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Find Resources, Tips, and Updates Related to Blindness, Visual Impairment, and Employment in Our Newsletter

Richard Chen stands with J.W.

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) CareerConnect staff is excited to unveil the new CareerConnect Newsletter! This newsletter will provide information about updates or changes to the program, introduce new staff or volunteers, share helpful tips, offer options for becoming more engaged in mentoring or the use of the program, and give a peek behind the scenes at AFB’s efforts to expand employment possibilities for people with vision loss. The team has been working hard on this newsletter, and we will be bringing this to you quarterly. Stay tuned to all of the latest news about our program and new resources for job seekers who are blind or visually impaired.

This volume includes information on:

  • Updated CareerConnect Mentor System and Profile
  • The Reorganized Our Stories section
  • The CareerConnect Blog
  • Lesson Plans for Teachers and Professionals
  • The CareerConnect App
  • AFB Leadership Conference, Stephen Garff Marriott Award, and the Mentor Mixer
  • AFB Teen Employment Workshop Series Update
  • Getting Involved with AFB CareerConnect

View the newsletter now, and if you have information that you believe might be appropriate, please contact us.


Topics:
Planning for the Future
Personal Reflections
Employment
Online Tools
Technology
Education
Transition
Social Skills
Leadership

The 10th Annual Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law Feature Story: Jack Chen, Google Patent Attorney & Legally Blind

Jack with his guide on Mt. Kilimanjaro

AFB CareerConnect's latest Our Stories piece is part of the Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law. Each year, a feature is done on an outstanding mentor and individual who is blind or visually impaired and working in the field of law. CareerConnect's Our Stories section highlights the success stories of those who are excelling in their professions. The section is packed with over a hundred pieces and organized for ease of navigation so you can learn about the employment paths and life adventures of these outstanding individuals.

Having been an inventor at heart since childhood, Jack Chen not only created his own inventions, he became a successful patent attorney so he could help others to realize their dreams.

Read Jack's story to see how he merged his two greatest interests into a brilliant career.


Topics:
Planning for the Future
Low Vision
Personal Reflections
Employment
Technology
Getting Around
Education
Transition

Interviewing Tips: The Best Response to "What is Your Greatest Weakness?" for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

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

So, you've been asked to interview for a position—this is good; no, excellent. As you sit in the chilly room, on the hard, wooden chair, you're asked the dreaded question, "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?" You feel the perceived spotlight flushing your cheeks. Your strengths, that's relatively easy. You describe your skills and experiences that make you the perfect fit for the job. Your weakness—that question's just not fair! I know, I know. It sounds like you're being asked, "Now, tell us why we shouldn't hire you." But instead of interpreting the question in that regard and airing all your dirty laundry, get a game plan together.

When describing your greatest weakness, the best response is describing a weakness you have already overcome or are currently overcoming. The best response is also an honest answer. Last, the best response is describing your negative attributes that aren't critical for the job. You know, because if you're interviewing as a vet tech, you may not want to discuss your fear of off-leash animals.

Think for a few minutes about your honest weaknesses. Are you lazy? Yeah, don't say that. Are you uncomfortable with public speaking? You can work with that. Take an online public speaking course and you'll have a perfect recipe for talking about your weakness. "My weakness is my discomfort when talking to a large group. But I recently completed an online public speaking course and am finding an increase in confidence."

Are you uncomfortable with technology? Develop a plan for strengthening your technology skills. As long as you're not interviewing for a job requiring strong technology skills, mention your discomfort and how you are overcoming it.

Are you disorganized? Again, develop a plan for strengthening your organizational skills. As long as you're not interviewing for a position requiring extreme organization, mention your weakness and how you have made strides to overcome it.

Make sense? Here's the bottom line: Be honest and give examples of how you are making your weakness a weakness of the past.

For more information on interviewing, read AFB CareerConnect's Interview Preparation: Common Interview Questions and Interviewing: Top 10 Tips.

If you are a professional working with students who are blind or visually impaired, utilize CareerConnect's Job Seeking lesson plan, to read ideas for teaching interviewing skills and the free Job Seeker's Toolkit online course.


Topics:
Planning for the Future
Employment
Online Tools
Education
Transition

The Secrets to Turning Your Volunteer Job into Paid Work for Job Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Two ladies working around the kitchen

Have you heeded the insights of The Work-Related Benefits of Volunteering for Job-Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired? Did you Find a Volunteer Position that Is a Good Match for You?

Good.

Now you're volunteering and you like the people, you like the work, you like the cause. Wonderful. Have you considered the possibility of turning your volunteer work into paid work? The good news is that you're already in the door. If you are demonstrating positive work habits and good communication skills, your co-workers value you. They may, however, feel quite content keeping you as a volunteer as long as you're content as a volunteer…but what if you could, as Chef Emeril Lagasse says, kick it up a notch—your responsibilities and pay, that is. If your bills require more than volunteer work, and I'm sure they do, read on.

How to turn your volunteer job into paid work:

  • Get to know the people who make up the organization. All the people. Introduce yourself, ask about their roles within the company, how they're doing, etc. Write the information down after meeting people. Follow up. You want to build relationships and loyalty.
  • Pay attention to the culture of the organization. Do what you have to do (within reason and morality, of course) to fit in with the culture. The group goes for coffee on the weekend? Learn to like coffee. The people never use curse words? Don't use curse words. Value what the employer and employees value. It'll be like you were made to work there.
  • Know the company inside and out. Know their goals, policies, and procedures. Adopt their goals, policies, and procedures. You will be an asset to the team.
  • Recognize problems and gaps within the agency. I'm not suggesting you verbally tear down the team. Oh no! Instead, quietly figure out how you can be a solution to the problem and fill the gap. It may take learning new skills and seeking new experiences.

Be bold. Confidently and respectfully approach the appropriate team leader. Let him or her know you recognize a gap within the organization and explain how you can be the solution. Find out if a position can be created for you. If it cannot, continue your job search outside of the agency, and update your resume with the skills, training, and experience you received from the volunteer position.

Alternatively, perhaps the employer already recognized the organization's gap and is seeking to hire an individual for a new or replacement position. Review the job description. Figure out how your soft skills (integrity, commitment, patience, loyalty, work ethic, friendliness, teamwork, etc.) and hard skills (education, relevant experience, foreign language, accounting, typing proficiency, etc.) will be an ideal fit for the job. Apply for the position and write a fabulous cover letter. If you've proven yourself through volunteering and you can sell yourself as the solution to the company gap/ vacancy—I can see paid work in your near future.


Topics:
Planning for the Future
Employment
Online Tools
Education
Transition
Social Skills

Interviewing Tips: How to Make a First-Rate First Impression as a Candidate Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Man in business suit adjusting his tie.

I'm thinking about the job interviews of my youth and I can't help but smile bashfully. I'm certain my interviewing skills could have used a bit of polish. The information in this blog series is that polish. Read it and apply liberally.

I want you to know that I still don't have all the answers. I am, however, not afraid to ask those who do have far more than I.

That's where my brother-in-law, Jonathan Kitts, comes in. He's a manager who regularly interviews and hires employees. I asked him to share his interviewing experiences with me, providing insight into making an excellent first impression at a job interview. He obliged with gusto.

How to make a first-rate first impression at a job interview:

  • Be on time, meaning approximately 10 minutes early. Practice the route prior to the day of the interview and anticipate high traffic. No matter how well you've prepared for the interview and how ideal you are for the job, arriving late is basically throwing your chances of a job offer right out the window. And remember, public transportation can have delays or changes.
  • Appear clean cut. Although there are surely a few exceptions, employers are looking to hire clean-cut individuals. Your appearance is a representation of you, and you are a potential representation of the company. If you want to represent yourself as professional and put-together, ensure you are clean and your wardrobe is appropriate and tidy. Clean hair and nails, and well-ironed business attire, are particularly effective. As a person who is blind or visually impaired, this might mean getting the opinion of others (really, this never hurts for anyone).
  • Greet members of the interview panel with words and firm handshakes. Ask for and repeat their names; provide your name; and briefly engage in small talk to build rapport, as described in Dr. Wolffe's Top 10 Interviewing Tips. Don't wait for the team to introduce themselves—be proactive.
  • Mirror the interviewer's energy level and positive emotions. If the interviewer has a reserved demeanor, reign in your exuberant personality. You don't want to overpower the interviewer. On the other hand, if your interviewer demonstrates a high energy level and is outspoken, mirror his enthusiasm. This skill requires high emotional intelligence. Practice paying attention to and mirroring emotions and energy levels. The purpose of mirroring is the creation of a bond between yourself and another, as well as positively influencing his or her comfort level with you.
  • Talk about your personal life, but don't bore the interviewer! The interviewing panel truthfully does not want a list of seven instruments you play. They don't want to know each of the five states you've called home. They don't want your story of how you desperately need work. They only want to know…
    • Why are you a good fit for the company? Everything you say, every skill and interest mentioned, must address how you will benefit the company. Sell yourself.
  • Do your homework by researching the company prior to the interview and work your endearment to and knowledge of the company into conversations.
  • Come to the interview fully prepared to give answers to common interview questions. If you are asked a question you feel unprepared to answer, simply respond, "That's a good question. I haven't thought about that. Let me take a minute to think." Take 10 seconds and provide, as always, an honest answer.

If you have an upcoming job interview, I trust you can take away at least one assignment: tidy up your appearance, research the company, or practice mirroring energy levels. Go get 'em!

If you are a teacher or professional with students who are blind or visually impaired, utilize CareerConnect's Preparing for an Interview lesson plan and the Job Seeker's Toolkit.


Topics:
Planning for the Future
Personal Reflections
Employment
Online Tools
Getting Around
Education
Transition