Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Selecting a Vocational Goal


What can we expect when our family member is trying to choose a vocational goal?

Ambivalence is not uncommon when individuals are struggling with employment goals. They may be ambivalent about working (at all) and ambivalent about which specific route to take or type of job to select. If there are other factors such as transportation problems, child care, elder care or medical complications, the choosing of a goal becomes even more complicated.

In such cases, Motivational Interviewing is a particularly helpful technique that service providers might use to move the process along. It helps the job seeker to think about vocational goals based on interests, abilities, limitations, dreams, opportunities and options.

One of the most important aspects of choosing is piecing together the relevant information: about one’s self and about the potential types of work, requirements, availability, and labor market trends. The key to success in employment is matching the values of the job seeker and the employment setting. (Kirsh) No one Employment Specialist or Counselor can know all the information that might be needed about all jobs/careers. However, the most important factor is whether the Employment Specialist (or the job seeker), has access to the information. When the job seeker is working to narrow down interests, they may need assistance in building readiness for employment. A plan for employment should be developed in which the job seeker identifies some potential options, related information, labor market trends, personal values and other important factors. The Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation promotes the Choose, Get, Keep model of rehabilitation planning. Ultimately, a plan can be drafted that outlines one or two goals and what each person needs to accomplish to achieve the goals (the who, what, where and when). This approach begins with a rehabilitation diagnosis of skills and limitations, a plan of action and the intervention to be used. (Rogers)

If your family member has an Employment Specialist or someone to help, an employment plan is generally developed with the person. When the goal is finally established in print, your family member may have a new energy that can “spread” to the rest of the family and even to the service providers.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

Explore potential occupations through the US Department of Labor’s informational guide to hundreds of careers.

The 6 Reasons You’ll get that Job

Elisabeth (Harney) Sanders-Park’s book discusses the job-search and hiring processes from the employer’s perspective. Namely four ways to prove a candidate has what an employer wants, six tools to avoid being screened-out, and strategies for people with barriers to employment.

Career One Stop

Get the most recent data available on industries in your region or nationwide.

What if they don’t want my help?

This often comes up with many young people (and, in fact, people of all ages) with mental health conditions. It may be helpful to ask family members how you can best help them without making their decisions. Let your family member know that you are there to support the choice they make. Consider the difference between information and advice. You can provide information in a “neutral” way that does seem like advice. Your family member will likely need other mentors and confidants to guide them through the process.

It may be that your family member can do a number of things without your help. However, families can play a valuable role in assisting their family member long before the vocational decisions are made or before a vocational search begins. They can help them build up their social connections which can pay off in the future employment efforts (Amodo). In other words, the needed networks are not suddenly necessary when it is time to go to work. Over the time leading up to the point of “employability”, the individual and the family can build up their cadre of people, places, things and resources that can be tapped. The social network becomes a rich source of possible employment information, future informational interviews, internships or employment leads (Loury).

What if my family member chooses a goal and it does not work out?

Taking time and effort to make the choice with the best information possible is one way to avoid having to make changes in the future. However, the average person does make job changes for good reasons (e.g. better job, more pay, convenience). “The average person born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964) held 11.7 jobs from age 18 to age 48. Nearly half of these jobs were held from ages 18 to 24.” (BLS) Millennials, those born between 1977 and 1997, change jobs about every 3 years on average. (Meister)

Sometimes a family member may leave a job because it is not a good match. Should your family member leave a job, even a “bad” job, it is best to provide sufficient notice and depart with respect. Also if your family member is struggling financially, it is best to hold on to one job before moving to the next when possible.

What if my family member wants a career that requires further education or training?

Career changes are not uncommon in our society since the economy is ever-changing and educational opportunities are more accessible. In some areas there are supported education programs that help individuals with mental health conditions to choose, get and keep an educational goal and to obtain necessary supports. Most colleges and universities have Disability Support services to assist student through the program, help obtain accommodations and make referrals to other services when needed. They do not generally provide the services to choose a vocational goal, but might assist with selecting an educational program.

Some areas have a Supported Education program which provides help with choosing the goal and choosing the educational program as well as other supports. State vocational rehabilitation agencies can provide or arrange education or training that is directly linked to the vocational goal. The choosing process, when it involves education or training, may need to also involve figuring out costs and resources to pay for tuition, books, fees, transportation, supplies etc. Grants, loans, scholarships and tuition waivers all have different criteria for getting and for maintaining the financial supports.

Federal Employment Training Program Finder

The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers a comprehensive range of workforce development activities through state and local organizations. Here you can search by state to find a WIOA eligible training provider.

Grants and Scholarships

Grants and scholarships help pay for college or vocational schools. Some foundations help individuals to obtain scholarships and educational institutions may offer aid for students based on income, certain achievements, programs of study and other variables. Families and students often spend considerable time researching possible types of support in conjunction with the school’s financial aid office and Employment Specialists.

Return to the main page on helping your family member Find a Path to Employment.

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