By Brian Rohde, JJsList.com Disability Awareness Player, ComEd Energy Force Ambassador, Meijer Employee
My name is Brian Rohde. I have a Geography degree from Valparaiso University, but as a person with a learning disability, I have faced obstacles in pursuing and finding a job. My obstacles included a lack of work experience and communication struggles. Luckily, I found three great programs and organizations that helped me get past these obstacles.
In 2016, I got involved with the Search Inc.’s No Boundaries program, a skills-building program for people with disabilities. Through No Boundaries, I learned important skills related to career planning and was given opportunities that I continue to benefit from today.
At No Boundaries I learned to develop new interview strategies. I engaged in mock interview exercises, which helped me brainstorm how to phrase appropriate answers. The interview practice helped me become comfortable interacting with employers. Group discussions helped me become more confident and improved my professional communication skills dramatically. The feedback I got from the Trainers and Mentors was great.
As a No Boundaries participant I was given the opportunity to become a ComEd Energy Force Ambassador. The ComEd Energy Force Program gives individuals with disabilities the opportunity to interact with people in the community to help save energy. As an Energy Force Ambassador, I provide energy savings tips and pass out energy savings giveaways. Through the program, I have become more detail-oriented and more comfortable interacting with the public. I am very passionate about environmental conservation and sustainability. The Energy Force Program gives me a platform to convey this passion and to work with other individuals with disabilities.
Through No Boundaries, I also discovered the JJsList.com Disability Awareness Players. The Players are a troupe of people with disabilities who train businesses, organizations, and schools on how to be disability aware. As a Disability Awareness Player, I participate in Disability Awareness Trainings across the Chicago Metropolitan Area at a variety of organizations, including public libraries, The Field Museum, the Morton Arboretum, Chicago History Museum, and The Art Institute.
My role in the Trainings is to show the audience the correct way to communicate with an individual with a processing disorder. In role plays, I demonstrate that it is important for a supervisor to be patient and to provide clear, detailed instructions to someone with a processing disorder. Being a Disability Awareness Player completely elevated my communication skills, and I am now more comfortable in interacting with people with disabilities, as well as the general public.
With better communication skills and more self-confidence, I landed a part time retail position at Meijer!