Earning your own money by getting and keeping a job is one of the fundamental milestones of passage into adulthood. Work experiences, both paid and voluntary have been recognized as critical components of future work success.
Getting and Keeping a Job
After age 18, you are considered an adult for employment purposes. If you are under age 18, you are considered a minor and are permitted to work only under certain conditions and for limited hours by federal labor laws.
Most jobs require that you read at a basic level and are able to do basic arithmetic such as add and subtract. Some employers offer on-the-job training (OJT), which means they will instruct you in how to perform the job. Under most circumstances, you should expect to be paid while your on-the-job training is being completed.
Listed below are some critical skills for employment. If you have these skills, you are more likely to be hired and less likely to be fired. These skills will give you an important advantage in today's job market.
- Observe Critically
- Convey Ideas in Writing
- Read with Understanding
- Use Math to Solve Problems and Communicate
- Solve Problems and Make Decisions
- Advocate and Influence
- Guide Others
- Use Information and Communications Technology
- Learn Through Research
- Listen Actively
- Speak So Others Can Understand
- Cooperate with Others
- Resolve Conflict and Negotiate
- Take Responsibility for Learning
- Reflect and Evaluate
- While still in school, think about your career interest and skills and try to match your interests and skills with vocational coursework and community work experiences.
- Figure out what you do well and what you would like to learn more about. Then, look for jobs in those areas.
- Visit various employment sites. If at all possible, ask to job shadow an employee at these sites. Job shadowing will give you a "real feel" for the type of work your interested in.
- Apply for vocational rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) if you are interested in a vocation or more "hands-on" work.
- Visit local programs that provide vocational services. If you see something that you think you would enjoy doing, learn more about that program.
- Identify the routes you will need to travel to work and think about your transportation options. If feasible, consider getting a driver's license, using public transportation, riding your bike, etc. Be sure to think about how reliable and affordable your transportation will be.
- Find out if you are eligible for and apply for discounted fare programs. Don't forget to check out para-transportation options.
- Take advantage of any volunteer opportunities you can get involved in. Volunteering at a place you are interested in working an help show people what you can do, and that you can do it well. You can then apply for a job there and you will have a higher chance of getting hired because people know you. Volunteering also looks good on your resume. Often, employers view volunteer experience as work experience.
- Getting a paid or unpaid internship is another great way for you to learn vocational skills and gain valuable work experience. Your school should be able to assist you in finding internship opportunities. Some internships can offer you college credit for your work. Again, employers often view internships as work experience.
- If you have had a good volunteer or internship experiences, be sure to get a letter of recommendation from your supervisor.
- Lastly, if feasible, go to college. Having a degree or some higher education, give you an advantage over those job seekers without post-secondary education.
- Your Appearance
Employers are not only concerned with your skills when they are considering you for a job; they are also taking into account how you present yourself. Someone whose appearance is clean and near, whose attitude and language are respectful, and who shows genuine interest will almost always have the advantage over candidates who slouch their way through an interview.
- Your Resume
How do you look on paper? Not all jobs require a formal resume, but many do. If you are entering the workplace for the first time, you may not feel you have anything useful to put on a resume. However, even if you have no job experience, it is always a good idea to create a resume. Take the time to summarize your skills and abilities, education and training, and any volunteerism, internships or prior work (if applicable) in a resume-type document. In most cases, one page is appropriate. Make sure it is up-to-date, uncluttered, and error-free, and bring it with you when you visit a potential employer, even if it wasn't asked for in advance. A job or career counselor or peer advocate can help. Also, many local libraries have someone on staff to help you with your resume creation.
Have you ever heard the expression, "It's not what you know, but who you know"? Well, that's the idea behind networking. You might be surprised how many jobs are not advertised and how common it is for people to find their job through word of mouth. That is, they tell people they know about their interest in working and ask for ideas and leads. Even if those first people cannot help directly, they might know someone who can make the connection for the job seeker. This approach is called "networking". Whether you can do this yourself or you need someone like a peer advocate to help, it's a worthwhile strategy for finding a job.
Apply for apprenticeships (your local ACCES-VR may assist with that also). The apprentice (you in this case) learns skills for a needed job from being trained by master craftsmen, who are experts in their fields. Apprenticeships can teach you skills for a trade that is in high demand in the job market. An apprenticeship is a good way to prepare yourself for the future with one-the-job training in a highly skilled career. Furthermore, this job training may make it easier for you to find a paid job thereafter.
- Supportive Employment Programs
Supportive employment programs provide people with severe disabilities the appropriate, ongoing support that is necessary for success in a competitive work environment. Most individuals in supportive employment programs receive services from a community based service provider. Supportive employment often begins as part of a vocational rehabilitation program, like ACCES-VR run through the NYS Education Department. Schools should take an active role in providing career education, skills training and job sampling as part of their services to individuals with disabilities.
- Use the Internet, Newspapers, NYS Career Centers and LinkedIn
The Internet is a very powerful search tool to help with your employment search. Search for the type of job your interested in. Also look at state websites, such as the NYS Civil Service website, specifically the NYS Governor's Program to Hire Individuals with Disabilities. Of course newspaper classified ads are always a good place to look for jobs. If you use social media, think about creating a profile on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool for getting your name and experience out there and also provides a lot of information about employment opportunities. NYS Career Centers are operated by the NYS Department of Labor. They provide convenient no cost job search services to job-seekers. Services include: career counseling; skills assessment; resume development; career workshops (such as job search strategies, networking, interview skills, etc.); computer and internet access; computer workshops; Adult Basic Education/English as a Second Language; access to phones, faxes and copiers; a career resource library; job search resources and job placement assistance; vocational classroom training for those that qualify; financial aid for training; online Talent Bank; access to qualified service providers; and referrals to other educational, training and social services. Many career centers have disability resource coordinators. Contact information for all career centers and disability resource coordinators are available in our mapping tool.
Below are some tips to help you keep your job. They may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many workers - young and old alike - fair to act this way and end up putting their jobs at risk. Be sure your employer has explained the job expectations AND that you understand them. Make every effort to meet those expectations.
- Do good work. Complete all of the tasks assigned to you in good time and with a good attitude.
- Be dependable/be on-time and finish work on time.
- Keep a good attitude - smile a lot.
- Be helpful and be a team player.
- Dress appropriately for the work environment and job tasks.
- Don't waste time or resources/supplies.
- Keep your emotions under control.
- Be a diplomat - learn how to communicate with others without offending anyone.
- Treat everyone with respect.
People occasionally lose their job through no fault of their own, such as when they are "laid off". Should this happen to you, you may be eligible to receive money from the government, typically for a period of six months, to help pay for your living expenses while seeking another job. However, do not assume that you will automatically receive unemployment insurance checks whenever you are out of work. You must apply and your situation must meet certain criteria, such as:
- Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.
- You must be unemployed through no fault of your own as defined by New York law.
- You must be available to work.
Getting to and From Work
Having access to convenient, reliable and affordable transportation to and from your job is essential for your job to work out. You will want to be able to get there and home not only on time, but safely. Some employers are willing to help you figure this out, while others will leave the responsibility to you. If you are receiving government assistance and have an assigned case worker, they can help you determine if any transportation assistance is available. Again, paratransit services might be a good option for you.
If you will be traveling a new route or using a form of transportation you haven't used before, it is recommended that you give it a dry run - practice - before you actually start work. This can help avoid the stress and embarrassment of getting lost of being late on day one.
Also, public transportation systems offer discounted fares for people with disabilities.