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    Career Support for Young Adult with a Disability


    My niece was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was little. She’s 26 now and wants to start looking for a job. What can I do to help her? – Jeff in Bethesda, MD.


    Thanks for your question, and thanks for your interest in supporting your niece in her efforts to begin her career. Here in the United States, more than 50 million people report having a disability – and many of them go to work every day just like the rest of the population.  But many others still struggle with finding the right pathway – they can get discouraged and never try finding work again.  Here at Goodwill, we don’t want that for anyone – and that includes your niece!

    Several years ago, Goodwill adopted the tag line – “Believe in the Power of Work.”  This phrase represents the simple truth that at Goodwill we believe that work can change lives, generate self-esteem, build skills, competencies and social networks, give meaning to life, and provide hope for a better tomorrow.

    So, here are some suggestions for you and your niece as she begins to explore her own career path:

    • Focus on what she enjoys and what her interests are. We’re all motivated to excel at work when we are doing things that interest us, things that we enjoy.  It holds true for your niece as well as for people without a disability – we are more likely to succeed if we’re working on something or somewhere that we really enjoy.
    • Build on her strengths. After she’s thought about what she likes, encourage her to think about her strengths – or assets – that would be valuable to a business. Often, the problem solving skills, ingenuity, and tenacity to overcome challenges that people with a disability may demonstrate successfully as they simply navigate each day are the very skills businesses are looking for in today’s worker. We all have strengths; help her identify hers.
    • Think about what’s next. Encourage your niece to think about building a career, not just starting a job. People today change jobs more frequently than ever. Odds are, so will your niece. So talk with her about what might be the next thing after the first job, and what she could be doing to build the skills or competencies to make that next move.

    For specific resources in your community, I invite you to contact your local Goodwill. Your niece might also be eligible for publicly available resources. Become familiar with vocational rehabilitation and your area’s one-stop career center.

    Brad Turner-Little
    GII Director of Mission Strategy
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