Matt strikes a good balance and finds career success at Hy-Vee

Feb 26, 2018

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Matt strikes a good balance and finds career success at Hy-Vee

Admittedly, Matt Monson has had a lot of jobs since he started working at the age of 13: machinist, pizza deliverer, carpet and flooring installer, carpenter, medical device assembler, to name just a few. But there is something special about Job #27 that he feels this may be a good one for a long time.

Matt is a Hibachi chef at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Cottage Grove. When he applied for work last August, Matt told the manager he was open to any job.

He was hired as a food server in the Asian deli, but after only four days on the job, Matt’s manager Pierre Ng asked him if he’d like to learn to cook. He tried it, liked it, found his groove, and was hooked!

“I have a customer who tells me she only comes when I cook because I cook with love,” Matt said with a laugh. “I really enjoy that. I like getting to know the customers and making them happy with good food.”

Matt, who is 27, has struggled over the past ten years or so. In his third year at the University of Minnesota, where he was pursuing a career in civil or architectural engineering through an academic scholarship,

Matt experienced his first of many mental health crises and hospitalizations. These were exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse, difficulties holding a job, and financial troubles.

Last year Matt was homeless for a month, couch-hopping among friends. He moved in with his father and his fiancé who set some strict ground rules for Matt to follow, asking for some big changes. With the help of his Washington County case manager, Doreen Farrell, Matt was referred to Rise for job placement services.

In meeting with Rise Employment Consultant Sarah Kohl-Leaf, Matt realized that sometimes he had set the bar too high in his job choices, which would lead to failure. Other times, he would get bored quickly and move on.

Matt is proud to be a hard worker, but realized he needed to find a balance that would match his interests, skills, and financial requirements. He wanted a good job that would give him a solid foundation from which he could keep focussed and begin to build a career.

His position as a Hibachi chef at Hy-Vee seems to check all those important boxes. Added bonuses are a supportive manager, great co-workers, and repeat customers who appreciate his good cooking.

“Matt has been a great addition to our team!” said Pierre. “If Matt can bounce back, so can you!”

Matt also enjoys helping some of the younger employees learn their jobs, which is probably a natural extension of his sports coaching. He has coached junior varsity golf and junior gold hockey for Tartan High School in his hometown of Oakdale.

“It’s the best feeling in the world to help others and see them get better at a skill,” said Matt. “I really appreciate all the help Sarah and Doreen have given me. They are often the “voice of reason” and I am grateful to have a good team to support me.”

“It’s been really cool working with Matt for this past year!” said Sarah. “With my profession, the comebacks and success stories become our main goal. Turnaround stories like Matt’s are absolutely wonderful to experience and that’s what Rise is here for!”

Matt is proud to now have money in savings and is looking forward to joining a golf club this spring with a group of friends.

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