Editor’s Note: Early work experiences and exposure to different types of jobs are both predictors of future employment for youth with visual impairments. In celebration of National Student Employment Week, learn about how Lindsay and Nina are working while attending college and how those job experiences are enriching their lives and helping them build foundational career skills.
There’s a saying that a job well done is its own reward. But when it comes to student employment, the rewards can be tangible – and valuable.
Lindsay Kerr and Nina Marranca can vouch for that. The two visually impaired college students have been working during their higher education. Even an internship can lead to a job, as Lindsay wrote about for CareerConnect, and both students agree that professional experience is building their skill sets and resumes.
Starting small can have big rewards
While Lindsay pursues her master’s degree at San Francisco State University to become a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), she is working part-time for the Disabled Students Services (DSS) office, now known as the Bob Murphy Access Center (BMAC), at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). She started out there as an intern even before she earned her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies at CSULB.
Lindsay worked with WayFinder Family Services in California. Wayfinder offers a wide variety of programs to help families of blind and low-vision children, as well as teens and transition-age youth themselves. According to Wayfinder’s Transition Servcies webpage, their mission is to support “Teens and young adults who are blind or visually impaired explore career options and successfully transition to independent living, college, or the workforce…” Lindsay shared that her experience as a Wayfinder student “was more than an internship, because I was also receiving orientation and mobility, technology, and independent living training as a student,” says Lindsay, who was ultimately hired as an instructional materials and technology consultant. “I didn’t think a job would come out of it, but I’m glad it did and I’m glad I made the connections I have.”
In fact, Lindsay thinks people getting to know her and her skills helped her build not only her portfolio of experience but her network. She thinks both are important aspects of professional development. Plus, while she pursues her master’s degree Lindsay was able to keep her rehabilitation case open – and CSULB is paying a portion of her tuition, which is the case with some state agencies.
“Not only is it helping pay for my education, but my work experience is also now helping me see the gaps that are happening in the K-12 setting for students with visual impairments,” she says. Lindsay’s work includes helping students gain new skills to fill those gaps – experience that will be invaluable once she becomes a TVI.
Know what you do – and don’t – want to do
Initially, Nina’s primary goal was finding a job – any job – because she admits she needed the money. A senior at Medaille College in New York, she’s studying Psychology and Criminal Justice, specifically Juvenile and Family Justice. She plans to go on to earn a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
She’d had some part-time jobs at school, but once COVID-19 hit it took her nearly a year to find a new job. As luck would have it, Nina landed a position as an information and referral specialist at a human services nonprofit.
“It’s a really big plus for me that this job is in the human services field doing a lot of work similar to social work,” Nina says. “Even though it’s not exactly what I want to do in grad school, it’s still experience – and you can always get specific experience through internships, which a lot of schools, including mine, require.”
Although she says it’s important to know what you want to do, so you can ideally find work as a student that’s related to your career aspirations, it’s equally important to know if you are up to the workload of working while going to school.
“I encourage students to take advantage of job opportunities, but it’s okay to recognize if you’re someone who can’t handle a job in school,” Nina says.
She emphasizes the importance of self-care, especially if a job can be stressful, as hers sometimes is. Nina makes it a point to never work on Sundays. Even if she still has schoolwork to do, it ensures one day with fewer commitments on her schedule.
Build your network while you build experience
Lindsay and Nina agree that networking is invaluable. In fact, Nina found her job because an acquaintance told her about the opening. But there are other ways beyond employment to network and gain experience.
Both students serve on the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) outreach committee, which provides resources for other students. And it’s given them both chance to build skills and connections. Nina leads a team that creates a podcast and blog, which she says is teaching her leadership, and Lindsay has written blog posts, like one about being a one-handed braille reader and writer – something she never thought she’d do.
“Everything counts on your resume, and your work history is very valuable no matter what career a student is pursuing,” Lindsay says. “Don’t be afraid to try. Every experience will help students go after whatever they want to go after in their careers – and it will show the people in their lives and society at large that it’s possible.”
National Student Employment Week is celebrated the second full week of April, which in 2022 is April 10-16. Although college students may get the greatest benefit out of work experience, high school students can also develop career skills with part-time jobs.
Speaking of Student Employment Career Exploration…
It’s never too early — or too late — to explore career options, such as computer coding. Join us for the 2022 APH Computer Coding Symposium May 9-13, where you can learn your way. From entry-level basics to advanced concepts, find out how computer coding can be an entryway to many technology careers. Learn more and register today!