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Expanding Pathways through Work

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Guest blog featuring Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas

Before joining the Goodwill team, Store Manager Dan Knutson built a career as an educator and administrator in the correctional system, including teaching individuals who were incarcerated, helping them get their GEDs, and overseeing vocational training. He has been committed to helping people move forward for decades. 

After it was time to retire from that season of his career, Dan set out to start a new chapter. He had had many interactions with Goodwill before — he would send his students there to help them upskill and position themselves for better employment opportunities — and he knew he wanted to find an engaging way to use his skills and interests. Dan joined the Goodwill team in February 2020 as an assistant store manager, weathered the pandemic, and came out on the other side with a promotion to store manager.

Now, as a store manager, Dan is continuing to grow his own leadership and work skills while investing in and supporting his team. When he took the Agile Work Profiler, through a partnership between Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas and The DeBruce Foundation, he discovered his top Agilities were Judging and Estimating, Developing Others, Organizing, and Managing

“My top Agilities make sense,” Dan said, “I’ve trained people for years.” 

Daily, he uses his Agilities of Judging and Estimating and Developing Others to devise plans for his team, all the while attending to the individual needs of each team member: “I have a very diverse group of people on my team, and the key is knowing each of them well. I’ve hired most of them myself and I know their backgrounds. Our team has included senior citizens with workforce experience, high school students juggling time between sports and work, folks who have been down on their luck, and individuals working to restart their career while on parole.” 

Being highly skilled in Developing Others, he can fine-tune their development while using his Managing Agility: “I tend to break apart steps of a task for my high schoolers, while on the other hand, my more experienced employees just need me to point them in the right direction and trust their abilities.” 

“Managing a store is a challenging and engaging role; at the end of the day, it’s about keeping myself and my team focused on the mission of Goodwill.” He believes in their mission, of connecting job seekers with local employers. “We hire people who need a break, and then it’s up to them to make that break work.” And they do make it work: “One of the hardest workers I’ve ever had was on parole, and one of my best cashiers is just 17 years old — and she’s passing all of her classes!” he shared with pride. 

He reflects back on his career leading up to now: “Since I’m in a completely different job, I thought I would need to develop completely different skills. But, I’m realizing these skills transfer.” This process has helped him realize: “I have the skills! And I can use them in this career too.” 

Dan is continuing to grow those skills and his Agilities. He recently had the opportunity to participate in the Agilities VR Project, which features facilitated scenarios with human avatars that allow learners to practice using and developing their Agilities.

The virtual reality scenario Dan participated in was designed to help individuals practice their Selling & Communicating Agility. In the scenario, he was on a fundraising committee, and he was tasked with sharing an idea for the next fundraiser and finding consensus with another committee member. “It was really fun!” He said, “I had never had that type of training before.” 

After the experience, the facilitator said he did really well. Days later, he participated in the same scenario again, but this time, the demeanor of the avatar was different, so Dan had to take a different approach. It took more proactive communication, precise logistics, and care to stay on track to reach an agreed-upon plan for this fundraiser. 

He said this chance to practice his Agilities was helpful, especially since it felt relatable to real-life experiences. “In my old career, I did a lot of negotiating with people I was trying to work with. This helped me refresh my skills and reminded me to pause and figure out the best way to go in a conversation for both sides to get what they want.” 

“Every time you see a scenario, [Agilities] can help you think through things differently. It can open up a new pathway for you.” 

As Dan continues to develop his Agilities throughout his career, he’s helping his team develop theirs. And that’s how Dan and the team at Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas are expanding career pathways. 


Photo courtesy: Goodwill of Western MO & Eastern KS

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