From School to Work
While you were in high school you may have had summer jobs, working for a local merchant or helping out in a family business. That's the way many young people, with or without vision problems, preview the adult world of work. It's good experience and you get paid for it. You also reinforce some basic good habits such as:
- Reliability—getting to the job every day that you're expected to be there, on time and ready to start work
- Responsibility—completing each of the tasks that you're assigned, keeping your work space neat, and putting away any tools or materials you've used before leaving for the day
- Initiative—getting started as soon as you arrive without having to be reminded; if you finish a task more quickly than expected, letting your boss know you're ready to take on another task that needs to be done
But those summer jobs probably didn't require the more formal job-related skills that you will need when you start looking for full-time work. For example:
- Creating a resume—a one-page, well-organized outline of your high school education including any vocational courses, part-time or summer jobs, and any volunteer or extracurricular activities that indicate your special interests and/or abilities. Once you've drafted it, show it to your family for their comments and suggestions. When it's in final form, save it in your computer files for current use and periodic updating.
- Consulting a vocational counselor to discuss:
• Your Individualized Educational Program (IEP) as it relates to making the transition from school to work
• What sort of entry level job you're interested in and what your longer term goals are
• How to go about your job search
- Identifying and contacting potential employers—you'll find job listings, usually organized by type of job, in your local newspaper and on the Internet. An increasing number of companies refer job applicants to their web site for details about specific jobs and want resumes with cover letters sent by e-mail.
- Interviewing for a job—when you get a positive response from a company you've applied to, the next step is usually to call or e-mail the human resources office to set up an appointment for an interview. Do some practice calls and interviews with a parent, relative, or friend before you make your first call. That will smooth out any rough spots and help you get over the discomfort and anxiety that most people feel about being interviewed.
- Maintaining a job—this may be the most challenging part of being in the workforce. Once you've been offered a job that appeals to you and accepted the offer, you want to do it well; establish good relationships with coworkers and the people you report to; and be given more responsibility, promotions, and salary increases. While the human resources staff will explain the employer's procedures and policies—office hours, how much time you have for lunch, the number of sick days, holidays, and vacation days you're entitled to—there is certain behavior expected of you that won't necessarily be spelled out because it's taken for granted and learned more through observation than explanation, such as:
• Good grooming
• Friendly attitude
• Helping coworkers if you've finished your own work—and if you can't see that they're busy when you aren't, you'll have to ask them to let you know
• Showing enthusiasm for your work and eagerness to take on more responsibility
If you have questions about your rights in the workforce, be sure to go to the Employment area of this web site. It includes information about what you can request an employer to provide in the way of reasonable accommodation to enable you to work efficiently.
And before you leave school, visit CareerConnect®, one of the best resources available for exploring careers, writing a resume, preparing for an interview, or locating a successfully employed adult with a visual impairment to chat with about a job you're considering.