by Joe Strechay
After returning from the AFB Leadership Conference in Brooklyn and recovering from two weeks of travel, workshops, meetings, and a wonderful conference, I am all kinds of excited to push a lot of information out to you. My partner in crime, Detra Bannister, wrote an Our Stories piece about Albert Rizzi. She posted her story right before the conference, and if you attended the conference, you might have met him. Mr. Rizzi spoke at the AccessWorld Technology Summit during the preconference. I can report that Mr. Rizzi is the real deal, and he is making a difference for persons who are blind or visually impaired. I would call him an advocate who has taken his impact to the next level with technology, education, and more. You might have heard about him in the past months from the news too.
AFB CareerConnect's Our Stories section is all about providing you with real stories about successful people who are blind or visually impaired. These Success Stories give you an insight into our mentors and the path that lead them to success.
This is Detra's introduction to a must read story and latest addition of the Our Stories section.
Meet Albert J. Rizzi, educator, advocate, and now, CEO. You may recognize him as the gentleman who was ejected from a US Airways' flight when a flight attendant took issue with his dog guide Doxy's position in the cabin. Suddenly and without notice, Albert and Doxy were taken off the plane. It was a horror story—but it turned into a tale of affirmation and support when Albert and Doxy's fellow passengers challenged the injustice and gave up the flight rather than fly without them. But, there is even more to Albert than just this one newsworthy event. Read his story to learn how, after suddenly losing his sight, he transferred his skills into building blocks for the future and the outstanding career he has today.
Read Albert Rizzi's story now, and learn more about him and his road to success.
by Joe Strechay
In today's economic climate, it's not only be difficult to find gainful employment, it can also be a struggle maintaining a job once hired. This becomes an even bigger issue for people who are blind or visually impaired. There are many individuals (with and without disabilities) who might be recycling into unemployment and the job hunt. There are many reasons for this, but it’s my belief that it comes down to three main issues: compensatory skills, interpersonal skills, or proper training.
There are other factors of course, but I'd like to address these specific issues. Below, you will find some tips and advice that can be the difference between staying on the job and re-initiating the job search.
Compensatory skills are those basic skills that allow you to be successful and operate somewhat independently. You have to understand time management—a large category for employment. Under this topic, you would find punctuality, managing your schedule, completing tasks efficiently, and even multitasking. It seems quite basic that a person should show up on time and stay for their full shift. If transportation issues are affecting your ability to make it to the job during the specific hours, it may be possible to work with your supervisors to flex your time or adopt a schedule that relates to the transportation. This is not possible for all jobs, and it only should be explored after other avenues have been exhausted.
Tips for honing your compensatory skills:
- Use a calendar or scheduling system and live by it!
- Find a method to keep track of your tasks and evaluate the importance, and adjust this daily.
- Don't push the large, complicated task(s) to the end.
- Be punctual: know your transportation well, and always have a plan B (as a person who is blind or visually impaired, access to transportation can be the key to maintaining employment!). Punctuality maintains employment and recurring tardiness gets you unemployed.
- Arrive early or on time, and leave as scheduled or as directed by your superior. Sometimes, it may be necessary to put in extra time, as approved.
- Stay organized: keep your work organized and easily accessible. Use techniques to make your organizational method accessible, whether you use electronic files, braille or large print labeling. The method has to work for you. Your computer files should be organized in appropriate files, just as print documents should be.
- Information access is key to success. Know the time—literally. This could be through a cell phone, computer, or braille or large print watch.
- Your keyboarding or tech skills could fall under compensatory skills. Stay up to date and keep your skills up. Use of technology could be the difference between keeping a job and having to look for one. The most expensive technology is not always necessary, but newer technology tends to have more features that might offer efficiency.
Interpersonal or Social Skills
Interpersonal communication deals with the interactions between persons whether in a verbal, non-verbal, or written communication. Interpersonal skills can be a difficult topic, but I would venture to guess that most persons who have issues maintaining employment may need help in this area. It has been shown that employers are more willing to keep a person on the job, even when performing poorly, if they like them and their office enjoys their presence. Being able interact with your coworkers in an appropriate manner makes a difference. As a person who is blind or has low vision, it can be difficult tell when someone is addressing you; don't always assume it is meant for you.
- Sometimes it is good idea just to listen and let your coworkers express themselves.
- Knowing about current events can provide talking points to interact with colleagues.
- However, don't "overchat" with your coworkers̬remember, you’re "on the clock."
- Dating your coworkers can be a bad idea because you might intend on working there for a long time. Most people don't enjoy spending long periods of time with (future) exes. If you really are into dating a coworker, while typically not advised, it's a good idea to disclose a serious relationship to your human resources department.
- Some information is best left unsaid. ("Keep your drama at home with your Mama!")
- Remember, conversations are meant to be reciprocal—give and take. Don’t dominate the conversation, and don’t stand there not saying anything. Think balance.
- If your coworkers go out to lunch together, you might want to participate on occasion.
- Don't engage in gossip. You never know where that will end up. Your coworkers, at least most of the time and for most people, are not your best friends.
- Be polite and gracious on the job. Remember to say please and thank you.
- If you are blind or visually impaired, and are getting rides from a colleague, offer gas money or buy him or her lunch once in a while. (Coffee never hurts either. Know how he or she takes it.
Training is such a broad term and could include some of the aforementioned basic compensatory skills as well. Training could be related to specific job tasks, technology, or asking the appropriate questions during the start of a job. Not all persons are willing to ask the necessary questions to allow them to be successful, and not all persons are willing to take notes and put in the necessary effort to learning a new job or task. There are organizations who don't put enough effort into training their employees, but there also individuals who make their employers think they don't need further training. Either way, this can be a recipe for joining the not-so-great employment statistics in the not-too-distant future.
- Make sure you are up to par or better on your blindness compensatory skills.
- Gets the necessary technology training to make you efficient or better with whatever tech aspects you have to perform on the job. I know this sounds broad and simple, but so many overlook this.
- Pay attention and listen!
- Don’t hesitate to ask questions and take notes during training. Hidden bonus: if your employer sees you doing this, he or she will likely take note and appreciate the effort.
- Take the time to review your notes and practice—such effort is important.
- Make sure you get the necessary training to allow you to succeed. There are a wide range of training materials (manuals, tutorials, etc.) that can be found online covering all kinds of skills and topics.
Remember, we’re here to help. AFB CareerConnect provides resources on the necessary skills for maintain and succeeding on the job within the Succeed at Work section's subsection, Succeeding on the Job. There are a number of articles resources related to communication, problem solving on the job, and what it takes to be successful.
"Unemployment" to "employment" photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
by Joe Strechay
I know I am digging myself out of the post-holiday landslide of work. Yes, I did take some time off to celebrate the holidays with my beautiful wife, Jen. I did try my best to avoid work during that time. That doesn't mean that AFB CareerConnect wasn't busy posting new content. That is right; we have some new resources to help you prepare for the year ahead.
Get your students started early on their Money Management and concepts with this great series of lesson plans. If you haven't been following the CareerConnect Blog or visiting the Lesson Plans for Teachers and Professionals section often, it has been growing by leaps and bounds. The topics covered are money management, social skills, preparation for work experience, and problem solving. Hold the presses; you might think there is only one lesson on each topic. But, no! They range from six to sixteen lesson plans on these topics.
Our good friend Shannon Carollo keeps pumping out the lessons and you should check them out and utilize them with your youth. Are you looking for lessons to get you started on these great transition topics? Well, the Lesson Plans for Teachers and Professionals section brings that to you. Help them get their debits and credits straight, and check out the Money Management module of lessons today! You know that every cent counts!
Young student holding money at library photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
by Joe Strechay
Recently, I wrote about the importance of keeping your resumé up to date and current with trends. This is all relevant as I am currently preparing content specific to advancement in employment. I would say another important aspect to advancement in employment is knowing your current market value. Is your current organization valuing you at an accurate level? Not every position has the same mobility or ability for advancement, and nor does everyone have the need to move up.
Before you begin this process, you should think about whether you are happy with your current role in your business or organization. Do you believe that you bring a greater value to your organization than your current role? Would you be willing to move to another organization? Would you be willing to move geographically? There are a lot of factors that relate to this matter. You don't have to be willing to move organizations, but there is always a chance that you will find something that is hard to decline. If you have a family, would your family be willing to uproot for the new opportunity?
If you are in a more general field, there may be many positions that suit your qualifications in your area. If you are in a very specialized field or position, you might have to move outside of your region to advance. For example, I work in a very specific area of my field. My career path would most likely include a move due to my specialization. Over the past years, I have been contacted by numerous organizations specific to my current and past skill set. All of these positions would have involved a move. For my wife and me to decide to move, it would take a very special position that brings us closer to our goals. Oh wait, I am totally bringing action planning into this. Yes, I have objectives with time periods set in plan toward my overall goals.
When determining the option of moving geographic locations, you might consider these factors:
- What areas, cities, or geographical regions would you be willing to live in?
- The next consideration would deal with research on the organization. Is the organization stable?
- Does the organization suit your values?
- Would the new position offer a better quality of life?
- Would the cost of moving and possible salary change reflect an increase in salary and / or position?
- Consider the cost of living in areas; this is a very important factor. Cost of living can vary by large amounts. If you live in a low cost area and move to a high cost area, there would be a necessity to make more money to maintain a similar life style.
- Any financial considerations, like housing.
- Would you be uprooting your family?
- Many people might value their current support network, and giving that up may be a big loss.
- Transportation could be a large factor, the availability and cost of transportation in an area.
Another factor to consider would be, your willingness to take a pay cut for an advancement in level. This may seem a bit strange, but I have done this. I moved from New Jersey where I made more, even with the cost of living difference, and I took a position that brought me to a much higher position. I was willing to take that sacrifice for a step toward my goals for the future. Not everyone has that ability, but it is another option for consideration. At this point in my career, I wouldn't be willing to sacrifice salary for an increase in position.
Back to the main point of this post, determining your market value takes some research and time. This means you will be working on this in the evening, weekends, lunch breaks, or during time off. You can research current positions that are open, apply or not apply. Some positions will not offer the pay range from the start, and that would mean actually inquiring or applying for a position. That is why you must be prepared for the possibility of moving positions for the right opportunity. You never know what is out there until you start exploring. Again, you don't have to take the position, but you should always be willing to listen. Most employment specialists will tell you it is important to keep your resumé up to date and practice your interviewing skills. Interviewing is something that needs to be practiced.
You don't want to burn any bridges by doing this too often; all of this should be done at a point where you feel it is the right time. I would also ask close trusted friends for their outside perspective. Sometimes, it is hard to truly judge our own situation, or we are not seeing it accurately.
Once that you believe you have a general idea of your current or possible market value, you have to generate your justification or sales pitch on why you should be advanced. At some organizations they are more willing to promote someone, even without an open position. At other organizations, it might not be as possible, and it would require waiting for the appropriate opening. During my career, I have been open with supervisors and management about my goals for the future. I want them to see me as a person who has aspirations for more than my current role. If there is no vision for your advancement, than you have a problem. I can tell you that, I pay very close attention to this. I make sure to ask about the possibility of advancement in the future. Again, not everyone is looking for that, and not every employer is looking for that in an employee. I will tell you that some employer just want a person who fits into a position like a piece of a puzzle. Not every position will offer the ability for upward mobility, and that may be a consideration for you.
In some cases an employer may misrepresent the opportunity for advancement as well, and that is when asking persons who work there about their opinions. There are times when this appropriate and others when it is not. This would fall under doing your research. It is a lot easier when you have a contact who works for the organization.
The CareerConnect Blog offers a lot of other posts that provide employment advice, but you can also check out the November issue of AccessWorld for a recap on my favorite employment related blog posts. Also, CareerConnect is packed with all kinds of employment advice. Don't under estimate your market value!
by Joe Strechay
Many people submit the same resumé time after time, with little updates or changes. This is a mistake, you should customize your resumé for each position that you are applying for. I would also say that the formats for resumés change over time. What was a common format for a resumé might now be considered out of date.
I spent the weekend updating my resumé, as I have to use my resumé for AFB when we apply for grants, subcontracts, and also when nominated for committees or boards. I am pretty good about keeping it up to date, but I spent hours changing the format of my resumé to make it much easier to read. Who did I go to for advice on sprucing up my resumé for the holidays? I went to my two brothers in the corporate world. They are both quite successful and switched corporations in the last year. They also have a lot of experience with hiring individuals and evaluating resumés.
I didn't stop with my brothers; I also included my wife, Jennifer, who is an amazing editor. She catches things that most people would miss. I don't believe in utilizing one set of eyes on my resumé, and I always make sure to truly consider the advice provided. Not all of the advice must be taken, but often the advice is quite valuable. They all provided advice that seemed accurate and helpful for the revision of my resumé.
I can tell you that personally, the formatting of the resumé can be one of the more difficult parts for me. I have used templates before, but some are not accessible with a screen reader. There are many that do work, though.
With the current revision of my resumé, I went with the bulleted format under each position that I have held. I put more detail into the more current and relevant positions. As your career builds and your list of positions expands, your resumé will grow past the typical one-page resumé. It all depends on your experience, field, and what you are trying to highlight. As my brother stated to me, most employers don't spend much time past the first page. So, you want to make sure the most important information is covered within that page. I have to say, I tend to think that all of my information is important. Getting input from others can help to decide the importance of information. It is also important to think about the position that you are applying for as well. You can look at the job description to cull out the aspects of your work history that would be most relevant. I know that depending on the job, I may list accomplishments or activities that relate more to a position. Those activities might not be listed when I would apply for a different position.
In the current point of my career, I would be looking for an executive type role at a non-profit or a state vocational rehabilitation agency. If I were applying for a state agency, I would expand out my past history with the State of Florida, and list more relevant task while at AFB. If I were applying for a non-profit executive position, I would mention a lot about my work with grants, donors, resource development, budgets, and supervision. I know that most executives or CEOs at non-profits are there to raise funding, and that is something I have been extremely successful in doing at AFB.
A cover letter is the sales pitch to sell someone on reading your resumé, but the resumé gets you the interview. If you haven't revised your resumé in a while, it is time to get it up to par. Take the time to check out the lessons within the Job Seeker's Toolkit and the AFB CareerConnect section, Conducting a Successful Job Search. In the Job Seeker's Toolkit, you can find easy self-paced lessons that guide you through the process. CareerConnect also allows you to build a personal data sheet, and generate a resume´ from that. You can update and customize your personal data sheet to update your resumé over time. This all can be saved in your My CareerConnect profile. Visit CareerConnect and get your resumé more up to date than your wardrobe!
Resume photo courtesy of Shutterstock.