By guest blogger, Nicole Richards, marketing/rehab intern at PRIDE Industries Headquarters.
Job hunting is a difficult process for all who attempt to conquer it. For a young, first-time job seeker it is intimidating to approach the challenge of job postings, cover letters, resumes, and interviews. For a young person with developmental disabilities like Dani Jenkins, 22, it requires even more bravery to take on such a daunting task.
Dani initially began searching for a job on her own at age 18. She interviewed at various locations but found herself discouraged, not knowing what to say or even what to wear. “It was a hard, kind of lonely time in my life,” said Dani. “I was disappointed every time I left an interview and did not get the job, and I did not know if it would ever happen for me.”
The desire to contribute to her community and become independent motivated her to keep trying, but employers were overlooking her. Dani knew she desperately needed help so that she could successfully wear a nametag and collect a paycheck.
Initially, Dani was referred to PRIDE Youth Services, a program which provides vocational training for youth with challenges and disabilities. Counselors work one-on-one with each individual making a plan to achieve their employment of choice.
“I have so many great memories of my time with Danielle, my Youth Services counselor,” says Dani. “We discussed what not to wear to an interview and how to make a good impression. I remember our meetings being a really positive experience.”
To better prepare for the next step in landing a job in the community, Dani participated in PRIDE’s Employment Services Program. “They gave me knowledge and skills that lifted my confidence,” said Dani. “I learned how to interview and be persistent, jobs search skills and most importantly, not to be down on myself.”
During this training, Dani met regularly with a PRIDE job developer to identify her abilities and learn job seeking strategies. For individuals with disabilities, Job developers are a gateway to many employment resources. This training provided Dani with the validation that she needed to present herself as a valuable asset to any employer.
Finally, her endless hours of preparation proved to be successful. Raley’s customer service team lead, Chris, had no trouble recounting Dani’s interview. “Dani got herself hired. She is awesome. She came in, and she was persistent and energetic, and she made sure she got hired,” said Chris. Dani made a great impression during the interview process. “She even wrote a nice thank you letter – it was really cool. That was the first time ever.”
Dani is going on five months of employment at Raley’s. She loves her job, especially bagging groceries. “I just love that I get to help people,” said Dani, “It makes me feel happy that someone else is enjoying their day, and when the customers come back they say they are thrilled to see a familiar face.”
To ensure that Dani continues to excel in her employment she has weekly visits with a PRIDE job coach, Julie. Julie visits Dani at Raley’s, and together they work to overcome challenges such as prioritizing tasks and time management.
Throughout Dani’s time at PRIDE, she has collected a whole team of supporters that cannot forget her outgoing personality and great desire to help others. “Without them, I do not know if I would’ve ever gotten the job because they gave me way more knowledge and confidence and they are just awesome,” said Dani. “Now I feel like I am becoming more of the adult I want to be.”