I got motivated to clean up the clutter in my office this week and found these notes in my filing cabinet from an event I had attended. The speakers were individuals with all types of disabilities, from paraplegia to addiction. I thought it was worth sharing for those using our Crossroads games in particular, but also as some words of wisdom for anyone entering the work force.
Advice for Youth, from Adults with Disabilities
Of course, a major benefit of having a job is getting paid, so you can be independent, buy your own car, go out to eat, get an apartment or whatever goals you have as far as purchases. The added benefits of work, though, might be even more important.
Five benefits of work (besides money)
- Knowledge. You don’t wake up one day with the knowledge and skills to be a supervisor. Whether you are working at a hotel, casino, restaurant, factory – you name it – having that experience makes you more qualified to supervise other people in that position.
- Maturity. To keep a job, you have to drop the excuses and start finding solutions. If you’re late because you couldn’t find your keys, then you solve that problem by having a dish where you always put your keys when you walk in the door.
- Health benefits. Depending on your employer, they may offer a free fitness center for employees, health insurance or free, healthy meals in their restaurant.
- Investment. Do you think of yourself as an investor? Many employers offer savings plans and will match what you save.
- Self-esteem. You begin to look at yourself as a successful person who has a job, health care, investments and knowledge.
How to get (and keep) employed
Avoid “disabling” people – whether or not you have a disability. Disabling people are significant others in your life who discourage you from taking step that may move you away from him or her. Run in the opposite direction if you hear phrases like, “Don’t you love me? Stay home with me today. Don’t go into the office.” (I’m assuming your significant other is sitting on the couch saying this and not lying on the floor in a pool of their own blood. In the latter case, you shouldn’t stay home either but definitely go to the hospital.)
Build social capital. If you go into work every day and do a good job, it’s like saving up money, except it’s not money but the appreciation from your boss. When a day does come that you want to take off for your best friend’s graduation or just because you need a break, it’s likely they will approve it. Just like you can’t take money out of the bank before you make a deposit, you should establish yourself as a good employer BEFORE asking for time off, a late start, etc.
Look for opportunities to get job skills. That can be an internship, paid or unpaid. If you are a young, single parent, volunteer to be on the Parent Policy Council for your child’s preschool. Serve on the pow-wow committee for your tribe or school. Not only will you develop skills, but you’ll also make connections with people who may be able to hire you or refer you to jobs.
We understand the importance of work, and the difficulty for youth from under-served communities in finding that first job, which is why we are a partner providing internships every year.