The following vignette illustrates a fictitious problem and event. Any likeness to people, services, or other circumstance is purely coincidental.
You are an Employment Specialist with a residential program and are enthusiastic about a potential job lead for one of the individuals receiving services. The job is an automotive technician at a local repair shop. The person’s skills are a bit rusty because he hasn’t worked in a while, but he has a certificate in automotive repair. He received this certificate several years ago and hasn’t really had a chance to use it because he hasn’t worked in a “real” job since 2002. Recently, he has been sporadically helping out a friend who fixes cars in the neighborhood. He really wants to work and this job lead you secured meets all of his criteria—close to his house, part-time with the potential to turn full-time, working independently, good pay, and vacation time. This would be the PERFECT job. One small problem, your supervisor insists that the person “cannot handle” the pressures of working. After discussing this perfect job lead during a weekly supervision meeting, you are told not to work with this person on anything employment related. If you were the Employment Specialist, what would you do? Please comment on how you would handle this situation.
Nathan works as a community support specialist in a supportive housing program and is also a current graduate student. He shares his perspective on the role of work in recovery from his experience as both helper and learner. Nathan touches on the overall health improvements seen in people who have returned to work. It is estimated that people with mental illnesses live 25 years less than the general population. Additionally, Nathan discusses the role that work plays as a defense against “shame and stigma” and in promoting community inclusion. Through his experience, he sees people who are working as having enhanced financial benefits, richer communication, and more exposure to the happenings in one’s community.
On April 10, 2013, the Cape May County Employment Consortium, a group of key employment and mental health services stakeholders, hosted its annual Employment Summit at the Elks Club in North Wildwood, NJ. One of our faculty members, George Brice, Jr., Instructor in the Integrated Employment Institute gave a heartfelt, motivational keynote address on the important role that employment has played in his recovery from serious mental illness. Many attendees, who also live with mental illness, were moved and touched by George’s story. Others have heard George speak in the past and shared with the group that George’s inspiring words motivated and enabled them to move forward in their lives and live beyond the label of mental illness. George continued throughout the event to speak with individuals personally and to provide encouragement to them in their own recovery journeys. One attendee was so inspired that she wrote an editorial piece for the Cape May County Herald newspaper about the event and George’s encouraging message. The link to the article is: http://www.capemaycountyherald.com/article/91593-employment%2Bsummit%2Boffers%2Bhope%2Bdisabled?utm_source=dpcs&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sendToFriend.
The day also included presentations from a Social Security Benefits planner as well as local education and employment programs. Participants provided positive feedback about the event and presenters. Overall, this year’s Employment Summit was a success and attended by close to 80 individuals, including people with the lived experience of mental illness, providers, and family members.
George shares his story of recovery and the important role that work has played in his life. He discusses his struggles to complete college and the feelings of envy as he compared his accomplishments to those around him. As George continued his career journey, these feelings of envy gave way to those of pride and success as he continued to achieve the goals he set for himself. George recalls a time when he was receiving services and a peer came to speak about his own recovery and the valued roles he held in his life. This moving story provided George with the informative nudge needed to return to school and embark on a life of career success. He refers to this moment as the “light bulb going off.” This is a good reminder of the influence we can have on one another.
Is the current job market keeping you from looking for work? If so, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t postpone a job search. Postponing a job search does not give you an advantage in your hunt for that perfect job. In fact, it just creates longer gaps in employment. According to a 2009 focus group study I conducted along with Francine M. Bates, Human Resource professionals in NJ describe gaps in employment as negatively affecting a job candidate’s application. In other words, continue to keep abreast of your field’s job openings and apply for positions that interest you. You may not get something immediately, but you have a better chance of finding a job if you are continuing to look for one!
- Use your creativity. Be creative in your job search. For example, think of new ways to identify job leads. Ones that don’t involve just looking online or in the newspapers. Network with people in your field. Are there professional associations or other business related groups that you can link up with to meet people who might have job leads? Does your local library have any job related support groups or other opportunities to meet new people? How about job related groups held at the local One Stop Center? Find your local center by following this link: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/wnjpin/findjob/onestop/services.html. Explore as many options as possible. This will not only increase your job related network, but may also be a fun way to meet new and interesting people!
- Remain calm, cool, and collected. Easier said than done, right? Well, as much as possible, try to maintain a sense of confidence and positivity. When the right job lead comes along, you want the employer to see you as a confident and composed individual. A person who is not easily shaken by the negative things in life, but one who looks forward to the future with optimism and confidence! How do we stay cool under pressure? Consider taking up yoga, art, or other relaxing activity. Find something that interests and de-stresses you. Look into the adult classes held at your local community college and/or vocational technical school. In addition to the emotional and physical benefits, these classes are great ways to network with people—who knows, they may know of a job opening!
These are just a few tips to enhance your job search during a period of high unemployment. Yes, these tips are common and not terribly complicated. However, we all need reminders at times and encouragement to keep moving forward. If you have any tips you have used that have been helpful in your job search, please let our blog community know. We would love to hear what has worked for you!