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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 July 2011 Issue  Volume 12  Number 7

Access to Academics

AFB CareerConnect: Career Exploration and Job Seeking Skills at Your Fingertips

Career Exploration is Our Bag!

Are you thinking about a career change, or just getting started with your first job search? AFB CareerConnect can help you find out more about careers and the skills you need to land a job. Do you know people who might need a refresher course on what it takes to get back in the world of employment? We can help with that, too. Are you interested in reading about successful people who are blind or visually impaired? Read a variety of inspiring success stories at CareerConnect.

Starting with Mentors

Years ago, the CareerConnect program started as a database of blind or visually impaired individuals, working in a wide variety of fields nationwide, who volunteered to mentor others about the assistive technology they used in their professional lives. We still provide this valuable service. Those who use this resource can connect with a mentor to find out career or technology information; others may seek life guidance and career advice. The relationships formed between mentor and mentee can range from casual, intermittent contact for a brief period of time to longstanding friendships. In a few instances mentors have even hired their mentees years after their relationship began. It all depends on what the mentee is looking for and how the mentor is willing to assist.

Over the years, as the database of mentors grew, so did our interest in providing high quality information and resources on employment, including relevant technologies. As you'll see below, today CareerConnect is much more then a mentor database.

Career Clusters

In the spring, CareerConnect launched a more user-friendly structure for exploring careers and job information: Career Clusters. Career Clusters contains information on the professional fields most heavily trafficked by CareerConnect users. We launched Career Clusters with the law, health, education, and counseling clusters; we plan to add entertainment, technology, and business in the near future.

Each career cluster contains a list of professions within that field. You can select a field and explore detailed job-related information including a general description, tasks, wage information, national employment trends, and links to further information if you'd like to perform more research. Links to the Success Stories relevant to that field, along with a list of available mentors in that field, are provided for easy reference and contact. In an exciting addition, a field-related message board, monitored by mentors who work in that field, is provided for each cluster so you can read advice offered to other users, and easily ask questions of your own.

CareerConnect Canada

AFB has partnered with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), the premiere Canadian agency for the blind to create CareerConnect Canada, which provides Canadians with job-seeking and employment-related information specific to their country. CNIB and AFB will be working to expand and promote this new section. You can go to CareerConnect Canada from the CNIB website or the AFB CareerConnect main page.

The Job Seeker's Toolkit

At CareerConnect, we heard from professionals and users from around the country who expressed a need for new tools to use with career exploration as well as with teaching and learning job seeking skills. We answered this call by creating a new, free online course designed just for teen and adult job seekers: the Job Seeker's Toolkit. Through this self-paced, structured course, participants learn about and practice self-awareness, career exploration, job seeking, and job maintenance. We worked with experts to create the best content for a unique and effective, fully accessible, learning system. The Job Seeker's Toolkit provides functionality so a professional, parent, or family member can monitor a student's or client's progress and comment on assignments. Important items such as cover letters, resumes, disclosure statements, disability statements, and more, are all covered in the course assignments. Users will find that the assignments—and their products—are practical tools that can be used for job searches, college research, and college and scholarship applications. The Job Seeker's Toolkit is available today—check it out!

NIB CareerNet

NIB CareerNet (CareerNet® is used under license from CareerNet, LLC) is a job board that CareerConnect set up in collaboration with the National Industries for the Blind (NIB). NIB has compiled a large list of positions within organizations and businesses associated with industries for the blind in the U.S. These businesses work in fields related to blindness, or have hired people with visual impairments in the past. When you build and store your resume on CareerConnect, you can then submit it with one click to apply to those jobs listed through the NIB CareerNet portal. This service is provided free of charge to our registered users. Create your user profile on CareerConnect to get started!

Success Stories

Success Stories provide in-depth information in first-person accounts from a number of our exceptional mentors who have reached their employment goals. Their occupations vary from professional body builder to assistant city attorney. These stories are interesting and inspiring reading, and have also proven to be good resources for teachers who use them as transition materials for teachers.

Just for Fun!

Often users don't get the opportunity to hear about the hobbies or recreational pursuits of adults with visual impairments. CareerConnect put together a series of articles about our mentors and some of the things they do outside of work for fun and relaxation. Because research shows that leisure time is something we require as much as food or sleep to stay healthy and sane, we wanted to share some of the activities that people with vision loss do for recreation. Activities in the Just for Fun series vary from jogging to gardening to sky diving.

Multimedia

Over the past few years we've added several humorous, fun, informative, and educational multimedia components to CareerConnect. Content for all ages and purposes can be found in the CareerConnect Multimedia section. Check out the video, hosted by Dr. Karen Wolffe, about teens in California exploring summer jobs. In addition, you may be interested in listening to Washington State teens interviewing CareerConnect mentors.

If you want a good laugh, we recommend that you listen to all of Aaron's Adventures in Employment. These presentations can be great learning tools for teens, and highly entertaining for teens and adults alike. Aaron encounters issues that many of us have experienced ourselves. The series consists of video clips and old-time radio dramas that cover topics that include building an appropriate resume, dressing for an interview, Aaron's initial experiences with his coworkers, and his first evaluation on the job.

The College-Ready Challenge, also styled as an old-time radio drama, is a Jeopardy!-like game show where two high school students see if they are prepared for the next step in their academic careers by answering questions about the differences between high school and college. College-Ready Challenge is highly contagious to students with vision loss who are thinking about their futures. The questions reference the types of skills, supports, and technology that will be beneficial to success in college or post-secondary training.

CareerConnect's Virtual Worksites are graphical representations of what a possible workstation for a person with low or no vision might use in different types of work places. These pages show the kinds of technology that would most likely be used in each particular job setting, and provides links for further information on the technologies depicted. The newest addition to this section is a video of a store vendor who runs his own business and has no vision, demonstrating the technology he uses to be successful on the job. The virtual worksites and videos offered in this section are often used by potential employees or new-hires to demonstrate to employers how assistive technology is used on the job.

CareerConnect Webcasts

In the spring of 2009, CareerConnect launched a series of professional development webcasts in order to provide professionals with information on the latest resources and news in the blindness and vision-loss fields. Sessions include information on career education, assistive technology, preparing for college, and discussions and tips from successfully employed professionals with vision loss.

Message Boards

One of the most popular parts of AFB's family of websites is the message boards area. Just as there is a message board associated with AccessWorld and technology, there are message boards associated with CareerConnect. If you are a teenager or know a teen with a visual impairment, we'd like to suggest the TeenConnect message board. TeenConnect can be found within the For Teens section of CareerConnect, or through the message board portal on AFB.org. This message board gives teens with visual impairments the chance to discuss everyday issues with other teens and young adults. Since minors use TeenConnect, staff closely monitors its content.

Visit CareerConnect Today!

Today's AFB CareerConnect offers innovative tools, content, and resources for career exploration, job searches, edutainment, instructional activities, professional development, mentor searches, e-learning, and even more. Visit us to explore and learn about the next generation of career education activities and learning tools. If you are visually impaired and employed, please sign up today to be a mentor and make a difference in the lives of others!

Visit us on our family of websites at www.afb.org, and add AFB CareerConnect as your friend on Facebook!

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