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To Jump or Not to Jump Back into School As a Career Seeking Adult Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Older woman touching head as if in distress

Say you’re one of the many individuals who are blind or visually impaired who have attended a university for an undergraduate degree and who are having a difficult time achieving employment, landing a dream job, or keeping a decent job. While you have the minimum school requirements to enter your career field of interest, you may think the missing link to career success is additional schooling.

It’s easy to convince ourselves a second Bachelor’s degree would provide the knowledge needed to obtain employment.

It’s easy to convince ourselves a Master’s degree would provide the credibility and authority needed to promote.

It’s easy to convince ourselves a different degree and accompanying career change are the only routes to job satisfaction.

Brace yourselves; Uncomfortable truth ahead.

There’s a chance additional schooling is not the answer. Instead, maybe personal changes are in order.

The missing link between you and gainful employment could actually be training in blindness-specific skills or assistive technology use; it could be improving social skills; it could be learning to "Get Your Disability Disclosure On and Embrace Your Diversity"; it could be utilizing organizational strategies; it could be volunteer work; or it could be seeking and implementing constructive criticism.

Before you jump back into school for a second degree or an advanced degree, investigate if it’s the necessary route to your desired outcome, gainful employment.

Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future

Hey Teens, Let's Talk Summer Jobs

A teenager in a suit and tie reads his notes, preparing for a job interview.

Want to earn cash this summer, prepare for adulthood, and be part of a team? Yes, you say? Then it's time to look for summer work.

To start, consider the needs in your neck of the woods. My high school years were spent in Orlando; additional summer employees (including myself) were hired in restaurants and theme parks. The same is true in coastal cities and other summer-vacation destinations I'm sure.

If you live where farmland abounds, I'll bet your town has unique work that needs to be done by willing, hard-working folks like yourself.

Career Choices has an extensive list of teen summer job ideas, several of which had never crossed my mind. Read through the list to help brainstorm needs you can fill.

After identifying the needs of your town, identify what you have to offer. Can you write, paint, bag groceries, take orders, clean windows, walk and feed animals, water plants, assemble sub sandwiches, tutor, or scrub pools? What else could you do if trained?

Ask your parents, teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI), and vocational rehabilitation counselor for suggestions.

Next, consider your transportation. Are there any jobs available in or near your neighborhood? Where is your nearest public bus stop? Are your Orientation and Mobility skills proficient enough to utilize the bus system? What is the cost of a taxi or Uber ride? Could you work in the office of a parent or neighbor and reimburse the driver for gas money?

It will then be time to conduct a successful job search. [Utilize the link; it's filled with helpful information and resources!]

Ah, one more thing. Don't forget to know the specific accommodations for vision loss you will utilize on the job and "show and tell" them at your job interviews.

Whether your job search is tremendously successful, disheartening, or "on the fence", your experience will prepare you for future work.

Good luck and keep us posted.


10 Resources for Transitioning from High School to College or Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Group of young women holding canes

How are you feeling about your upcoming transition from high school? Can college “not come soon enough” or are you hoping time will slow down because you appreciate the support of home life and you don’t want to say goodbye to your local friends? Maybe you’re feeling a little of both, and that’s normal too.

While your time in school will forever be full of memories and nostalgia, your future is just as exciting and worth preparing for. Let me help with that.

Check out these 10 resources from CareerConnect to get you ready for tomorrow:

  1. Peruse our What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up? section. You’ll find a collection of articles, accessible videos, and tools designed to inform teens with visual impairments about valuable college and work-related topics such as “Funding Your Education”, “Do Employers Care if You Have Blue Hair”, and “Technology: The Tool that Equalizes”.
  2. Take full advantage of CareerConnect’s virtual career exploration and job-seeking skills training course, the Job Seeker's Toolkit. It is accessible and free of charge.
  3. After completing the Job Seeker’s Toolkit, utilize our newest course, also accessible and free of charge, Maintaining Employment and Advancing Your Career.
  4. Explore careers! Look at jobs that mesh with your interests and skills. Find out what education they require, what experiences they require, and what job responsibilities and compensation you can expect.
  5. See how others who are blind or visually impaired are successfully employed in your fields of interest by reading Our Stories: People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Succeeding at Work and Life.
  6. As you narrow your career prospects, get in touch with individuals who are also visually impaired and working in the fields of interest. Post questions on the AFB Work Life Message Boards and seek a CareerConnect mentor for each career you are exploring.
  7. If you are preparing for college or other postsecondary education, use our cheat sheet to help self-advocate for accommodations in college as a student who is blind or visually impaired.
  8. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual based on his or her disability. Learn the specific provisions of the ADA for a job seeker and employee by reading our frequently asked questions regarding the ADA.
  9. Before applying for your first job, read Applying for a Job and you have No Prior Experience? Suggestions for those who are Blind or Visually Impaired.
  10. Got the job? Read Preparing for Your First Month at Work as an Employee who is Blind or Visually Impaired.

Planning for the Future

National Photography Month and Captured Memories: The Moment One Chooses a Career

small child in a wooded area at dusk

May is National Photography Month (whatever that means!). I’ve mentioned I’m a photographer hobbyist, but have I mentioned I also capture memories in my journal? More than giving me creative outlets, photography and journaling give me opportunities to record moments and re-live them each time I flip through my images or journals. Take for instance the photo in this blog; it’s my younger daughter walking through the woods last year when we lived in Japan. I remember the exploring we did that day; the frigid air we endured, the fingernail-sized red insects we watched, and the fenced-in ponies we were surprised to come across.

Another good memory I have recorded, this one in an old journal: I called my mom before buying a movie ticket and asked for her advice. “Mom, a professor (Dr. Lewis from the Florida State University) talked to our class about what it’s like to be a teacher of students with visual impairments. It sounds like something I’d love!” My mom encouraged me to pursue it and there I went.

Do you have a mental picture of the moment you chose a career to pursue? If so, I’d love to hear about it. I’d like to know what led up to that moment and how you decided the career would be a good fit for you. Please take a few minutes to type it out in the comments section because I know others can learn from your story.

If you don’t have that memory because you have yet to decide on a career, I can prepare you for that moment. Here’s the typical progression:

  • Get to know yourself. Know your likes, dislikes, values, and skill sets.
  • Get to know career options. Explore jobs and their requirements, responsibilities, and compensation.
  • Think about which careers complement your unique likes, dislikes, values, and skill sets.
  • Decide if you’re willing to pursue the requirements (training, schooling, experience) for each of the careers that complement you, if you are willing to perform the responsibilities, and if the compensation is a livable, reliable wage.
  • Get a snapshot of the careers left in the running to visualize if any is a good fit for you: volunteer, talk to a mentor, and/ or pursue a job-shadowing experience.
  • As I did, seek the counsel of someone who knows you well.
  • Pursue the career by setting goals that lead to the final destination. As a person with a visual impairment, goals will include learning necessary job accommodations.
  • You’re ready to find a job and succeed at work.

Get a picture of where you want to be, create that memory.

Personal Reflections

Benefits of a Strong Social Network

Do you remember the game six degrees of separation? Maybe you, like me, played it in middle school to pass a bit of time. The player determined how one individual is connected to another (such as how I am connected to you, the reader or listener), within six relational connections or fewer. Today’s middle schoolers have social media as a cheat, as mutual connections are much more easily identifiable.

As six degrees of separation exposed, we are a pretty connected people. You already have a social network, rather or not you’ve paid it any attention.

This social network you have, it has benefits. Not just for business-persons: for school-aged children, for stay-at-home-parents, for college students, for retirees, for all employees, and for all job-seekers.

Here is an overview of those benefits:

  1. A portion of your social network is your family and close friends. FAMILY. FRIENDSHIP. COMPANIONSHIP. LOVE. Enough said.
  2. You can exchange payment for services provided to you from people in your community. You can get lawn care, housecleaning, and clothing laundered. Now you can focus your time on that what you need or want to focus.
  3. You can exchange payment for services provided to you from people in your business-network. You can pay for the services of an event photographer, a website designer, a systems analyst, a branding expert, etc. Now your business has improved because you’ve utilized experts.
  4. You and members of your peer-network can create and refine ideas together.
  5. If you’re a job seeker, a member of your network can provide you with a job lead.
  6. A member of your network can recommend you to a hiring manager.
  7. A member of your network can provide you with mentor advice.
  8. A member of your network can inspire you to continue creating.
  9. A member of your network can inspire you to improve as he continually sets the proverbial bar higher.
  10. A member of your network can introduce you to others, further broadening your social network.
  11. A member of your network can recommend you as a service-provider.
  12. A member of your network can provide constructive criticism.

Now, my fear is that I share ‘benefits of a strong social network’ with you and I leave you with the impression that your social network is all about benefiting you. With this mindset, you will only seek relationships with persons who seemingly help you. Don’t make this mistake because you will miss out on friendships, honest and authentic relationships. You will also miss the joy of helping others.

So keep in mind, just as you receive benefits from your social network, the individuals in your network should be receiving the same benefits from you.

Therefore, I present to you the final benefit of a strong social network…

  • You get the honor of helping others in your network. You can meet needs, provide mentorship, help folks build connections, and inspire others.

…which is the final and, in my opinion, most important benefit of a strong social network.

Online Tools
Social Skills