From my own experience, I can tell you having a job coach was critical part of my personal and professional growth. In order to demonstrate this, I will cite examples of my time at Target and my time at an internship with the Illinois State Treasurer’s office. Each of those roles involve expectations of communication, professionalism, and other workplace skills that are often difficult for a person with disability to use properly.
First of all, let us turn to the Target example. From November 2015 to January 2016, I worked at Chicago’s Uptown Target during the busy Christmas rush season. I initially had nearly open availability, which was done so I could get the job, but once I saw the schedule, I freaked out. In order to resolve the matter, I allowed my job coach to assist both the business and me in finding a mutually agreeable solution for both parties. In addition, I often found it to be difficult to express workplace concerns without fear of being judged harshly or misunderstood. Thus, by talking it over with the job coach, I was able to figure out ways to honestly and respectfully communicate those concerns with management to better advocate for myself.
Next, to the matter of the internship in Illinois State Treasurer office. Working at a professional office comes with very high expectations of how one behaves and dresses. Both question issues that reflect a lot of people with disabilities struggle with. Asking your manager if you behaved appropriately or dressed in the right way is a very awkward question for anyone. Thus, a job coach can help bridge that gap by giving tips before and after the individual begins the workday. The job coach can cover topics like social norms, how to dress, and be someone for management and employee to share concerns to ensure equal and proactive communication.
A job coach allows the individual with the disability to be seen for the skills and talents they have rather than the outside issues that have held them back in the past. This is particularly case in the worlds of business and government, where there is a very high demand for specialized skills. Often times, people with those skills get overlooked due to various outside issues not directly related to what the job requires. The job coach can bridge that gap to ensure a level playing field for people of all abilities and so the company has access to the broadest talent pool possible to make their organization thrive.
Thanks to our guest blogger Bill Sitter for contributing to this blog! Bill Sitter is a resident of Rogers Park and masters graduate of Roosevelt University. He is also a former member of JJs List Disability Awareness Players and No Boundaries Group. He currently works at People Scout as a screener and is pursuing a career in public service.