This year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “Expect. Employ. Empower." The Center for the Visually Impaired thoroughly supports these 3 E’s. The job readiness program at CVI empowers individuals to expect successful attainment of employment goals. We understand that these 3 E’s are the core of independence and we work every day to help more Georgians who are blind or visually impaired enter or return to the workforce.
As the new employment specialist at CVI, I am glad to champion these 3 E’s by facilitating vocational support to our clients. I believe in the mission of CVI, and have been at the center in several capacities. In the spring of 2010, I attended the center to refresh my braille and computer skills. While I was a graduate student at Georgia State University in 2011/2012, I served as an intern in career services. As a new staff member, I am especially excited about the center’s presence as a central voice and resource, and know, first hand, what a difference vocational rehabilitation makes in the employment lifespan of the blind or visually impaired.
CVI has been making a difference for over 50 years. Our mission is to empower people impacted by vision loss to live with independence and dignity. The fulfillment of that mission is centered within the attainment of competitive employment. CVI’s internship and job placement programs make it possible for our clients to explore vocational opportunities that can lead to such employment. We help individuals ready themselves for such opportunities by offering a job readiness program that is centered upon some of the following:
1. Disclosure of Disability
I often tell clients that the difference between being competent or clumsy lies in the acceptance of one’s vision impairment and the successful execution of learned skills. I have known several individuals who were uncomfortable disclosing their vision impairment, and refused to use tools like a white cane. Sadly, these individuals came off as clumsy employees which caused them to lose their jobs. They would have been competent, valued employees had they felt comfortable with their disability and requested the necessary accommodations to help them complete their work duties.
2. Professional Presentation and Behavior
We stress the importance of having an impressive presence, both physical and virtual. In other words, it is just as important to know what appropriate job attire is as it is to have a well-written profile online at various social networking and job websites. One’s presence is also revealed in a voicemail greeting and the name chosen for an email address. A grammatically incorrect message or an inappropriate username can send up red flags for a potential employer. It is also important to exercise professional behavior such as making sure one is on time for work, having a solid attendance record, being mindful of meeting deadlines, and maintaining a positive attitude on the job.
3. Career Exploration and Navigation
Recently, I was reading an online article on career transitions for baby boomers. One of the headlines on the page read, “Hope is not a Plan” A good plan for vocational success entails exploration and navigation.” A good sense of where one has been in the past helps to chart a promising future, even if it is one of great transition. It is not sufficient to hope that life will change without establishing a framework upon which one can build career skills and explore opportunities. The way forward is marked by how well we create those frameworks and use them as landmarks along the career journey.
4. Interview and Networking Strategies
It is said that within the first eight seconds of an interview the interviewer has already created his or her impression of the job applicant. This is certainly true, but the impression is actually created well before the applicant sits in front of a potential boss. The formulation of impressions actually begins at the initiation of the interview process by the hiring party. A jobseeker gets off to a good start when professionalism is exhibited in all pre-interview phone conversations and email correspondence. It is also important for our JR clients to understand that interview opportunities can emerge out of contact with individuals who are within their social and professional network. Often a jobseeker overlooks these contacts. She should make sure that all individuals within her network know her desire to be employed. In addition, she should work on establishing an even greater network of business and community contacts that can be mined for employment opportunities. It is not unusual for a job to arise out of a casual conversation with someone in one’s network who is connected to an immediate opportunity.
The successful completion of the JR program at CVI will make it possible for clients to add a fourth “E”, “excellence”, to the theme of Expect, Employ, and Empower. It is a privilege to work each day with individuals who are seeking employment opportunities which will support their independence. This month please remember to celebrate with us as we continue to support the investment of skilled people with disabilities being a part of the workforce.