My journey to a Job I Love, By: Rachel Shandler

Work Hard, Be Kind, Believe in Yourself

And Amazing things will Happen

 

Graduating from college, the next step in many people’s lives is finding a job. For most people that is not always easy. It includes steps like building a resume, where to look for job, and interview preparations. For someone with a disability, it could include those things and many more that no one thinks about. I always say to people, for every five steps an able-bodied person takes, in my experience, it could take a person with a disability ten.

I have Cerebral Palsy and use a motorized wheelchair. I also do not drive and need assistance throughout the day with personal care needs. Therefore, I had to think about all those things before even deciding to go on an interview. This can be daunting and frustrating, and it was, just that, for me. I have two wonderful sisters who I watched have interview after interview. To which I was very happy for them, but also a little jealous. I was going on many of the same websites such as Career Builder and Indeed but not getting many call backs. At one point in my employment journey, my dad suggested getting a volunteer job to show my employment capabilities. I began calling around to different organizations explaining that I would like to volunteer. Every volunteer job I had, I treated like a real job. Showing up on time, doing anything that was asked, and asking to be involved in as many activities or projects as I could. My thought process was always to show what I could do, because they may decide to hire me. I also was not looking to volunteer in the typical volunteer position. I looked and asked for positions that would contribute to my goal of wanting to work in the social services field or helping people in some capacity. A few places I volunteered were a nursing home and a rehab hospital. Volunteering can also help you meet new people, for networking purposes and future recommendations you may need.

I eventually got a job as Therapeutic Staff Support Person or TSS. This was in a school setting with a student. I assisted in helping a student manage their behavior throughout the day. Every job comes with its challenges. For this job some of my challenges were navigating around the school and figuring out what is the best and easiest way for me to take my observation notes. One of the biggest obstacles for me, was making sure the organization I worked for knew about my disability. The organization I worked for knew about my disability from the time I first spoke with them. My philosophy on when and what to tell your employer about your disability is, telling them right way. They are going to find out. In my opinion It is best to be upfront. This is something to think about especially if your disability will impact the way you do your job. For me, as a Therapeutic Staff Support Person, my employer had to place me with a client that I could successfully assist. This was one reason why I needed to be open and upfront about my disability. The reason I named this as an obstacle is because it was one of the reasons I didn’t stay at the job for very long. This was a fee for service position, meaning I only made money when I worked with a client. Because it was difficult for them to find me a client who I could assist, I did not make much money or stay at the job very long.

As I continued to look for job, talking to my neighbor one day, he suggested looking into the field of Medical Coding and Billing. He suggested this because you could do this from home. This was a positive for me because I don’t drive.  After some thinking and calling my local community college, I registered for my first class. Medical Coding and Billing is a certification program of 10 classes. I decided to enroll because I am school-oriented person, this is something I feel I can excel at, and I love to learn new things.  Doing this certification program also did not come without its challenges. The internship is where I struggled the most. After the internship interview, something did not feel right. After asking and being told by the internship supervisor that there were no other places to interview, I had to stick it out. I chose a placement that was close to my home. Because of this choice, I could take public transportation to or from the internship. The real difficulty came when I realized that my supervisor at the placement would not let me do anything. This is after asking him several different times about entering codes into the computer or completing other tasks that coders were expected to do. I was told, interns don’t do the coding. I didn’t learn anything and that is why I don’t have a job in coding.

Why I think this part of my employment story is important is because I could have been a better advocate. This is because yes, I advocated for myself in the moment, constantly asking if I could do more and why I couldn’t do certain tasks.  Also asking my supervisor for a different placement. Looking back, I should have and could have contacted the schools’ program supervisor to tell her about my experience at the placement. Not for my benefit, but for the benefit of other people with disabilities that come after me. I don’t want others to have the same horrible experience I did.

While pursuing the Medical Coding and Billing Certification, I was also volunteering at Bucks County Center for Independent Living. I heard about this organization through my VR counselor. VR stands for Vocational Rehabilitation. VR is an organization that assists people with disabilities in finding employment. I started out as a volunteer with the Bucks County Center for Independent Living and have been employed since 2016. I love it! The Bucks County Center for Independent Living is an organization that works with people with disabilities. The organization offers many core services that assists in helping people to become as independent as they chose, empowering people with disabilities to reach their goals.  Like I said, I feel like people with disabilities must take 10 steps to an able-bodied persons’ 5. I feel my journey to employment has proven that statement to be true. Through my challenges I have learned so much and I wouldn’t change it. Persevering through many obstacles. I started out volunteering with many organizations, wanting to find a job helping people. Now I work as a Person-Centered Counselor and Information and Referralist helping people with disabilities find resources.

Here are a few helpful resources:

https://askjan.org/resources/Pennsylvania-Disability-Services.cfm

https://www.dli.pa.gov/Individuals/Disability-Services/ovr/Pages/default.aspx

Picture Rachel Shandler


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