Mike Tassin listens to people. He says he’s always been the person people opened up to, ever since he attended high school in New Orleans. Now he is putting those listening skills to good use, helping military veterans and their immediate family members find jobs as the Program Director and Veterans Career Navigator for a unique program called Operation: Goodjobs at Tacoma Goodwill.
Tassin served eight years in the Army, including a one-year deployment to Iraq in 2003. He drove fuel trucks around Iraq, dodging gunfire, incoming missiles, and IED’s. Tassin says it was “nerve-wracking,” and he suffered a serious back injury while deployed in Iraq, but that hasn’t kept him from pursuing his goals.
It was during humanitarian missions delivering food and other supplies to the Iraqi people that Tassin says things ‘clicked’ for him. “I have always been interested in the human mind,” said Tassin. “And on this mission, I realized that so many issues could be solved just by helping people communicate what they need.”
Tassin initially took classes studying Social Services Mental Health at Pierce College, earning his Associates degree. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Human Services at Western Washington University. During this time, he worked for Tacoma Goodwill in Tacoma as a retention specialist.
Tassin knew that to work in the mental health field when he left the military, he would need his Master’s degree. He earned his Master’s in Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Chapman University College, now Brandman University. Upon graduation, he started working at a local community mental health facility as a therapist. That’s when Goodwill called him again.
“They asked me to come back to start the program, help veterans and their families find employment and provide therapy services,” said Tassin.
Tassin helped Tacoma Goodwill apply for a grant from Goodwill Industries International and funded by the Wal-Mart Foundation. Tacoma was one of three locations selected out of more than 120 nationwide to work with veterans and help them in their job search. (The other two locations for the program are in Texas). The Tacoma program is full service, offering everything from job placement, mental health counseling, to financial services, classes in budgeting, and even how to dress for success.
“The counseling piece is a big thing to me,” said Tassin. “Our services are all free to the veterans, immediate families and it’s a way for me to give back.”
Tassin set up the program, and now partners with other agencies, including Joint Base Lewis McChord, the Veteran’s Administration and the National Guard, to make it successful. He’s hired a staff of three, and coordinates interns and volunteers that together, have served 285 people, with 150 of them finding jobs since last April.
“We help people get the job, do training, and then help them move up,” said Tassin. “This is a stepping stone for many of them, so they can move up to higher and better paying positions.”
Tassin says he knows he wouldn’t be where he is now and in a position to help others, if it wasn’t for his education.
“Chapman (now Brandman) University made it so friendly, that when it came time to graduate it was like graduating with family members,” said Tassin. “It’s an honor to do what I do.”