What Does a Disability Job Coach Do?  

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Finding the right career something that fits your interests, skillset, and needs can be tricky. This is a task that can be overwhelming for anyone. But for people with disabilities who are in need of accommodations, there is often an added complexity to the job search process. This is where Job Coaches and Employment Specialist come into play.  

Our team at employU is here to guide clients on their journey by helping them find the right placements, experiences, and career paths for each individual. Job Coaches and Employment Specialists tailor the job search experience to each client. It’s not just about finding a job; it’s about finding the right match for both the client (job seeker) and the employer. Taking into account a clients needs, strengths, and interests, a Job Coach or Employment Specialist aims to not only find a position where they will succeed, but one they will enjoy.  

Job Coaches and Employment Specialists does many things, however, the three main services they provide are: 

  • Helping a client discover successful and sustainable career paths  
  • Guiding a client on their career path journey 
  • Providing on-going support for the client once they are hired 

To gain more insight on how Job Coaches and Employment Specialists assist their clients, we spoke to members of the employU team: Sheila Novak, Kwin Chavis, Michelle Hansen, and Heather Beamenderfer. Sheila works with adult clients as an employment specialist. With six years of experience in the field, she spearheaded employU’s service expansion into the Florida Keys. Also working with adult clients, Kwin Chavis is an employment specialist in Volusia County. Kwin has a background in social work and five years of experience in a vocational setting. She joined the employU team in 2018.  

Michelle and Heather both work in employU’s Transition Youth Program. With fifteen years of experience, Michelle works in the Martin County, Okeechobee County, and Palm Beach County areas. Heather’s background as a teacher and a life coach ultimately led her to a career as an employment specialist and job coach. With over four years of experience in the field, Heather is now an employU Transition Coordinator and covers Jacksonville and the surrounding areas. They have all worked within the field to assist clients in reaching their career goals.  

 

Helping a Client Discover Possible Successful and Sustainable Career Paths 

Finding a career path that encompasses a client’s interests, skills, and needs is essential to a successful and sustainable future. But how does a Job Coach or Employment Specialist accomplish this goal? “It’s important to listen, observe, and really hear [clients],” says employU Employment Specialist Sheila Novak. Taking the time to meet, either virtually or in person, with a client and talk about their strengths, challenges, interests, and goals is key to finding the best unique career path for each individual 

During this time, it is important for the Employment Specialist/Job Coach to form a relationship with the client so that the client feels comfortable expressing any concerns they may have. employU Employment Specialist Kwin Chavis tells us, “One tip that I have for potential clients is to be open to discussing your weaknesses and setbacks. I ask questions to help the client find the right fit within their job goal.”  

During this process, Kwin recognizes that communication between the Employment Specialist/ Job Coach and the client is key. “I help clients overcome challenges by walking them through the process step-by-step, letting them know what I have or have not been doing, and asking for their feedback, asking them to brainstorm ideas, and engage hands-on in the process.” 

Assessments, such as Vocational Evaluations and Psychological Evaluations, also assist the Job Coach/Employment Specialist in finding the right fit for each client. “Vocational Evaluations are extremely helpful in that they outline the client’s strengths, detail weaker areas, and suggest careers that may be a good fit. I pair the results of the report to the client’s search criteria, abilities, interests, and available opportunities. It saves time in the search process and provides talking points in pitching clients to employers,” explains Kwin. Heather adds, “It gives me foresight [into] the individual client and their skills, interests, and abilities.” 

The Employment Specialist/ Job Coach will also work with the client’s Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC). Sheila describes how the VRC and Employment Specialist / Job Coach work together in the best interest of the client; “Each client’s Vocational Rehab Counselor has spent time evaluating the needs, education, and interests of the client. Their assessments include outcomes which might be OJT [on-the-job training] referrals, providing needed equipment to help the client do their job, [or]… needed clothing for interviews or work... The VRC and Employment Specialist become a team, complementing each other’s service to provide the best experience and path to success for the client.” 

 

Guiding a Client on Their Career Path Journey 

Once a career path is decided on, it’s time for the Employment Specialist or Job Coach to help the client figure out how to achieve those career goals. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding the right position with the right business. Other times, it’s starting an on-the-job training to gain work experience or completing job preparation courses. My favorite aspect of my job is seeing youth learn and grow from the classes they take and the on-the-job trainings they get to experience,” says Heather. Whatever the case may be, the Employment Specialist/Job Coach is there each step of the way to help the client through this process.  

One of the more obvious tasks of a disability Employment Specialist or Job Coach is to find businesses that can and will provide whatever accommodations are needed for their clients. This venture can be intimidating for clients to approach on their own but with an Employment Specialist/ Job Coach, the client goes in knowing they have someone backing them. 

“I am very straightforward with businesses. I let them know the accommodations needed and I provide reminders…as needed, in case they forget. If a business is unable to understand how to provide reasonable accommodations, then I provide suggestions,” says Kwin. “I do not just look for a business. I look for a business that understands our mission and wants the same for our clients as we do. To build them up to help them grow,” explains Heather 

In this way, an Employment Specialist/ Job Coach is able to take this task off of the client’s plate while advocating for the client. Sheila expresses, “There are some myths out there about hiring people with disabilities and it’s part of my job to dispel those myths. The truth is that people with disabilities have less absenteeism, are very motivated, [and] have many abilities no different than a person without a disability.” 

 

Providing On-Going Support to the Client Once Hired 

An Employment Specialist/ Job Coach’s work isn’t done once the client has begun employment or the journey of their career path. One of the biggest roles of an Employment Specialist/Job Coach is to continue to advocate for the client and provide support. Sheila also explains that continuing to follow up with the business and client is an important part of her role, “Part of my advocacy is providing follow up communication with a supervisor and the new employee to help assure a smooth transition and long-term retention.” 

Emotional support can also be an especially important part of the Employment Specialists/Job Coach’s service. During a challenging time, an Employment Specialist/Job Coach is in the client’s corner, cheering them on. “I encourage them to stay [focused] on their goals, I acknowledge what they are doing right and not just the wrongs, I try to always find a positive point or silver lining in all situations, and I live by the mantra, ‘Nothing beats a failure but a try,’” Kwin details. Michelle has a tip for clients when they begin to feel discouraged during bumps in the road, “One tip; don’t’ give up. There is something out there for everyone.” Heather has similar advice for clients, “Don’t give up. Be persistent.” 

Sheila explains how she hopes to provide a positive impact on clients, just like they do for her. “There have been people in my life that will remain forever a positive influence even if I don’t see them anymore. I hope to be that person to someone else, and with every challenge comes the opportunity to be impacting.” Sheila often reflects on the positive impact clients can have saying “I had a client and I’ll call him ‘Bob.’… Bob was my first client at employU… Bob taught me about the human spirit, the desire and ability to overcome, about being creative, about alternate means, about making friends, about never giving up. Bob is one of those people that I mentioned above, that will remain influential upon me. He doesn’t know it, but he has helped with every client that I have since had.” 

At the end of the day, a Job Coach or Employment Specialist builds a special relationship with each client. They are there to assist, guide, and advocate for their clients. At employU, Job Coaches and Employment Specialists tailor their services to the needs of the individual and aim to find the best fit for both the client and business partner, resulting in a sustained and successful career. For more information on our services visit https://employu.org/client-services/