At 23, Melvin Captain had an unconventional work history — and with the help of CITC, he landed a job that was designed especially for him
Firefighter. Grassroots leader. Teacher of dog husbandry. Youth mentor. At 23, Melvin Captain has had a wider range of work experiences than many adults twice his age. He’s already developed an impressive skillset and a broad range of knowledge.
So how come he couldn’t find a job?
“I applied to 110 jobs,” Melvin shared. “It was really challenging because I couldn’t lift anything over 30 pounds or walk very much. It was very discouraging.”
While recovering from surgery, though, Melvin reached out to CITC. And that’s when everything changed.
What’s Standing in the Way?
“Usually, when a young person comes in wanting work, we talk about getting them an entry-level job — that’s where their experience is at,” said Matt Miller, a youth life skills instructor with CITC’s Youth Services.
Through Youth Career Connections (YCC), CITC employees help youth between the ages of 14 and 24 develop their first resumes, find employment, and further their education. Youth may also find internships through the Youth Employment Program or connect with additional services through Youth Case Management.
“With Melvin, you could look at his resume, and based on his skills and experience, you’d think there was no way he could be unemployed,” Matt elaborated. “There had to be something keeping him from getting a job. So we focused on the formatting of his resume.”
Experience Beyond His Years
Like a lot of young people, Melvin has a variety of internships under his belt. But he’s also amassed a surprising collection of experiences for someone in his twenties.
Born in Anchorage, Melvin grew up in Fairbanks and attended West Valley High School. Before he even graduated, Melvin was already working as a wildland firefighter for the State of Alaska. During his senior year, he was selected to be a youth representative for Tanana Chiefs Conference’s Division of Wellness and Prevention; he helped oversee several different federal grants by providing professional and technical support services on how to effectively engage youth and adult partnerships. This opportunity allowed him to travel to Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, and across Alaska.
Additional internships and positions with First Alaskans Institute and CITC rounded out Melvin’s experience.
“I don’t want any opportunity to pass me by, so sometimes that pushes me,” Melvin explained of his eclectic work history. “Sometimes that’s stressful, but that’s how I was raised — to learn and try my best, and to be open to criticism.”
An Unconventional Resume
Perhaps that’s why Melvin was so willing for Matt to re-imagine his resume. Or maybe it was his status as a young dad.
“I was in a slump for awhile,” he said about his job search. “But it was time to get back on the horse. I had a family to support — my son is about to be one.”
Because Melvin had his sights set on a position with Mount Sanford Tribal Consortium, Matt said, “We created an unconventional resume format that demonstrated what he was really good at and how his experience overlapped with Alaska Native studies.”
Melvin’s redesigned resume highlighted his talents, skills, and relevant work experience while de-emphasizing items some employers might see as red flags, including short stints at some positions. Now the first thing potential employers would see was Melvin’s ability as a teacher, his history with working sled dogs, and his ability to work with youth.
Pushing His Boundaries
The strategy worked. Not only did Mount Sanford Tribal Consortium hire him; the Chistochina-based consortium created a position that would lean on Melvin’s unique resume.
Today, Melvin works as the community engagement specialist for Mount Sanford. He heads up the “Dog Sleds and Digital Stories” project, which has him teaching youth in Chistochina about dogsledding and creating digital stories based on those lessons.
“This isn’t an entry-level job,” Melvin pointed out. “A lot is expected of me, and it’s really helping me to push my boundaries.”
“The piece that really stands out about Melvin’s story is the incredible potential that all our youth have,” Matt said. “YCC is about getting down in the trenches with young people to unpack that potential and help them find a path to their future career.”
“YCC is for everyone,” Melvin added. “No matter where you come from, your background or experience — whether you’re entry-level or at any stage of your career. If you’re committed, CITC can help.”