Students in high school and college who live with a disability often struggle to manage their schedule. Many juggle academics, the responsibilities at home, and other activities. For some, working after school competes with completing homework. For others, the student may struggle to stay organized. If they work, academic success can suffer. How can you, as a parent, help your child prepare for working after college? Below, there are five stages to help your student in finding a job after college.

Students with disabilities may struggle to manage school and working without guidance. By providing stages that your student can master as they prepare for work, you help them overcome the most common hurdle to getting that first professional job, a lack of experience. You must be intentional to help him or her develop their own work history. Struggles in school will affect their confidence in finding work.

Five stages to finding a job after college

However, you can help them seek guidance from school guidance counselors, business owners, and college resources to prepare them to find that first professional job. Hoping that job hunting skills happen without planning is setting the student up to fail. Consider the following stages.

  1. Start with chores at home. Students who struggle with the overall responsibilities of school may find it hard to keep up with any chores. But your child may miss the opportunity to learn valuable pre-job skills. While there are debates on the value of payment for chores, everyone should do the daily work of maintaining life. Each family member can do chores within their skillset. As the student grows, he or she can take on more responsibility. It is impossible to work independently after college if you cannot manage life. So start early and help them balance academics and chores. If needed, get help from a coach or therapist to adopt chores for the student’s skills.
  2. After school jobs or volunteering – Students do not have to wait until sixteen before working. Many young people can gain valuable experience either starting a small business, volunteering, doing child care, or earning money in an informal work setting. Model how to balance homework, chores, and work. Many students with disabilities may need to be taught this balance through a schedule, checklist, or time management. Set up a schedule and include everyone. Even if the tasks take longer initially, you will be grateful when someone else in your family can do the chore. Your student will also enjoy having a small paycheck if they work. Then, you can teach money management skills. Finally, you can teach them to prioritize school over work until college is done. Help them plan the real hours they have available. Roleplay how to discuss their schedule with the boss.

Finding work in college and beyond

  1. Part-time work in college. You have already transferred the expectation to your student that they will work while attending school. Even if the student takes a reduced course load, he or she will gain valuable experience. You might steer your young adult toward attending a community college initially. Often, community colleges are more flexible with schedule and course work. Be sure to approach the disability services office and other resources at the college . These offices can help increase academic success. Consider a job on campus. The student saves money while living at home. Encourage them to apply for college work-study. You can guide them on balancing the schedule. When needed, you can provide time management tips. Finally, the student can use the career services office to find internships and practica in their career.
  2. Internships and practica. Students gain valuable pre-career experience by finding a job in their field. Even if they are unable to work during the school year, summer internships valuable work experience. Often, such opportunities have early deadlines for applications. Students should visit the career services office by the sophomore year at the latest or as soon as they transfer to university. They also need recommendations from professors and former employers. Encourage your student to approach faculty about such internships and building relationships in the community. Your student may find internships at the career services office, but they should also look at area employers. Help them advocate to find a paid internship. More than one internship on the resume will launch them into competitive employment when they graduate.
  3. Contract/freelance/job after college. If your student returns to your home after college, have them get creative. Offer to brainstorm ways they can continue to acquire experience. Suggest job search resources and skill websites like WorkItDaily. Set the expectation that they will be living independently by a certain date. Have them show you their plan and discuss progress biweekly or monthly toward the plan. Discuss how they might continue to earn experience needed to advance in their field. Harness the resources available through the local vocational rehabilitation agency if qualified. Encourage them to establish a basic income.

Young professionals (or rather all adults) who are able to work find satisfaction when they have the right placement. Sometimes, a flexible schedule provides the right health/work balance. At other times, the risk of starting a small business is worth it. Some career launchers have difficulty of getting hired in a traditional job. Most workers with disabilities struggle to avoid underemployment or extended unemployment. If you can increase the success for your student in their job hunt, you have increased their future quality of life.

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