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Rider's Almanac Blog


Referral, encouragement turns one career change into two

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, December 16, 2019 12:24:00 PM

It doesn’t take long to see that bus operators Crystal Garrison (above left) and Yolanda Sims (above right) are close friends. 

On a recent weekday afternoon, they laughed frequently as they traded stories about their first few months at Metro Transit and compared the advantages and disadvantages of their work schedules. 

They also talked excitedly about landing full-time roles that provide competitive pay, good benefits and opportunities to advance. 

The casual conversation occurred in part because, while they work out of different garages and have been at Metro Transit less than 18 months, they’ve worked side-by side for years. 

Before coming to Metro Transit, Garrison and Sims worked for a school bus company and spent several hours together every day. 

While they enjoyed what they did, the jobs came with minimal benefits and 45-minute commutes and without employer-sponsored retirement plans or many opportunities to advance. 

Wanting more, Garrison and Sims set their sights on Metro Transit. Garrison applied first, and Sims said she’d wait to see how that experience unfolded. 

“I said, ‘You stay there for a few months, let me know how it works out, and if it works out I’ll come,’” said Sims, a mother of three who also had experience as an intercity bus operator. 

Garrison was still in training when she started texting Sims details she was picking up in orientation. 

As a trainer, Sims would initially be taking a slight pay cut. But at 51 years old, she also saw a chance to create a fitting final chapter in her work life. 

When Sims applied, she listed Garrison as a reference; after Sims passed probation, Garrison earned a $500 referral bonus. 

The extra cash was welcome, but Garrison and Sims say their newfound career paths are the real reward. Both women are hoping to retire from Metro Transit. Sims is also helping organize an Employee Resource Group to support other women at her garage, and is serving as the ATU Local 1005’s Woman’s Caucus. 

While they’re excited about what’s ahead, both acknowledge the transition hasn’t always been easy. 

Garrison said safely moving 40- and 60-foot buses through city traffic is nothing like driving a school bus, which she described as a “large car.” 

“I thought I was a driver, but this has taught me to be the best of the best,” she said. “This is just a much different experience. Your driving skills become so much better.” 

Garrison and Sims are also learning how to avoid getting rattled and how to navigate challenges like restroom access. As new operators, their time off is limited and it can be harder to get their preferred routes and schedules, too.

But they enjoy how quickly the days go by, interacting with customers and knowing they are giving back to their community. 

When given the chance, Garrison likes to tell friends, customers, anyone who will listen that they, too, can be a bus operator. 

“She’s going to be a very good recruiter,” Sims said. “She sold me.” 

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