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Don’t Quit, Develop Grit: Acquiring a Trait Necessary for Career Success (Whether Blind, Visually Impaired, or Fully Sighted)

Silhouette of a mountain climber, at the summit, giving a thumbs-up.

We previously discussed Dr. Angela Duckworth’s research on grit. She identified this trait of “sustained practice and performance toward very long-term goals” as one that is as important as raw talent in achieving success.

Interestingly, Dr. Duckworth notes that some are born grittier than others. [“Grittier”, yes, I can’t make this stuff up!] How about you? Are you one who is naturally determined to excel, who won’t abandon your goal when setbacks arise, and who won’t lose interest or momentum when practicing over time? If so, you’re awfully gritty, and Dr. Duckworth would predict you will succeed in an area of natural strength and interest.

If your self-assessment reveals you are more likely to relinquish your goals than dedicate years toward attaining them, you may not be naturally gritty, but you can acquire the trait.

So how do you foster and nourish grit (based on Dr. Duckworth’s research*)?

  • Recognize the choice to continue training is not a fun or easy one; however, it is the only process that leads to mastery.
  • Intentionally give up the “need” for constant excitement and entertainment. While I’m definitely not saying “never have fun”, I am saying invest the time and energy to train in your career skills (and in an important-to-you hobby) even when it’s boring and frustrating, just as you should set aside time to have fun.
  • Recognize that (according to Dr. Duckworth and Dr. Carol Dweck), you can improve your performance when you try hard over time. (Dr. Duckworth would say this is obvious, but important to deliberately acknowledge.)
  • Understand, ahead of time, you are going to meet obstacles and setbacks when training, and decide to continue despite obstacles. In fact, the obstacles can be great catalysts for growth if you overcome them.
  • Unless you are absolutely confident you need a new career, don’t give in to the desire to find a more exciting career. As long as you continue dabbling in careers, you will never work your way to career success.
  • Be mindful to delay gratification. According to Stanford Professor of Psychology, Walter Mischel**, “Once you realize that will power is just a matter of learning how to control your attention and thoughts, you can really begin to increase it.” Train yourself to focus on your goals and to distract yourself from instant gratification. Need to study but you really aren’t feeling it tonight and want to catch a movie? Shift your focus to what needs to get done, ignore the movie instead of pining over it, and begin studying.

These suggestions sound over simplified and annoyingly easy. I know. Dr. Duckworth knows. She states that training yourself in grit begins with simple mindfulness. We need to acknowledge what we want to pursue and train ourselves in the goals. We need to recognize the training is often tedious, frustrating, time-consuming, and perhaps “boring”, but training is the only route to mastery.

To wrap up, let me tell you that I am teaching my five year old daughter to write. Of course she’d rather play with dolls and stickers, so today I put my new knowledge to use. I taught her about grit and explained that practice is the only way she will learn to write, that she is capable of writing when she works hard at writing over time, and that practicing will be frustrating and maybe a tad boring. I told her that learning grit is necessary to get great at anything. Eager to “get gritty”, she worked with me through the frustration today and we will continue working every day. Giving her the mindfulness or awareness of grit was just what she needed to persevere.

Don’t quit, develop grit.

*The significance of Grit- A Conversation with Angela Lee Duckworth

**Don't! The Secret of Self-Control


Topic:
Employment

Seeking Success After “Failures” on the Job for Those Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Two men, one older and one younger, work together at a desk.

If you feel like you’ve blown it at work or you fear you aren’t cut out for work, I’m talking to you. You made a sizable mistake on the job; you received unsatisfactory performance feedback; you don’t think you have what it takes to learn assistive technology, therefore you work slowly and it is noticed; or you were recently let go.

I know it hurts. It’s embarrassing. It’s intimidating. It’s stressful. Let’s face those emotions; name them, but don’t get stuck there.

Chin up; look forward and pave the way for success after disappointment or misstep. And just how is this done? Glad you asked.

  • Seek constructive criticism. Do it. Ask one or two specific, “How can I do such-and-such better?” questions to a few carefully selected, honest and knowledgeable individuals. You don’t know what you don’t know. You can’t correct poor performance or conduct that you don’t recognize as lacking.
  • Seek a career mentor who is also blind or visually impaired and a local career mentor who may or may not be visually impaired. Find out what they attribute to their success.
  • Press the mental pause button at home (not easy for most of us) and reflect on the uncomfortable situation, the constructive criticism, and the mentor advice. Identify and take responsibility for the problem(s) you’re facing and formulate a solution.
  • Separate your solution(s) into easily defined action steps. Give them end dates and seek accountability.

I don’t know your specific misstep or problem, but if it is a recurring issue caused from neglecting to learn blindness-specific accommodations or assistive technology, it is time to break the cycle. Seek out Orientation and Mobility training, rehabilitation counseling, assistive technology training, courses in braille, etc. from your local service providers for people who are blind or visually impaired. Take initiative.

Finally, work towards excelling and progressing on the job by using AFB CareerConnect's newest free, self-paced course: Maintaining and Advancing in Employment.


Topic:
Employment

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) from Job Seekers and Employees Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA logo

Job seekers and employees who are blind or visually impaired, do you understand the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act? If you’re a little fuzzy on the subject, read on.

First, understand that the ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual based on his or her disability. This means that you, as a person who is blind or visually impaired, can file a complaint if you think you were not hired, were not fairly compensated, were not considered for promotion, or were not given job training opportunities solely because you have a disability. ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations needed to perform job tasks and trainings. Lastly, ADA requires accessible public spaces in workplaces with fifteen or more employees.

Maybe you are left with a few questions regarding its implications for you. I created this basic “FAQ” list and answered the questions using the resources listed at the close of the blog.

  1. At my recent interview, I did not disclose my visual impairment. However, I was asked how I would perform a particular essential job function. I felt discriminated against. Was that an unlawful question? No, it was not unlawful. While the individual cannot ask about the severity of your blindness or visual impairment, he can ask if you can perform essential job functions and how you can perform the job functions.
  2. I was not selected for the position for which I interviewed. Should I file a complaint? I would ask you the questions: were you fully qualified for the position? Do you have relevant training and experience, and stellar recommendations? Were you more competitive than the other applicants? I would not file a complaint unless I was fairly certain it was a disability that kept me from getting hired.
  3. Who should bring up my limitations or performance problems related to my disability? You, the employee, should bring up any limitations or performance problems related to your visual impairment. Generally speaking, the employer should not assume any problem is disability-related.
  4. When I ask my employer to provide an accommodation, do I need to bring an eye report? You can simply discuss the need for accommodations with your employer. He or she may ask you to bring an eye report or other verification if your visual impairment isn’t apparent.
  5. Can I request reasonable accommodations for my volunteer position? While you can always ask for reasonable accommodations, you are only protected under the law if you are technically an employee.
  6. Does my employer have to provide the exact accommodations I request? No, you and your employer can discuss appropriate options, and the employer can decide which she will provide.
  7. So you mean to tell me my employer should fully cover the cost of all my necessary accommodations/ assistive technologies? First, note that the employer isn’t responsible for supplying your personal accommodations or technologies, such as a talking watch, white cane, or accessible calendar. Second, when possible, you should use technology or devices you already own at your workplace. Third, discuss your assistive technology needs with a local vocational rehabilitation counselor, who may be able to provide equipment for you. Otherwise, your employer should provide accommodations to processes or equipment, assuming it is not placing an undue hardship on the employer.
  8. I was hired to perform tasks A, B, and C, but I now realize I cannot accomplish “task C” because of my disability. Can I ask my employer if my coworker can perform “task C”? While you are allowed to ask for restructuring of work responsibilities, you are only protected under the law if you can perform your essential job functions with or without accommodations.
  9. Where can I file an ADA complaint? Check out this website for information on filing a complaint electronically, by mail, or by fax.
  10. When can I file a complaint? The complaint should take place within 180 days of the discrimination.

For more information on the ADA, read The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual With a Disability and Disability Discrimination.


Topics:
Low Vision
Employment

A Trait as Valuable as High Intelligence in Propelling and Predicting Workplace Success

Man in business suit adjusting his collar.

If your goal is maintaining and advancing in your career, it would be wise to identify predictors of workplace success. I’m thankful for bright and motivated individuals who study and research this very topic. I’ll present their findings to you.

Before I share the research, what would you hypothesize as the most significant traits contributing to career excellence?

I assumed workplace success is contingent on high intelligence, general likability, and keen self-awareness. None of which is wrong, but my hypothesis overlooks a recently identified and researched trait.

By now the suspense is torture, so without further ado: Dr. Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania researched predictors of success in the workplace and across a variety of settings. She found “grit” to be the number one predictor of excellence in the workplace, on sports teams, and in competitions. She describes grit as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.”

Duckworth explains that natural talent and high intelligence are not the end-all-be-all shoe-ins for career success. They are important, as are keen self-awareness, a general likability, and high emotional intelligence. However, without grit, or continued perseverance, one will quit his job to pursue a more exciting career; show up to work with decreased energy and effort; fail to pursue up-to-date research and skills in his field; or neglect to consider new job accommodations that would increase his efficiency and accuracy.

When you cultivate grit, you become a person who sticks with her goals, who increases her job performance over time and continued effort, and you become a person who achieves long-term success in areas of natural talent and intelligence.

To my readers who are blind or visually impaired and who want to demonstrate grit: instead of throwing in the towel and losing motivation in the workplace, read and utilize the information in the blogposts: Career Advancement Tips and The Basics Behind Maintaining Employment.

As Dr. Duckworth describes, you’re running a career marathon, not a short sprint. Don’t give up.


Topic:
Employment

Newly Blind or Visually Impaired? Read These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Regarding Transportation to Work

Picture of older woman using white cane, getting on bus

You have come to the conclusion, though difficult to swallow, you’re a non-driver due to your blindness or significant visual impairment. One of many questions likely conjured up include, “How can I get to and from work reliably?” I’m assuming you’re here in search of answers.

Answers:

First, there’s walking to work if you live close enough. If you haven’t started already, you should work with an Orientation and Mobility Specialist who is trained to teach you how to safely move about your environment. You’ll learn to use a white cane as a tool to detect obstacles in your path; you’ll learn to pay attention to landmarks you contact; and you’ll learn to cross streets by listening to the pattern of traffic. You’ll learn to put all of the information together and use your new tools to travel your route.

Second, there are individual drivers. You can hire an occasional taxi, you can employ a personal driver, or you can accompany another to work while providing compensation.

Third, there’s public transportation. Your Orientation and Mobility Specialist can teach you how to access the local bus system, subway, or tram. If public transportation is not accessible to you because there are no sidewalks or you have an additional disability, you can utilize paratransit services which provide door-to-door service where you would otherwise use public transportation. Obviously, you cannot take advantage of public transportation if it doesn’t exist in your town; for this reason I recommend moving to a covered area if accessing the community is important to you.

Read the following questions you may have regarding transportation to work. Each question is a link to its answer.

What will I learn on Orientation and Mobility lessons?

Where can I find a transportation guide for persons who are blind or have low vision?

How can I find and hire a driver?

Can I access the GPS on my iPhone?

Why is access to mass transit important for people who are blind or visually impaired?

What do I need to access and use mass transit?

What kinds of transit information will present barriers to me?

What is being done to improve transit accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired?

What does innovation and technology hold in store for transit accessibility?

As always, ask a specific question in the comments section, on the message board, or in a Facebook message.


Topics:
Low Vision
Getting Around