Tag Archives: experience

Experience with a disability is sometimes the best experience

Talking about real-life, hands-on experience. I ran across a job listing on Indeed.com that called for someone who has “Lived experience with mental health issues and treatment.” An organization in eastern Massachusetts says this experience is strongly preferred. For the first time, I am impressed with an organization’s willingness to openly hire a person with a disability—in fact, require it.

mental-illness

I’m not ignorant to the fact that organizations employ people with disabilities; I just haven’t seen a job ad that highly suggests that candidates must have a disability.

Before I became a workshop facilitator at an urban career center, I was its Disability Program Coordinator where I helped people with disabilities re-enter the labor market. So I’m familiar with the struggles this population faces in getting past the stereotypes of being disabled, physically, mentally, or both.

Never did I see an organization actively seek people with mental illnesses. Hell, it was hard identifying those organizations who would entertain the idea. This is the main reason why I found job development so frustrating; too hard getting past the gatekeepers who showed their disapproval like a billboard when you asked if they needed someone with qualifications…who happened to have a disability.

It is a known fact that many substance abuse counselors are in recovery themselves. This gives them a better idea of what people with substance abuse issues are enduring and allows them to speak about recovery more accurately.

Sometimes the best cops are the ones who grew up “on the streets,” because they know the environment and behavior of the criminals they’re trying to apprehend. Real-life experience is the best teacher in my mind.

So I was encouraged to see this ad that calls for a person with real-life experience to assist a defined population. Doesn’t it make sense that the people who understand others with disabilities, substance abuse, and criminal backgrounds help or otherwise interact with them?

More to the point, this organization opens up opportunities for people who may be victimized by discrimination because of their disability. Instead they welcome candidates to share their knowledge and expertise with the less fortunate.

I recall one assistant director of a Department of Mental Health clubhouse proudly exclaim that he suffered from bi-polar disorder. He happened to be a great advocate of people with mental illness. Incidentally, he became a director of another DMH clubhouse.

Should employers who serves those with mental illness be the only ones to hire people with this type of real-life experience? Hell no. A brilliant psychologist who worked for the Department of Mental Health told me something I’ll never forget, which was that the best medicine for someone suffering from mental illness is work.

Photo: Flickr, Ryan Baker

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15 reasons why companies should hire mature workers

I woke up this morning with the same neck pain that’s been plaguing me for two weeks. I developed the pain when I was toweling off after a shower and WHAM, it felt like someone stuck a knife in my neck. Sometimes life sucks getting older.

I may be getting older, but I’m not too humble to say I’m good at what I do. I get to work early and often leave late. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m driving my kids around town almost every night, I’d probably take on another job. I like working and know many people my age who do as well.

So I wonder why some companies are downright ignorant and won’t hire mature workers like me. Don’t they realize we have a wealth of experience and a truckload of accomplishments, not to mention life experience that allows us to handle small problems our teenagers can’t? Don’t they know mature workers want to work?

One of my favorite workshops that I lead is called Mature Worker. In this workshop we laugh, kvetch, and sometimes cry about our unemployment status. What we wonder is why employers don’t see the value we bring to the table. Yeah we have experience that younger workers don’t, but we have much more:

  1. We can party. That’s right; we can party with the best of them. We just don’t do it the night before work and especially the night preceding a tradeshow.
  2. We are dependable. Did you ever notice who’s always at work and always on time? That’s us. We don’t have the responsibilities we once had when we attended school events, stayed home during snow days, and tended to our children when they were sick.
  3. We have better taste in music. Lady Gaga? AC/DC, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and U2 are more our style.
  4. We’ve been there done that. We’ve made our share of mistakes; and unless we’re total morons, we don’t repeat them. This speaks to our life experience.
  5. We have no life. We’ll volunteer to come in to work over the weekend, because no one younger than us will.
  6. We can still talk on the phone. Our interpersonal skills are exceptional, because we aren’t texting all the time like our kids are.
  7. We know technology? Case in point, a 60+ year-old jobseeker told our Mature Worker group that he had saved his former company considerable time when he reduced a process from 60 minutes to 6 minutes by converting a program from Java to C++.
  8. We work smarter, not harder. “Done right the first time” has real meaning with the mature worker. Let others work at break-neck speed and repeat their actions; don’t take our focus and steady work as being slow.
  9. We’re great at customer service. We’ve waited in line at Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and other places where cashiers were distracted by their coworkers of the opposite gender. We realize how important it is to satisfy the customer.
  10. We’re confident in our skills. We know we can lead projects, coordinate teams of 25 people, run a global marketing campaign, etc. Can we still do a bicycle kick? Hell no.
  11. We are composed. Many of us have been through the ringer. We’ve suffered losses. We’ve raised our kids to be responsible individuals. This life experience has prepared us to keep our heads and remain calm.
  12. We can laugh at ourselves. So maybe my memory isn’t what it used to be, but it was funnier than hell when I wore two different shoes to work. No problem, I had an extra pair in my cube.
  13. We cope well. See number 12.
  14. We’re mature. We appreciate a good time or two, but the office is professional. Gone are the days when I would toss the Nerf football around the office or put Vaseline on my colleagues’ telephone receivers or put rubber eyeballs in the water cooler. (That was a good one.)
  15. We’re everywhere. Have you ever noticed that a large majority of CEO’s, presidents, VP’s, and managers are mature workers? You can’t get rid of us…unless you want the ship to sink.

I don’t know when my neck will feel better or when I’ll reduce my walking time, but I know that, like fine wine that ages with time, I’ll only get better at what I do on the job. As time goes on, I’ll impart my wisdom, level-headedness, and sense of humor on those who are less fortunate than mature workers.