Relationships and Good Stories Fuel Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Canada Island

By Katherine Carol

My last post focused on Quantum Supported Employment. For a refresher, we used Einstein’s well-known formula regarding energy and matter and tweaked it a bit. Employment=My Community(2)

I think you’ll agree, meaningful relationships have that “unexplainable something” which logic cannot define. Logical, linear thinking can help you map out your community and narrow specific contacts you want to reach out to as you begin discovering the right job for your job seeker (JS).

The journey towards successful employment can be compared to a road trip. You choose a destination, prepare with necessary supplies and your GPS to help you navigate new territory. Like many road trips, there are obstacles, diversions and even a few surprises along the way.

As you travel the road of special needs parenting, you know that things seldom go as planned. Yet, your journey is quite an extraordinary one.

The job search experience for you and your family can be an emotional. Try balancing all the uncertainties with a few logical and specific activities.

Resumes, electronic portfolios, and personal websites are proven contributions to employment success for people with disabilities, although some are more effective than others. Personally, I think resumes are great backup documentation, but I doubt that employment is obtained solely based on a great resume—especially for a person with a disability.

Electronic portfolios and websites, however, tell a different story. Even apps like Pictello, use pictures to weave a story illustrating different environments in which our JS (job seeker) demonstrates competence, ability, and spirit.

Start with a story. The protagonist is the job seeker.   All protagonists have an imperative goal they are working towards. Assist your family member in stating their work goal at the beginning of their story either on one the home page of a website or the first few slides of an electronic portfolio or on Pictello. Next, share the actions your job seeker is taking as they seek employment.

A point of reference is the recent movie, The Intern.

Seventy year old widower Ben Whittaker, played by Robert De Niro, discovers retirement lacking. Seeing an ad for a “senior intern” he seizes the opportunity to work again at an on-line fashion site founded by young mother, Jules Ostin, portrayed by Ann Hathaway. Ben correctly observes dramatic changes in the workplace since his departure as he struggles to fit into the high-paced and often chaotic modern work environment.

This film premise is about Ben’s goal to get back in the game. He misses being a valued member of the workforce. Along the way, he meets many obstacles especially from his boss, Jules. I highlight this movie because it presents many of the same experiences a person with a disability can undergo as they establish themselves in a new job.

Ben encounters resistance and doubt about his ability to contribute to the on-line business. Every story has an antagonist, someone who challenges your JS, failing to believe in their coveted goal of a real job. That is how stories go. Be prepared for a few challenges along the way.

For employment to work, either customized or supported, our protagonist must have a trusted advisor, a buddy or a sidekick who encourages them on their journey. In Ben’s case, his advisors are young co-workers who help get him up to speed and give him the lowdown on how to work with Jules.

The trusted advisor shares insights and secret knowledge coaching our job seeker by connecting them to unknown external and internal resources within themselves and their environment.

In all great stories, the main character must undergo a transformation or awakening. Expect your job seeker to experience delight, frustration, confusion or even lack of attentiveness. Support the poignant and transformation life passage of becoming part of the country’s workforce.

Here are some guidelines to follow as you engage in the employment process:

Employment Relationship Rule #1

Seek new relationships. Partner with someone who understands the money implications to work for a person with a disability. Understanding wage earnings and their effect on Social Security Benefits is essential.

Work equals money. That is the entire point of work. Yet, in the world of disability, money is a little squirrelly. Make too much, you may lose some benefits. Check in with your local Work Incentives and Planning Assistance (WIPA) advisors to assist you and your family member with benefits and financial planning as your family begins job development.

Employment Relationship Rule #2

Connect with those currently working in the area or field your job seeker desires to be employed.

A favorite tactic used by the customized employment experts at Griffin-Hammis, LLC, is conducting informational interviews/meetings with specialists in a field your job seeker is interested in. They call it “finding the nerds.”   In the case of building your story, this is one of the “trusted advisors” we mentioned earlier. The mission of these interviews is to learn as much as you can about the business, the competition, the workplace environment, the management structure and the skills necessary to be successfully employed in that particular sector.

Work trials are helpful in determining a good job match. The experience helps you and your family member determine if this type of work is for them and what job supports are needed to succeed.

Locate and develop several opportunities for your job seeker to learn, shadow or try a variety of jobs. Observe what works, what doesn’t and what could work given additional support and training.

Employment Relationship Rule # 3

Keep in touch with your new connections.

After a trial work experience, follow up with a thank-you note. Consider staying in touch with prospective employers. A Facebook page with frequent posts with updates and insights into the job development process keeps your network involved and part of the on-going story.

A short e-newsletter is another way to focus on quick news. A quick write up of an informational interview informs your community of the transformational process the job seeker is experiencing. Sharing some unexpected moments and surprises you and your JS encounters brings your community into the emotion of the story and experience.

An additional benefit is that you are laying the groundwork for what works and doesn’t. This information is enormously helpful as you recruit and training future support team members.

All of these activities are geared towards “discovering employment themes and personal genius. I’d like to point you in the direction of additional resources via the Griffin-Hammis website. Be sure to download the Thought Sauce Manual for more information on Discovery.

Remember, this is a heart-led journey. As you embark, tell your network of friends and families how employment will be a game changer for your job seeker. Share your thoughts on what will change, on what will improve because your son or daughter found meaningful work. Trust your community’s capacity to step up and help your family write the next chapter of your story.

Be sure to visit Mikelle and me at our Shining Beautiful Series website for more blogs and resources.