Planning for work begins when an individual is deciding what type of job to look for. It is sometimes referred to as "career planning." During this phase, families in our study ranged from being very involved to being less involved. Those that were less involved talked about: not wanting to be thought of as a hovering parent, receiving limited communication from employment staff, and being concerned that employment staff are the "experts" and not wanting to get in the way. One parent talked about how she felt that the employment staff person knew more than she did:
"I liked the fact that [the job coach] prepared her and taught her how to interview, because she respected what they said a lot more than what we said because, of course, we're Mom and Dad...These people are trained. They know better; you don't."
Family members have considerable insight about the job seeker, and can contribute a great deal to the process of planning for work without getting in the way. They should see themselves as an important resource during the career development process.
Tips for families when planning for work:
Stay connected to employment staff and share what you know about your family member and what he or she likes to do.
Talk regularly about what your family member likes and doesn't like about their experiences at work, their goals, and their dream job. Every new experience teaches more about what makes a good job match.
Talk to families of people who are working in the community to understand what was important to them when planning for their job.
Encourage your family member to participate in community-building opportunities like volunteering. This will help him or her meet more people and be exposed to different types of jobs.
Phase 3: The Job Search
Many family members in the study had opinions about good job matches. However, at times family members acknowledged needing help raising their expectations:
"Well, she's been asking for a particular job since she was in school, and we really didn't think that was going to be a reality because most people who work in that field need accreditation of some kind. They need training; they need to pass a couple of courses at college...[But the employment staff] actually had kept feelers out looking for her and kept trying to find something in her field."
Some parents tried to protect their family members from negative experiences. They were aware of their family members' strengths, but also talked about how they were afraid for them to fail. One parent watched her son get fired from his first job because the right supports were not in place. She did not want this one experience to shape his expectations:
"He was just put in a place and no one really worked with him...It was his first job, and I didn't want him to come away with, 'I worked at a place three days and I got fired.'"
So what can families do to better support individuals and their employment staff as they look for jobs?
Tips for families during the job search:
Stay involved in the job search through communication with the job developer. Although job developers are professionally trained, families also have valuable resources to offer.
Share your personal or professional networks with job developers so that there is a wider net available to help your family member find job leads. Provide introductions to friends or acquaintances and see what opportunities may develop.
Don't get stuck on what your family member can't do. Focus on what s/he can and/or wants to do, and what supports will be needed to make this happen.
Help your family member become skilled at job interviewing. Talk about practice interview questions, how to dress, and how to make a good first impression on a potential employer.