Career Building Information: Cerebral Palsy Career Builder for Middle School

By Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, Disability Employment Expert
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Lifelong access to updated career building information is now essential for your middle school student with cerebral palsy (CP) in today's knowledge-based economy.

That's the conclusion V. Scott Solberg, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research, Boston University School of Education, offered a group of Global Career Development Facilitators (GCDF) at a workshop on December 9, 2010.

I participated in Solberg's GCDF workshop about the old and new ways of managing a career during these new economic times. I was the only person in the group of 40 who had a disability, so let me try to convey his thoughts to you from a CP perspective – career building information you may want to pass along to your youngster as the opportunity arises.

Solberg says there are now two new guideposts for developing a meaningful career in the new economy:

  • There is always more to learn, and learning more makes an individual more employable.

  • Success comes to those who are highly adaptable, resilient and proactive (three attributes I believe your future job seeker with CP will need to highlight in his or her job marketing campaign because learning how to live well with a disability is a training ground for developing those qualities).

In other words, the key to managing future job uncertainty is to be open to -- and ready for -- emerging career opportunities.

We've undergone three paradigm shifts in career development, Solberg explains, during the last decade:

From a niche to an entrepreneurial orientation

The old way:

We were urged to find the career that best matched our interests, skills and values.

The new way:

We now need to use an entrepreneurial approach --- one that recognizes that our employability is based on how well we assimilate career building information, recognize what is needed in the job market and hone a range of skills based on that personal assessment.

It’s what we can bring to an organization (not our grades or aptitude or one specialized skill).

That means, over the next decade or so, your youngster must diversify his or her experience and accomplishments so they reflect a broad set of skills.

From liberal arts to job-ready education

The old way:

Four years of college were relatively inexpensive, a great way to expand our intellectual horizons and an opportunity for building a network for gaining access to higher paying jobs. But those four years did not necessarily make us job ready.

The new way:

Four years of college can be a debt trap, especially for middle-class students with few scholarship options. But college is still a prerequisite for gaining access to higher paying jobs.

And four years of college still won't necessarily make your youngster with CP job ready. A two-year vocational or technical degree is job-ready focused and may be more economical in the long run because it could allow your son or daughter to join the job market sooner without heavy student loans to pay off.

From getting promoted to accessing innovation

The old way:

Building a career meant keeping our jobs by doing good work and doing well enough to get promoted.

The new way:

Building a career comes from diversifying our skills and maintaining access to the latest innovations in technology and in communication as well as in the shifts of what are considered the best practices within our profession.

Uneven lines in sandstone.

Resiliency is the key

So, the most important bit of career building information here is that your youngster, as he or she develops a career focus, must learn how to handle the uncertainty and stress that characterize the 21st century business environment and be resilient in the workplace.

What signs have you seen
that show your youngster
is learning how to handle uncertainty?
Join PACER’s
Facebook discussion.

In more concise terms, your youngster must harness the anger and depression he or she may sometimes experience due to the uncertainty and stress that everyone is experiencing as well as the anxiety and lack of self-confidence he or she may feel as a job seeker with CP and channel it into purposeful action and practice.

But let’s not forget the bit of career building information that is good news for your youngster. As an accomplishing individual with CP, your junior high school student may be already acquiring the attributes tomorrow’s employers will need – precisely the lessons he or she is learning by addressing (and working around) the roadblocks CP tends to throw in the way of navigating every-day life.

Consider what the contemporary work environment requires of employees. It’ll likely be even more stringent during the third decade of the 21st Century, according to Solberg. Your junior high school youngster needs to start preparing now for eventually answering this series of potential issues.

Life-long learning

What proof do you have that you're committed to keeping up-to-date with new developments within your field or profession and with today's continually evolving methods of communication and collaboration?

Resiliency

What personal stories do you have which can show hiring managers that you've learned how to be resilient by dealing effectively with your CP? How have you transferred your personal resiliency to a work situation (either for pay or as a volunteer)?

Entrepreneurship

How can you show hiring managers that you're passionate about your work, that you think in terms of possibilities instead of pitfalls, that you're adaptable in difficult circumstances, that you're a motivator for those who are around you, and that you're determined to succeed in what counts? This the entrepreneurial spirit today's employers seek in job candidates.

Job readiness

If you feel you're not job ready for a specific position, are you willing to volunteer your time at that company to gain the needed experience?

Innovation

How can you transfer to a work situation what you've learned about working around challenges due to your CP?

Purposeful action and practice

What has your time in rehab taught you about sticking with a routine schedule to achieve a goal, even though it may be boring, unpleasant or painful?

This is the type of career building information I wish I had when I was 14 – a road map for getting ready for work (even though full-time employment may be more than a decade away). But there’s no rush. Your youngster has plenty of time to develop his or her own base of career building information and reflect on what it all means in personal terms. The time to start, however, is now.

That’s why I believe it’s important for your youngster to do two things: fellow career building trends online and keep a journal about his or her personal struggles and triumphs of living with CP (which will eventually be a rich resource of success stories to share with prospective employers).

What signs have you seen
that show your youngster
is learning how to handle uncertainty?
Join PACER’s
Facebook discussion.

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Go to Cerebral Palsy Career Builders

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