Explore Your Options

The best way to explore a career that you think you may want to pursue is to talk to people who do the work or find an opportunity to try the work yourself. Start by talking to many people about the type of career you are interested in. Ask them to put you in contact with anyone they know who works in the field. As you discuss your interests with more people you will gain insight into the career. You will also make valuable contacts who may be able to help you gain experience in the field through internships, job shadowing, and mentoring. When it comes time to seek employment, these early contacts will all be valuable people to speak with about possible positions.

Career fairs bring many employers together at once. They are great places to apply for jobs or just to learn about what industries are hiring and what types of positions are available. Visit the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to find a job or career fair near you.

Career Days hosted by local schools and community colleges are also good places to talk to a variety of different employers and learn about different industries.

Apprenticeships, internships, volunteering, working with a mentor, and job shadowing are also excellent ways to learn about different jobs or industries when you are beginning a new career. They are also important opportunities to meet people who may be able to help you find employment and show them that you are a good worker with a sincere interest in the field.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships provide a structured way to learn a skilled occupation, craft, or trade. During the apprenticeship, you gain skills through a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Get more information about state-approved apprenticeship programs.

CareerOneStop has information about apprentice programs on their Apprenticeship Page.

Internships

Internships are short-term work experiences that allow you to gain practical skills and learn about an occupation in a real-world setting. Many schools and colleges have extensive programs to help you find an internship in the area you are learning about. Get more information about internships.

Some internship programs, such as The Workforce Recruitment Program from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, were specifically developed for students and recent graduates with disabilities.

Emerging Leaders is a program that provides summer internships and leadership development opportunities for college students with disabilities.

Entry Point is a program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that provides outstanding internship opportunities for students with disabilities in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and some fields of business.

Internship websites that are not specifically focused on opportunities for people who are disabled include InternJobs.com, USAJobs, which provides information on federal government job opportunities for students and recent graduates, and InternshipPrograms.com.

Volunteering

Volunteering provides an opportunity to contribute to an organization while gaining new skills and experiences. It is an excellent way to gain an understanding of a wide range of careers, particularly in nonprofit and medical settings. Because volunteering allows you to show your skills and abilities, it can lead to employment opportunities. Volunteer Match is a website that can help you find opportunities for volunteering in your area.

Mentors

Mentors are people who provide guidance to someone interested in pursuing a career similar to theirs. A mentor can help you understand what it takes to enter a field, provide support while you gain training and search for a position, and give you ongoing support and advice once you are working.

Job Shadowing

Job Shadowing involves following someone while they work. This allows you to experience the day-to-day reality of working in a particular job or industry without having to commit to the job or invest in education and training.

Traditional Work Options

Full or Part-time Employment

CareerOneStop is a good place to begin seeing what types of jobs are available that match your interests. They have a general list of the largest Job Banks and Job Portals.

The federal government’s official job site is USAJOBS. On its Individuals with Disabilities page, the site provides an extensive list of resources for job seekers with disabilities.

Self-Employment

Self-employment is an appealing option for many people with disabilities. If you are good at planning and organizing and you have the discipline to work for yourself, self-employment may be for you. Because it allows you to be your own boss, create work hours that fit your needs, and gives you freedom from disability and access related barriers such as transportation issues, inaccessible work environments, and the need for personal assistance, many people find it an appealing option.

Starting a business can be an intimidating challenge, but there are people out there who can help you. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), provides individualized technical assistance, consulting, and mentoring services to individuals with disabilities, family members, and service providers. JAN consultants handle each inquiry on a case-by-case basis, offering self-employment and small business development expertise and referrals regarding all aspects of entrepreneurship. Among these are business planning, financing strategies, marketing research, disability-specific programs, income supports and benefits planning, e-commerce, independent contracting, home-based business options, and small business initiatives for disabled veterans. JAN's services are available free of charge through their toll-free numbers 1-800-526-7234 (V); 877-781-9403 (TTY) or 1-800-232-9675/V/TTY; and their web site’s Entrepreneurship Page.

An extensive self-assessment process for individuals with disabilities that are considering self-employment has been developed by The Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities.

Temporary Employment

Temporary employment can be a great way to gain experience and start a career. If you are returning to work after some time out of the workforce, letting a temporary agency assist you in finding employment can help you re-enter the workforce, gain new skills, and reorient you to the job market. If you have been out of the workforce for awhile, temporary work is also an easy way to update your resume and add recent work history.

If you sign up with a temporary agency or staffing service, they will match you with short-term or temporary-to-permanent positions. Although you may not initially think of temporary work as appealing, it can have several benefits:

  • It will allow you to learn new skills and earn money while you continue searching for a full-time position.
  • You may be able to get more flexible hours or working conditions to fit your personal situation.
  • It will help you gain work experience, develop skills, obtain training, and make new contacts.
  • Perhaps most importantly, temporary work will allow you to check out an employer or an occupation before making a commitment to training, a particular career, or a particular employer.

CareerOneStop has an extensive list of temporary agencies, staffing services, and job recruiters.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has an interesting discussion of the use of temporary employment options by people with disabilities.

Self-Designed Work Options

Customized Employment

Customized employment considers job seekers as whole people, taking into account their skills, interests, abilities, and the conditions they need to be successful in employment, including job support. Customized employment connects job seekers with businesses where the career makes sense. It also encourages employers to examine their specific workforce needs and to fill those needs with a well-matched employee.

Customized employment involves careful consideration. But it provides job seekers with a chance to help discover a job that suits their skills and lets them make an essential contribution to a business. It also increases the productivity of the business by finding job candidates to fill positions that improve overall production in the workplace.

ODEP has a page with information, resources, and guidance on customized employment on its Customized Employment and Flexible Work Arrangements Page.

The National Center on Workforce and Disability has an excellent informational page on customized employment.

Telecommuting or Telework

Telecommuting is an appealing option for many people and it can have special advantages for people with disabilities. Telecommuting reduces or eliminates travel and commuting, often allows for a more flexible work schedule, and facilitates work for people with significant mobility issues.

One site that may be particularly helpful is the National Telecommuting Institute, which has a program that matches Americans with disabilities who require home-based work with available opportunities.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a fact sheet discussing working at home and telework as a reasonable accommodation.