5 Pandemic Proof Employment
Tips for Adults with IDD
Written by Cheyenne Jock
VIDEO: In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Best Buddies Employment Consultant, Cheyenne Jock joined us LIVE on Table Talk to discuss employment for adults with IDD and navigating the working world during a national pandemic.
Hi! I’m Cheyenne Jock, an Employment Consultant with Best Buddies International. Currently, I’m based on campus at Daymark Living. My job is helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) find competitive and integrated employment by supporting them in job preparation, job matching, on-the-job training, and behind-the-scenes advocacy.
Lately, my job has looked a little different. The world is changing, and for some, the world is still on hold. But that doesn’t mean you have to put your goals on hold, too! We may not be able to go to our favorite restaurant or go to the movie theater with friends, but if you spend your time wisely, you can come out of this pandemic ready to enter the working world and a stronger employee. Here are my 5 tips to continue with your employment goals during the pandemic.
Use this downtime to really get to know yourself! This is a great time to focus on new career options that you may not have considered before. What do you really like to do? What makes your heart happy and full? Think about what careers could correlate with that. For instance, maybe you forgot how much you love animals, but after being quarantined with your pets for so long, you are considering becoming an animal trainer. Or maybe your compassion for others during this time is so strong, you decide to put that to use in a nursing home or hospital setting. Explore your skills, strengths, and interests. Then, explore the many careers that are in your community. You may end up going a different direction than you had gone pre-COVID. If you are supporting someone who experiences life with a disability, you are a valuable asset in this part of the journey. Sometimes an outside perspective can help us better see ourselves. Offer your input on your loved one’s strengths and passions from an outsider’s point of view. Just remember to offer constructive criticism and allow a safe space to dream without limitations.
Keep up your skills
Have you ever heard the phrase, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”? That is especially true when it comes to job skills. If you have not had the chance to interview with an employer or fill out a job application in months, you may find yourself rusty when the time comes to get back out there. The key to keeping your skills strong – PRACTICE! Ask a friend or family member to interview you for a made-up job. Then, get dressed in your best interview outfit, and do the interview just as you would if it were a real job. If you have been temporarily laid off from your job, practice some of the things you would normally do at work at home. For instance, if your job is working in a restaurant, cook dinner, set the table, and then clean up afterward. If your job is in housekeeping, make sure your home stays tidy and clean. If you are a preschool teacher, search the web for new project ideas to take back to your classroom. As a caregiver, family member, or friend of someone with IDD, you can help facilitate these role-playing situations. It always feels a little silly for everyone at first, but try to keep a straight face to make the scenario as realistic as possible. Your participation is vital, and again, always provide constructive feedback!
Try new things
Trying new things can be scary and intimidating. Sometimes we use the excuse that we are just too busy to try. But now, we all have some extra time on our hands, so why not spend it trying new things! You may find that you really enjoy it and that you are really good at it. You may find that something that always looked fun, wasn’t really fun at all. You may even fail! My motto is, “Just because you try it on, doesn’t mean you have to buy it!” This is also an important tip for those support systems! Failing is part of life and necessary for learning and life experience. Allow yourself to let go a little and allow your loved one to try new things, even if you know it is going to be challenging, or even if you know it will likely end in failure. Best case scenario, you are proved wrong and your loved one finds joy. Worst case scenario, you are right and your loved one got to have an experience and learn something new. Both sound pretty good!
If you are not currently working, but want to be, your full-time job should be spent finding and preparing for a job. A big part of finding a job is researching and knowing what jobs and businesses exist in your community. You should also research what skills would be needed to work in that type of job. Most of that information is just a Google search away! If you want to take it a step further, ask someone you know if you can shadow them at their job just to watch them to better understand what they do for work. Support systems – if you are currently working, allow your loved one to come observe you at work. When you’re walking around downtown, talk about the businesses with your child, friend, or loved one with IDD. Sit in a busy restaurant so they can experience the environment as a server. When you’re shopping, notice all of the employees and their special roles. Just bringing their attention to all of the roles within an organization can open their mind to a world of possibilities.
Who do you know? Networking is using the contacts you already have to build professional relationships. I’m sure you know a lot of people who work or who may even own their own business. Connect to those people and let them know your employment goals. They may have tips, tricks, or even know someone who is currently hiring. Even if you aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into working yet, start building those professional relationships now, so when you are ready, you may already have several job leads. For those family members advocating and networking on behalf of their loved one, that’s great! You make a great reference and should be utilizing your network as well to help support their employment goals. However, make sure that you never speak for your loved one, and never disclose any information regarding their disability, as this is an important step in self-advocacy and should only be done at the individual’s discretion.
Keep your head up and eyes on the prize!
I’m no scientist or health professional, so I can’t tell you when this pandemic may end. Even if it ends soon, our world may never be the same. However, keeping a positive attitude and looking at the bright side of any situation will not only be a helpful job skill to have, but it could also change your whole world. No, a global pandemic isn’t ideal, but there have been some good things to come from it. Maybe it was more time with your family or a chance to get to know yourself better. Maybe it was just the break you needed to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. There will always be a need for businesses, and therefore, always a need for employees. We can get through this together, and if we use our time wisely, we will come out of it stronger and more prepared than ever.