Renease Little, a Chicago native, always knew she wanted to work in the financial services sector, but didn’t know how to get started. After an eventful few years—a health scare that meant she had to leave her job, having a second child, and navigating the COVID-19 pandemic—she was ready for a career that could support her growing family. At the beginning of 2022, her New Year’s resolution was simple: try something new. After seeing a Facebook ad for BankWork$ at Association House of Chicago, Renease knew she had found an opportunity to move forward and revitalize her career.
“I wanted to work in financial services, but I could never get an interview because of my lack of knowledge about cash handling,” said Renease. “September 2021 was when all my unemployment funds ended, and I was back to living at home with my mom and kids. I felt so lost. When I saw an ad for BankWork$, I thought that it might be able to help me finally launch my dream career in financial services.”
Renease remembers beginning class as a new experience in professionalism. “At first, I was surprised I had to dress up for class. I had never done that for any role before, but I knew this would lead to a career to support my family so I went along with it. Slowly, I began to understand the culture of banks and the importance of being professional in class made more sense. I needed that character development,” notes Renease. “BankWork$ laid a foundation for me to start building myself back up again.”
One of Renease’s biggest challenges in class was overcoming her nervousness. “My instructor never made me feel like I was asking a dumb question. She also taught me to slow down when I’m talking. I felt like she really cared about me as an individual and wanted to help me turn into a better version of myself.”
BankWork$ instructors are used to supporting participants who are balancing the program with the realities and challenges of life, and who need support and encouragement to graduate. When Renease ran into a few hurdles while enrolled, Sherri Richardson, Renease’s instructor at Association House of Chicago, was ready to help her.
“Only a few people knew I was doing the program. I kept it very quiet,” said Renease. “They knew I was chasing after a better life. I had support from my instructor, but my personal life kept blowing up. I’m so glad Sherri encouraged me to finish strong in the last couple of weeks. I want to thank her for seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself. It felt great to have someone who can see your possibility and wants to push you to go there.”
Sherri Richardson speaks highly of Renease as a participant. “She was a great fit for the BankWork$ program,” said Sherri. “She always showed up to class with a positive attitude, ready to learn and participate, and support her classmates. She gave her best and put into action the tips and advice shared by her instructors and guest bankers. Renease’s desire to succeed and her willingness to work are two important traits that contributed to her success. Though she started her banking career a short time ago, she has already begun to give back to the program by sharing tips and experiences with other participants.”
Upon graduating from BankWork$, Renease, like all BankWork$ or CareerWork$ Medical graduates, interviewed with local institutions looking to hire right away. “I had a friend who worked at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and she encouraged me to apply, although I had several other great interviews from the hiring fair, I ecstatically accepted their offer!” said Renease.
Renease has been a Client Service Analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. since June 2022 and has recently moved into a new home with her family. “Waking up and being in my new place gives me joy, it makes me want to go forward and push through the day. My kids are my ultimate joy, they get me through the rough parts of life. There are so many things I’m happy for now.”
When thinking about the most rewarding part of her new job, Renease’s answer is simple: freedom.
“I’ve never had a job that made me feel equal. I already feel appreciated, I already feel like I’m needed and wanted there. It’s a great feeling to feel like you matter. So many jobs can make you feel replaceable, but it doesn’t feel like that here,” said Renease.
Looking forward, Renease is excited to continue her new role and develop her skills within the financial services industry. She encourages anyone considering BankWork$ to give it a shot. “My New Year’s resolution got me to try the program, so what do you have to lose? Why miss out on an opportunity that could change your life? We all get scared sometimes, but you don’t know where you’re going to go unless you try. If you want it bad enough, and if you’re hungry for an opportunity like I was, BankWork$ can change your life.”