By Lamont Washington
As the world has become more inclusive, more businesses are hiring people with disabilities. This is very good news. For many people with disabilities, managing their day-to-day responsibilities and interactions on the job is no different than it is for employees without a disability. But there are some individuals with disabilities who may need a little extra guidance and support to perform at their best. What can be done to minimize potential challenges and maximize success? As a Supported Employment Specialist at JCS, here are some suggestions I find to be very helpful to my clients.
FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS, NOT PROBLEMS. It’s important to be proactive in finding solutions for barriers that might get in your way. If social cues are a challenge, keep conversations with co-workers professional. Be aware of when to talk and when to work. If it’s too challenging to use certain office equipment, talk to your boss or to Human Resources about making accommodations. If you find that you’re worrying a lot, try to identify what specifically you’re concerned about and channel energy into thinking of what you can do to fix, or at least improve, the situation.
STRIVE FOR PEACE OF MIND. When choosing a job, consider 4 important things.
- Location: Is it easy enough to get to and from work? A job that’s too far from home can add unnecessary stress to your day.
- Salary: Are you being compensated fairly for your job responsibilities and is the pay practical for your financial needs.
- Work Culture: You want to feel like you “fit-in” at work.
- Accommodations: Make sure there are reasonable accommodations available for your needs. For example, is there an elevator if you need one to get to your office or around the building? Does the support staff know how to work with people with disabilities? Is there an open-door-policy that allows your job coach to assist you when needed?
Finding a job that checks off all of the boxes above can make the job hunting process a little longer, but it’s worth it in the long run.
BE A GOOD LISTENER. “Talk less and listen more” has proven to be a very useful motto for my clients while learning a new job or handling workplace problems. When we listen, most problems can be solved and learning increases.
TIME YOUR COMMUNICATIONS. Know the appropriate time and place to raise concerns or make requests. For example, trying to have a conversation with a supervisor during a very busy time at work, would not be the right time to ask about taking time off. Request a meeting instead. You will have the full attention of your supervisor and both of you can think clearly, listen, and respond without distractions.
ASK QUESTIONS. When in doubt, ask questions. Understanding your tasks will help you to grow, improve workplace relationships, and build confidence.
ASSEMBLE A STRONG SUPPORTING CAST. Have a variety of people outside your workplace who can help you deal with challenges or stressors. Sometimes a family member is the perfect person to confide in. At other times, reaching out to a professional – mental health specialist, occupational therapist or trusted clergy – who can offer suggestions, tools and support may be just what you need.
Although these are some of the top tips that I offer to my clients with disabilities, the truth is, everyone can benefit from this advice.
Lamont Washington is a Supported Employment Specialist at JCS.
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.