroom training that the colleges provide isn’t really doing its justice, as far as training young adults for the on-demand job skills that the market is looking for right now.”

“I had a great support system there that really showed me the value of learning.”

As for where Abraham gets his tenacity, he credits his life-experience and coming from a hard-working family, where his mother and father made sure he achieved his goals. But his testimony of perseverance would not be complete, he says, without the love and guidance of Mercy Home.

“I was surrounded by great mentors – great role models. I had a great support system there that really showed me the value of learning,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Father Scott, Daniel Nelson, Steve Ritzema…there are really so many people there who showed me the value of hard work. There was just a very high value of merit – understanding that you have to earn everything.”

Abraham has earned the perks of his new job – great benefits, paid time off, vacation time, opportunity to travel – and is excited for the lifestyle change that accompanies the free-wheeling world of sales.

But Abraham still has one foot on the ground. “Right now, my primary focus is growing into my role at LearnCore, mastering what it takes to become an effective and successful sales development representative, and to grow within the company.”

Not to say his mind doesn’t occasionally drift to the handful of international destinations he’s flagged as potential vacation spots. “I’d always been interested in traveling to Amsterdam, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Australia and the Bahamas.”

Video: re:work

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