By Victoria Smith-Thompson, M.S.
Many job applicants experience a mixture of excitement and nervousness when applying for a new position. But what if the decision about what jobs to pursue wasn’t yours alone? What if there was a group of people offering opinions and helping you decide what kind of job and job environment would be best for you? It might feel that your opinions don’t even matter. For people with special needs, this can be a typical job seeking experience.
Making the job seeking experience positive and successful for people facing barriers to employment means assembling a supportive team. The team includes the job seeker, family members, and professionals who specialize in helping individuals with varying abilities find and maintain employment.
Not only is the team process important in finding employment, it is also a valuable tool in achieving conflict resolution. Let’s use the analogy of a bus. In my work as a Supported Employment Specialist, sometimes it is evident that my clients and their families are not on the same bus. My client might want to work in food service, his family might prefer retail. My client may want to work night shift, her family might want to stick to a daytime schedule. It’s vital for the professionals working on the team to acknowledge that each point of view has value, and that all team members are important passengers on this journey.
Arriving successfully at the final destination requires helping everyone:
- Stay on track – The job seeker’s goals are the reason for the journey.
- Stay realistic – Always keep obtainable career goals in mind. There might be a need for a step-by-step process to make the ultimate goal achievable.
- Foster openness – Allow honest communication. While everyone can express ideas, concerns and opinions, it is important to be willing to compromise.
It’s the job of a Supported Employment Team to guide the process and to provide services that help achieve employment goals. This may include job coaching related to learning the new job responsibilities, how to fit in with the company culture, and transportation options for getting to and from the job site.
If all goes well, everyone has agreed on the best plan and, most importantly, the job-seeker is happy with the outcome. Despite a few bumps along the way, the bus is moving forward and the next stop is the world of employment.
Victoria Smith-Thompson is a Supported Employment Specialist for the JCS Career Center.
The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment assistance that helps job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resume and cover letter services, interview preparation, job readiness training, vocational rehabilitation and job placement assistance. For more information, call 410-466-9200 or visit jcsbaltimore.org.