When I was 16 years old, our public school system and the school for the blind in the state cooperated to hold a “career weekend” for blind students in the region. The weekend was one of those defining moments in my life, a kind of moment that happens very seldom throughout life and that, in this case, was very positive.
During the weekend, I met and/or heard from successful blind adults. Their successes were as lawyers, judges, vending stand operators, computer programmers, piano tuners, teachers, rehabilitation counsellors, even a town mayor. All these people created for us, as students, what was undeniably the single most inspiring event of my adolescent education. It was a “Yes we can” experience of the time. It proved beyond doubt the possibility of having a career and gainful employment as a blind adult. If others could be so successful, I would be as well.
For me, that success has been chequered with indecision, doubt and redirection over the years. This is not an easy era for the career-oriented individual. In fact, careerism is no longer well rewarded or, in my opinion anyway, something to which a person can safely aspire to achieve. With this comes inherent difficulties but significant freedom as well. Most importantly, whatever my doubts and moments of indecision, I put these things aside, made decision, and did not let my doubts override my faith in being able to succeed. I recommend this approach as a starting place.
Despite the changing environment, I have been able to steer a course that has done well for me thus far. Through my undergraduate years, my indecision exhibited itself by first an inability to choose a major. Finally, I settled on history. But, soon I changed to music in order to take advantage of free music lessons from graduate students. At the 11th hour, I settled on Political Science with an idea of going to law school. But then, I began thinking about how stereotypical it would be to go into a career as a blind lawyer and ignored my professors who insisted I had an unusual talent for understanding the law and chose to go into graduate school in the field of Public Administration. That decision has done well by me, but today I wish I had a law degree. Not every decision we make in life is 100% right on, but in order to be successful, decide we must!
In the meantime, my parents were not able to finance my college education after the first year and I had to leave the university and find a way to make some money. People find this hard to believe, but I took a job at the close of the Spring semester at the local Lighthouse for the Blind, a factory, and became more expert than I ever wanted to be about every type and configuration of hose in a Peterbilt truck you could imagine. I could wrap them, blow waste out of them, cut them with a variety of saws, and put innumerable types of fittings and caps on them. It was awful work, but it paid. And, so much for avoiding stereotypical work as a blind person!
Later, I would find work in a taping service and radio reading service. Ultimately, I got back to school and then went on to graduate school to obtain an MPA degree. There, I worked for a stipend as the disabled student advocate coordinator. I also researched and wrote on the topic of school desegregation methodology with the research being published by my university in a compendium with similar work.
Graduate school was undoubtedly one of the most difficult experiences of my life. But, my competitiveness and desire to succeed led me to graduate with a 3.85 GPA, far better than my undergraduate GPA, and as academically published. Also, I interned with a city counselman for 6 months, learning a lot about the political ropes of city politics. These things could be leveraged into becoming 1 of 250 outstanding graduates of that year from around the country in public policy programs and accepted into an initiative of the Federal government called the Presidential Management Intern Program. I had every reason to feel fulfilled and happy.
Within two years, I knew that I had made a terrible mistake. Working in the huge Federal bureaucracy just was not for me! I loved the rough and tumble of city politics, and I loved being able to feel that something was happening based on my research and work. Federal work was, for me, a numbing, deadening experience. It didn’t help that a new President made my agency a campaign issue and target.
So, what do you do in such a case? My answer is: You survive and you pursue every option you can imagine. In this situation, I did so with a complete career transition to TeleSensory Systems. This took two years to accomplish. It was the first of many transitions.
Does the information presented so far give you a sense of my philosophy and strategies about employment? I hope so, but so far, I’ve only taken you on the first steps of my personal journey. You may say “that’s really enough, thank you”. And, we are heading toward the 1,000 word count on this post, far longer than I like to write in any single post. Then too, this is not meant to be some sort of mini-biography either.
So, let’s leave the story here and get some dialog going. What is your philosophy about job hunting and job acquisition? What education and career options have you chosen thus far? What has worked and not worked in your employment history? Not employed yet? What do you want to know about strategies and techniques that can be expanded on for future posts?And at 980 words, I’m going to give this post a rest. Please respond and let’s get into some good discussion.