This is the second article in a three-part series on career development for individuals with disabilities. This series is based on “INCOME: A Framework for Conceptualizing the Career Development of Persons with Disabilities” the work of Scott Beveridge, Sharon Heller Craddock, and James Liesener, published in 2002.
In the last issue, the focus was on the first two statuses of the Income model: Imagining and Informing. By trying both of these an individual may be able to tell whether the activities of an occupation are appealing to him or her.
For illustration purposes, let’s assume that Mary explored both statuses. She would be able to tell if she enjoyed the tasks and had positive feelings while trying and learning. What she did was learn about herself through imagining and informing?
In this issue, the focus is on the next two statuses of the model: Choosing and Obtaining. Together, planning and taking action make someone go further in his or her career development journey.
After learning about yourself and being exposed to different careers, choosing seems like a natural step. However, the process is more complex. There needs to be a good balance between personality and the work environment.
Isabel Briggs Meyer in her book “Introduction to Type”, published in 1998, elaborates on people preferences and relates them to career interests. The input of a career development counselor is valuable in establishing the balance mentioned before. For example, Briggs indicates that someone who focuses on facts, has concerns for others, tends to be friendly, and enjoys services for people may look for careers in the health-care industry.
In addition, the needs and motivation of each individual play an important role. Having Maslow’s hierarchy as a reference, fulfilling needs such as having food on the table is different than the desire of learning more and growing more professionally.
Finally, there is the particular decision-making style of each individual. Decision-making styles may be rational, emotional/impulse, or accidental/compliant. Someone who follows a rational style may say “I think” and then give a sequence of facts and reasons about choosing one option. Someone who decides based on emotions may say “it feels right to do this”. Someone who follows the accidental/compliance style may say “this option came my way without asking for it so I will try it”. There is also the possibility of someone deciding based on a combination of more than one of the styles already described.
The keyword for this status is complexity. Beveridge and others point out the importance of learning about the individual’s goals, especially in the case of precareer-onset disabilities. The knowledge level of self and careers needs an initial assessment. The assessment results would show readiness for choosing, or the need for creating experiences that increase information for decision-making. Some individuals may also need to learn a decision-making model.
I thought about decision-making, which most of us probably take for granted. The word “options” came to mind. I thought of at least two options — “do nothing” or “do something.” Sometimes, there may be no options.
With the addition of assistive technology (AT), more career options may become available. My suggestion is to consider AT as a part of the choosing process. Keeping in mind work tasks, explore the advantages and disadvantages of different AT devices.
Obtaining means the translation of a career decision into a job. Starting a business is also an example of implementing a career choice. The environment, once more, plays an important role. Perceptions about individuals with disabilities, the economy, family situation, and cultural characteristics may make finding a job more difficult. People with complex needs will find themselves competing against individuals with no such needs.
Beveridge and others point out that an individual may search for a job alone, with the help of a counselor, and/or with the help of family members and friends. The advantage of working with a counselor is the input of a trained professional in areas such as job analysis, job modification, and accommodations.
The keyword for this status is networking. The authors of “INCOME” indicated that due to the lack of career experiences, strategies such as selective placement, transitional employment, and supported employment may be the approach for individuals with precareer-onset disabilities. These strategies may help, especially if it is the first time the consumer is trying to get a job.
Learning search strategies, interviewing techniques, and going through the selection process can be overwhelming. Supportive strategies to cope with the situation when the consumer applies for a job and does not get it may help. Sharing feelings with family and close friends may allow someone to maintain hope. Talking to a rehabilitation counselor may open doors to resources through the Minnesota Workforce Center or others. Churches have support groups for individuals in job transition. The key strategy is to reach out!
Individuals with precareer-onset disabilities may search for a job alone. Networking these days is done face-to-face, through the phone, and through the Internet. Increasing your network is a strategy to pursue, and assistive technology is a tool that may help. Assistive listening devices (ALDs), voice-carry-over (VCO) phones, TTY, and amplified phones are examples of technology that can improve the quality of an interview for someone that is hard of hearing. To access the Internet, someone who is blind may benefit from screen readers and a Braille keyboard.
It may take months for someone to choose an occupation and obtain a job. However, knowing the process facilitates the journey. The puzzle will be completed in the next issue with “Maintaining and Exiting” which are the last two statuses of the model. Until then, keep preparing yourself! As I read in a fortune cookie, “success is preparation meeting opportunity!”