Let’s start with a real life example:
Cerebral palsy gave Richard James Luby a limp. He also had a learning disability. As a kid he was held back in kindergarten and struggled with math in grade school. “I kind of started giving up on myself at a young age,” he says. “It was a struggle to be accepted. That was the biggest thing. If I sit down and I’m talking to you, there’s no way you’d know that I have a disability. But once I get up and walk around it’s noticeable.”
In fourth grade, Luby found humor could break down barriers. It became his coping mechanism. “If I could make people laugh in class — even at the expense of getting detention or suspension — the other students would talk to me,” he explains.
Fast forward into the 21st Century. Luby has earned a B.S. degree in sociology from Southern Connecticut State University. He is successfully applying his educational and personal experiences to help others grow in self-awareness, self-esteem and self-confidence. After serving almost two years as Director of Partnership Development (for national initiatives/relationships) for Ability Beyond in Connecticut, Luby has opened up shop on his own.
While working at Ability Beyond, Luby refined his listening, learning, training and placement skills. He observed the career growth of diverse applicants within the disability community. These applicants confirmed his conviction, that ability defines the individual job applicant -- not labels.
Today, Luby believes in his ability and considers his disability as an opportunity to show how using appropriate humor can facilitate everyday interaction and help individuals attain goals. As a professional speaker and founder of TALK the Walk Inc., an action–based disability and inclusion consulting service, he uses comedic improv to deliver impactful lessons through real-world life experiences.
Avoid Being a Round Peg in a Square Hole
Finding what excites you from a vocational standpoint often takes time. But in today’s working world, it’s an essential ingredient in successfully developing a career that is meaningful for you. There are ways to avoid taking decades to get that point.
According to J.T. O’Donnell, these are the new workplace realities of the 21st Century:
More than 86 percent of today’s working population is not happy. Only 29 percent is engaged at work.
Job security is rare in today’s global job market.
Many people have a fear of failure (for very solid economic reasons) so they don’t take risks. They follow what others think instead of considering their own happiness. That often results in situations in which they are underemployed.
“You need a coach who will provide you with objective advice in terms of how well you are performing,” says O’Donnell. “You can’t evaluate your options all by yourself. Your family and friends can be biased. You need to tap outside resources.” O’Donnell adds another wrinkle to finding a vocation that excites you. You’re likely to have nine careers throughout your working life. Including jobs with titles not yet invented.
So to build an exciting career, O’Donnell recommends basing your job search on what inspires you – your intrinsic motivation. You’ll be more satisfied in your work life than you would be by making career choices based on extrinsic factors ,which can turn out to be hollow 20 years later and lead to a mid-career crisis, she says. “Avoid the letdown you will likely feel, when you finally discover you’re a round peg in square hole,” she warns.
Six Steps You Can Take Right Now
So how do you find a vocation that excites you? O’Donnell recommends the following six tactics:
1. Do some research and find 10 companies you find interesting. This could include those within commuting distance from your home or can be found through your local library or advertising on TV. Also be sure to use social media to build your prospect list and look into the disability friendly employers featured on GettingHired.com.
2. Ask yourself why each prospective employer excites you. Like Luby in developing his small business, Talk the Walk LLC, trace your reaction back to your own life experience and what you’ve enjoyed doing and learning through voluntary or paid employment.
3. Step back and look for common patterns in the things you enjoy, with the help of partners, friends or a career coach. Ask yourself what your values are and think about what activities, skills or environments align with them.
4. Associate your answers with industries or companies or organizations, where you could imagine yourself working. This is intrinsic (internal) motivation. It will help you get up every morning and be excited about going to work.
5. Narrow down your list of 10 companies by asking yourself why each prospective employer’s opportunities excite you and write them down. You can then research the top prospects more thoroughly too.
6. Use what you’ve written down as a basis for your cover letter, resume or application customized for each prospective employer. This should show why you’re already “engaged” as a job candidate in each organization’s mission. By doing so you’re saying, “I’m already part of your ‘tribe’ because I love what you represent.” Show your excitement and motivation for each employer.
Follow these steps and you’ll gain control of the hiring process because your internal motivation is driving it. You’ll become empowered as it allows you to decide who to serve. You can even start this process with a hobby, while keeping your current job or in school, O’Donnell points out. The challenge is to learn how to monetize your hobby and transform it into a work situation that is not at an entry level. This process can give you a competitive edge and put you on a faster track towards a meaningful career that excites you.
Jim Hasse (www.jimhasse.com), Global Career Development Facilitator, has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both jobseekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities (www.perfectlyable.com/), a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. He’s the founder of www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com, a comprehensive career coaching guide for parents of youngsters with cerebral palsy, and owner of Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC, which develops win-win direct mail fundraisers for champions of disability employment.