This is the last article in a three-part series on career development for individuals with disabilities. This series has been based on the work of Scott Beveridge, Sharon Heller Craddock, and James Liesener, the authors of “INCOME: A Framework for Conceptualizing the Career Development of Persons with Disabilities” published in 2002.
In the last issue, the focus was on the Choosing and Obtaining statuses of the INCOME model. These statuses consist of planning and taking action. After looking at the options and deciding to take a job, the question is: now what? In this issue, the focus is on the last two statuses of the model: Maintaining and Exiting. For anyone getting adjusted to a new job, doing the same job for a while and becomingly aware of the desire to grow can take a person onto a new journey of Career Development.
Maintaining is the ongoing process where the interaction between an individual and the work environment allows him/her to adjust, achieve, and carry on a career. Life at work is dynamic. It can change and often the change is unexpected.
To increase the probabilities of success, an individual with a disability needs to know his/her limitations. In addition, a disability management plan is a “must have” strategy. The authors of INCOME suggest keeping the following areas in mind for the plan: transportation, time management, medication management, and endurance (physical, cognitive, and emotional). Try to be proactive as much as possible.
The keyword for this status is awareness. Independence and reliability are expected in any job. Family support systems will not be available at work. INCOME warns that “learned helplessness” is a problem for someone that has a precareer-onset disability. The recommendation is to create a natural support system in addition to traditional job coaching. Co-workers and a mentor can be the natural support system at work.
Take a proactive approach and ask who is available in case of questions. Each company or institution has their own programs and processes. Ask what services and programs are available for you. Asking questions is the best approach against helplessness.
If the employee brings assistive technology to work, or the employer provides it, it may be necessary to check compatibility between an assistive technology (AT) device and the technology already in place. Consider adding someone from the information technology department to the natural support system. AT devices, such as note takers for individuals with vision impairment, include functionality to download and upload information from the device into a computer that is part of a network.
Technology is always changing and upgrading. It is during the maintaining status that INCOME suggests technological interventions to create a feeling of independence. Someone with technical expertise would help keep or increase feelings of independence and self-efficacy.
Exiting is the process of leaving a professional situation due to voluntary or involuntary reasons. Voluntary reasons may be either that the current job no longer fulfills personal goals or an increased self-efficacy has triggered the desire to change career paths.
On the other hand, involuntary reasons include demotion, firing, layoffs, and change in physical condition. It is important to clarify that we’re not talking about the end of a career.
The keyword for this status is change. Beveridge, Craddock, and Liesener advocate that individuals should go through statuses with confidence and, hopefully, without reentering the rehabilitation system. Their assumption is that as individuals with a precareer-onset disability gain experience, their self-efficacy will improve. The desire of exploring other career paths or “exiting” will come naturally. One way to facilitate this process is to design interventions to continue promoting self-efficacy and exposure to new information and career options.
A thought about exiting is that an individual with a precareer-onset disability that hits this milestone has accomplished a series of invaluable developmental steps. Expecting that this can be accomplished in a short period of time may be unrealistic. Celebrate successes along the way! Celebrate learning and experience gained!
The authors of INCOME underscore an enriched and supported environment allows for reassessment of career attitudes. Building an enriched and supported environment is an effort that includes parents, school teachers, service providers, counselors, employers, individuals with disabilities, and assistive technology.
The model is also helpful for individuals that do not have a disability. Beveridge and his colleagues based their work on different career development theories. Their wish is that INCOME will be used by almost everyone as new research validates their assumptions. My wish is that someone’s career moves forward regardless of where it is today.