Learn step by step how to apply for jobs, prepare for interviews and get ready to start working.

Ticket to Work logo and The Seal of the United States Social Security Administration
Ticket to Work logo and The Seal of the United States Social Security Administration
Ticket to Work logo and The Seal of the United States Social Security Administration
Access to Employment Support Services for Social Security Disability Beneficiaries Who Want to Work
 
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Your Path to Work: Phase 3

Whether you are just considering working, ready to find a service provider to help you, are looking for a job, or already working and want to keep on the road to financial independence, explore the Path to Work to learn more at every part of your journey. Select the phase that best describes where you are on your journey at the top and then use the blue buttons to navigate to each article.

Phase 3: Getting a Job takes you step by step through the process of getting ready to enter the workforce, finding and applying for jobs, and being prepared for interviews.

Networking as a Way to Success

How many times have you heard the phrase “It's not what you know, but who you know?”  When it comes to career success, knowing the right person or people can mean the difference in getting a job lead, scoring the interview and landing the right job.  So you might be asking yourself, “Who are the right people to know, and how do I meet them?” The answer is through networking!

There are many ways for you or the person you know who is interested in working to effectively network:

  • Tap into a service provider’s network.  Employment Networks (EN) and state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies have organizations and employers that they work with.  You can ask your service provider for information and resources that will help you connect with these networks.
  • Network online. Social media sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo are made specifically for professional networking. Basic membership is generally free and these sites may help you expand your professional network by connecting with prospective employers, people they know, the people those connections know and so forth. A word of caution: when you sign up for online social networking sites, you are in a public domain.  Unless you are able to put a filter on some of your information, nothing is private, and it can be difficult to erase once it is posted. Share responsibly!
  • Volunteer to participate in community service events. Not only is community service a great way to meet new people, but you can also gain experience and new skills that can build up your résumé.  Learn more about the benefits of volunteering by reading the Choose Work blog on community service.

If you or someone you know is preparing to network, here are a couple of helpful tips:

  • Don’t be afraid.  Talking with a stranger may seem awkward at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. It also shows confidence.
  • Practice makes perfect.  Networking gives you experience in talking about your skills, education, abilities and career goals. This experience is great preparation for speaking confidently in job interviews.
  • Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), prepare a résumé.  Effective networking can present opportunities quickly, so be prepared.  A Ticket to Work service provider can help you prepare or update your résumé.
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Brushing Up On Your Work Skills

When pursuing employment, you or the person you know who is interested in working can improve your chances of getting the right job by brushing up on your skills.  When searching and interviewing for new jobs, you can set yourself apart from the competition and increase the chances of getting a job interview or, even better, a job offer by having the right skill set.   

While participating in Ticket to Work, you should discuss your training needs with a service provider who may help you coordinate, find, or provide appropriate skill training.  Regardless of your career goals, there are two main types of skills to focus on:

  • Soft skills - Soft skills are the combination of personality traits, behaviors, and social habits that make up who you are as a person.  These are important because they demonstrate how you may perform at work.  Soft skills include self-esteem, responsibility, integrity or honesty and self-management. When you are thinking about soft skills you need to consider the way you work with others, how you communicate with coworkers, your leadership skills, and how you manage your time and workload. The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy produced a series of videos that focus on mastering soft skills for the workplace.    
  • Hard Skills - Hard skills are learned, technical skills. Examples may include machine operation, typing speed and accuracy, knowledge of a foreign language or computer knowledge. There are many opportunities to improve hard skills or develop new hard skills. A Ticket to Work service provider can suggest training based on your specific work goals.

Community service is a great way to brush up on hard and soft skills. Consider Robert, a veteran who was featured in a Ticket to Work success story.  Robert wanted to pursue a career in social work. With the help of his EN, he found a volunteer opportunity as a peer counselor at the Heinz Veteran’s hospital in his hometown of Chicago.  Robert’s volunteer experience as a peer counselor proved to be a valuable stepping stone to achieving his position as a National Service Officer for the Paralyzed Veterans of America.  Watch or read Robert’s story to learn how he improved his social work skills, enhanced his résumé and gained work experience. To learn more about the benefits of community service, check out the Choose Work blog on community service.

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Making an Important First Impression with Your Résumé

A résumé provides an important opportunity to highlight the skills, experience, education, accomplishments and your specific career goals or the goals of the person you know who is interested in working. It’s the first impression a potential employer has of you!   

Whether you are updating a résumé for a new career or writing a résumé for the first time, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Summarize education, experience and accomplishments in a way that highlights your best and most relevant achievements and skills
  • Choose a simple, clean format and organize the content in an easy-to-read manner
  • Relate your experience and skills to the job in question
  • Be clear, concise and error-free

For additional tips and tricks on how to make a résumé that shines, visit Career One-Stop’s Résumé Guide, a part of the American Job Center network.  A service provider may also be able to provide or coordinate help with résumé writing. Don’t forget to ask for help from friends, family or mentors!

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Finding and Applying for the Right Job

Searching and applying for jobs can be a lengthy process.  For anyone going through the job application process, it’s helpful to have support, resources and a plan.  An Employment Network (EN) or Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency can coordinate or provide help with the search, application and job placement process.   

You or the person you know who is interested in working should take an active role in the job search.   There are many websites specifically dedicated to helping people with disabilities find employment. Seeking expert advice from an EN or VR about the opportunities found on these sites can help narrow the search. Here are a few sites to start your search for job opportunities:

 

Are you interested in working for the Federal Government? “Schedule A” hiring is a way Federal agencies can fast-track employment for people with disabilities who qualify for vacancies. There are also new regulations called Section 503 that encourage federal government contractors to hire people with disabilities. Learn more about Schedule A and Section 503 hiring.

If you are a Veteran with a disability, you can also check out VA JOBS where you can get connected with federal and private sector jobs for Veterans.

When applying for jobs, tailor your résumé to the job.  Try to match your experience and skills to the desired qualifications of the job. Your Ticket to Work service provider will offer support and resources for every step of the way, so don’t hesitate to ask for help! 

*All links to non-governmental resources are provided for informational purposes only, and thus no endorsement shall be implied or assumed.

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Interview Prep Tips and Tricks

Preparation can make or break a job interview. This may sound obvious, but too often it's overlooked. If you or someone you know who is interested in working is preparing for an interview, use the tips below to help guide the interview prep.    

A few days before the interview you should:

  • Brush up on your résumé – Know how your qualifications relate to the position.  Review how your knowledge, skills and character traits will help you succeed in the position. Make note of your past achievements and be prepared to describe your work experience and accomplishments in detail. When answering the interviewer’s questions, ask yourself, "What would I want to know about this person whom I am interviewing for the job?"
  • Learn about the opportunity – Research the company and the position so you’ll be prepared to discuss how your experience and qualifications relate to the position and company’s overall mission.  While researching the opportunity, jot down questions as you think of them.  Coming prepared with thoughtful questions shows you take the opportunity seriously. Review the company’s website, social media or social networking sites and search the Internet for information and news about the company.
  • Decide about disclosing your disability – You’ll want to consider whether or not you intend to disclose your disability in the interview. 
  • Practice! – Think you’re ready?  Schedule a mock interview with your service provider so you can practice your skills and answers and polish your delivery before you meet with potential employers. 

On the day of the interview:

  • Dress for Success – Dress appropriately for the position you’re seeking. Your attire must fit well within the office or place of employment. If you don’t know what the typical attire at the company is, ask when setting up the interview. Your shoes should be polished; pants/skirts and shirts/blouses pressed. Clean hair and fingernails are essential. Avoid excessive cologne, jewelry or make-up.
  • Be on time– Allow extra time for traffic, parking and slow elevators. Plan to arrive a few minutes early. If necessary, make a practice trip to the interview location and time yourself. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable. If you require paratransit or a personal driver, remember to make your arrangements well ahead of the day of the interview!
  • Be likable - Be enthusiastic about the position. Show confidence and competence. Be courteous and friendly and don’t forget to smile!
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What You Need to Know About Job Accommodations

Did you know that people with disabilities who have disclosed their disability to their employer are ensured reasonable accommodations by their employers under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?   “Reasonable accommodations” means adapting the job site or job functions for a qualified person with a disability to enable the individual to enjoy equal employment opportunities. 

An employer can modify the work site or the job itself; both are considered accommodations.  Examples of accommodations an employer might make include:

  • making existing facilities accessible, such as building a ramp or widening a doorway
  • allowing for flexible work schedules, such as part-time or modified hours
  • adjusting or modifying tests, training materials or policies
  • providing readers and interpreters
  • acquiring or modifying equipment
  • reassigning the employee to another position

It's important to remember that what employers do to accommodate an employee with a disability can vary from employer to employer and individual to individual.  If you or someone you know who is interested in working needs help determining how to discuss and receive job accommodations, consider these resources:

  • Service providers – many ENs and VRs offer assistance in requesting and arranging job accommodations with an employer.
  • Job Accommodations Network (JAN) – JAN is an organization that offers consultation and support in arranging job accommodations between employers and employees. 
  • ADA’s Guide to Employment – learn more about the benefits, support, and protections offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • PABSS – Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security organizations may represent eligible beneficiaries to remove barriers precluding successful employment including understanding and protecting rights, responsibilities, and reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act
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Tips for Acing a Job Interview

When you or someone you know who is interested in working is prepping for a job interview, the key to success is to sell yourself!  You cannot rely on your application or résumé to do the selling for you. Interviewers will want you to speak for yourself.

If you are interviewing for a job soon, keep in mind these tips:

  • When answering questions, make and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Be engaging and show enthusiasm. This communicates to the interviewer that you have sincere interest in the job.
  • Prepare and rehearse answers to possible interview questions. By practicing answers, you’ll appear more relaxed and confident in the interview.
  • Don’t inquire about salary, vacations, bonuses, retirement or other benefits on the initial interview. These types of questions are best saved for when you receive a job offer.
  • Many applicants wonder, however, what to do if the interviewer asks them what salary they desire. If this occurs, you should indicate what you have earned in the past but acknowledge that salary is just one factor and that you are more interested in the total opportunity than in a specific salary. Salary ranges for particular types of jobs can be found using a salary tool, such as Salary.com or Glassdoor.
  • Most importantly, appear confident and comfortable with your qualifications and background. 
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Leaving a Good Impression After the Interview

So far, we have discussed how you or the person you know interested in working can prepare for and be successful in a job interview. This post-interview follow up message is the final step of the interview process. It’s important for two reasons:

  • It shows initiative and reinforces your qualifications and interest in the job
  • It helps continue the conversation beyond the initial interview

What should the follow up message say?  You should summarize the conversation that you had with the interviewer and re-emphasize the skills and qualifications you would bring to the position. Avoid sending a generic thank you letter.

This is your opportunity to reinforce why you are the perfect candidate for the job, so take the time to highlight your unique qualifications so you will stand out and be remembered.

There are several ways you can communicate your follow up message.  Some options are:

  • Email – It’s a fast, friendly and  doesn’t put pressure on the interviewer
  • Letter – A handwritten or typed note has a nice personal touch but takes longer to receive than email
  • Phone – If you and the interviewer have been talking on the phone throughout the interview process, a phone call or voice message might be appropriate.

In deciding which option to use, think about how you have communicated with the interviewer so far. What seems to be their preferred method of getting in touch?  Use your best judgment when determining the method of follow up.

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Keep Motivated While Looking for Work!

The ability to get - and stay - motivated during a job hunt is one of the most critical skills for anyone looking for employment.  If you or someone you know is looking for work, it’s important to stay focused and energized.  Here’s a list of tips that can help you stay on track!

  • Be patient and realistic about the job-search time frame – Don’t expect to land a job offer in a matter of days.  The process takes time and maintaining a realistic view on the time line can help keep you from getting discouraged.
  • Believe in yourself – Maintaining confidence not only helps you stay motivated, it helps you in interviews!
  • Set realistic goals – By setting achievable goals, you feel successful by making progress.  For example, you might set a personal goal of applying for at least one job and attending a networking event in a week.
  • Use and build your network – We previously discussed the importance of networking.  While seeking employment, you should continually build your network and stay in frequent touch with family and friends, service providers and anyone who may help open doors to new job opportunities.
  • Expand your résumé – Use this time to pursue training, education or a volunteer experience.  It shows ambition and helps to enhance your résumé.

For motivation and encouragement, browse Ticket to Work success stories and read or hear about real people whose persistence and determination enabled them to get a good job that has led to financial independence.

If you are still having a difficult time finding employment, talk to a Ticket to Work Service Provider for advice and help

Once you have landed a job, the next step on the path is maintaining employment and managing your money so you can continue to be successful!