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

Finding a Job

What are questions I might be asking myself about finding a job?


Who can help me find a job?

The answer is determined in part by what you need and also what is available in your area.  If you have experience with getting employment in the past and are aware of some of current job application practices like electronic applications, then you may be the person in charge of “getting” the job.

Many of us have some experience with getting a job, but want support. If you want a vocational professional to help you to obtain employment, there are a number of resources to consider. The most widespread services are the America’s Job Centers workforce training and placement (who serve all populations), the Vocational Rehabilitation agencies who provide services needed to achieve employment (who serve all disability groups) and state Departments of Mental Health (who serve those with mental health conditions only). Local mental health centers or private rehabilitation agencies can be very helpful in identifying vocational services.  Veterans may have access to their veteran-oriented services as well, which may be federal, state or private.

  • America’s Job Centers  are located in all states and serve the general population including people with disabilities. They have resources including tests, software, workshops and individual counseling to help customers to choose the kind of job they want. They have small staffs in relation to the number of people they serve, so people may find that they need to be reasonably independent when using this service.
  • The Vocational Rehabilitation state agencies and the Dept. of Mental Health and its affiliate agencies typically provide some services of their own but may also contract out many of their services to nonprofit agencies, such as programs that provide Supported Employment services or Rehabilitation-oriented Clubhouses. State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies offer an array of assessment, job development, training and many other supports. VR agencies may also offer a program of Supported Employment as part of what they offer. VR agencies can provide on-the-job training, which is learning the tasks of the job on the job, and some agencies have well-developed relationships with employers.
  • Supported Employment (SE) (also known as the Individual Placement and Support model) is an evidence-based program model that has shown success in helping people with psychiatric disabilities get to work.  Usually part of a clinical team with a holistic approach, SE may be best suited to people who have determined that they are feeling ready to work, and who have Chosen what they want to do. SE programs are designed to help people with getting into the job search quickly, and support people to keep the job once they have gotten it. SE specialists spend much of their time outside of the office supporting people at their jobs, developing relationships with employers, and helping job seekers in the community.  SE programs are known for doing an excellent job of getting employment quickly and using the job as a place to determine if the person needs additional supports.
  • Clubhouses are programs in which members and staff work side-by-side to run the units of the program.  Clubhouses may be organized around a “work-ordered day,” which means that the workings of the Clubhouse center around work in one area or another.  People who attend Clubhouses are members, and members are encouraged and supported to work in a variety of areas at the program itself, or in community placements through transitional employment and permanent, competitive jobs. Clubhouses will work with people from the point of not considering work to keeping work.. At times the clubhouses may collaborate with other programs in order to gather the resources that a person needs when entering competitive employment. The program plays a major role in helping members to connect directly to employment according to their particular needs (Clubhouse International).
  • The Veterans Administration (VA) offers employment services in many different programs for veterans both on and off the hospital campuses. In some cases, they have the resources to help individual veterans to explore employment possibilities as well as to directly access jobs.  The VA has Therapeutic and Supported Employment Services (TSES) at every site, Community Based Competitive Employment at some locations, Vocational Assistance at some locations.  There are also a set of program which are Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services.  The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) manages benefits and can often be a portal to employment and careers services for some who may not necessarily receive VA service connected benefits.
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) also offers vocational services tailored to the individual through its Ticket to Work program.  A list of potential providers is sent to people who receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and/or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), encouraging them to select an employment service provider, known as Employment Networks (EN’s). EN’s may help people to figure out what they want to do for work, get into jobs, and get into work that can provide financial independence, all while maintaining some Social Security benefits, including access to medical insurance (Medicaid and Medicare).  Information about EN’s may be listed according to whether they are able to work with persons with mental health conditions.(Employment Networks in the Ticket to Work program)

Recommended reading: Getting to Work: Promoting Employment of People with Mental Illness : A guide published by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law details the general desire of people with mental illness to enter the workforce, and explains the functions and benefits of supported employment.

How do I prepare to get a job?

Here is a review of some of the steps that might be helpful in preparing for getting work.

  • Identify your own strengths and limitations as they apply to employment; you might do this with an Employment Specialist or someone you know very well.
  • Identify your own interests and ideal jobs, such as location, hours, pay, work environment, benefits, etc.
  • Identify a range of “acceptable but not necessarily ideal” factors that are important to you, such as time spent in travel to work.  For example, your ideal job might be one bus ride away and a commuting time of 15 minutes.  But you may be willing to take two subways for up to 35 minutes for the right job.
  • Spend some time looking at the labor market forecasts for your area and your city or town.  This will help you to know the types of work that is growing and where the opportunities are now and in the near future.
  • Depending on the type of work you are interested in, explore possible free or inexpensive training that is being offered locally.  You might find, for example, courses through your local America’s Job Center, college Extension Program or Department of Labor.
  • Research the transportation options in your area including those that may go to the locations where jobs are more likely to be available.
  • Decide when, how and what you will disclose your disability, if at all. Disclosure of a disability at work means telling your employer, or someone at your job, about your disability.  People often do this as part of requesting what’s called “reasonable accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which are adjustments to the job environment to create a “level playing field” for people with disabilities. The Job Accommodation Network can help you learn about accommodations and disability disclosure. The Mid-Atlantic ADA Center provides links to articles on disability disclosure. If you have an Employment Specialist or other vocational professional helping you, make a plan with that person about how you want to handle disclosure.
  • If you have or need benefits such as cash benefits and health insurance benefits, you may want to start to get correct information about how work impacts those benefits. If you get Social Security benefits such as SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), you can take advantage of certain rules called the Social Security Work Incentives (SSWI).  The SSWI are the rules that Social Security follows when you work, and serve as incentives to work while you still receive benefits. You can also find out about these rules on your own, or through a benefits specialist.  A Work Incentive and Planning Assistance benefits specialist can help you to understand what will happen with your benefits once you start earning money. Talk to a benefits specialist or other trained person before you begin your job search so you can get the most income possible and adequate health care benefits. Family and friends may only have part of the story – we recommend getting information from an expert who works with benefits every day if you want to know what will happen to your benefits when you go to work.

Develop a daily schedule of activities and designated times dedicated to your job preparation and job search. This daily routine will also help to prepare you for the routine you will have in the job itself.

Recommended sites for preparing for your job search:

Where can I look for jobs?

If you work with an Employment Specialist, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Job Coach, or Vocational Peer Supporter, he or she may be able to help give you direction on how and where to do a job search.  You have a choice about whether or not to work with an employment professional, and can work on your own to look for jobs.

  • One option is to utilize America’s Job Center resources, or consult internet websites on employment in your area.
  • The federal government is dedicated to hiring people with disabilities. If you are interested in working for the federal government, consider talking to a representative from the agency you’re interested in about the government’s Schedule A approach to hiring persons with disabilities into federal jobs.  You may also contact an Agency Selective Placement Program Coordinator. If you are interested in working for a federal contractor, the US government has created supports to bring more people with disabilities into the workforce.  A contractor is an agency that is paid by the federal government to do a particular job.  Also, the new Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires a 7% minimum of persons with disabilities in the contractor workforce, meaning that there may be a push to hire people with disabilities.
  • There are also other federal resources for jobs such as the President’s Special Employment Initiative for Veterans which is focused on hiring veterans into civilian federal employment.  In the year 2014, the percentage of veterans hired into civilian employment rose to over 33.2%.

Recommended Job Search Sites

If you need more direction on where to look, here is a website that list 50 job search sites. Some of the most well known sites include Monster.com, Indeed.com, and Linkedin.com.

How can networking help me get a job?

The majority of jobs are found by word of mouth, or by someone passing information to a friend, family member or associate.  The more you, the job seeker, talk to others about your job search and your enthusiasm for getting the right job, the more likely you are to get a lead that may develop into a job opportunity.  A lead may be a connection to someone who is hiring, information about an opening, or a connection to someone who might connect you to someone or something else.

The links below may give you some information on how to effectively network to help you find jobs:

Can career fairs really help me get a job?

Job fairs or Career Fairs can be great resources because they connect the job seeker directly to a range of employers in your area, all under one roof. Sometimes job seekers will attend a Job Fair with a vocational professional or employment specialist in order to learn the best way to use the Job Fair and to prepare for it.  The links below may give you some ideas about job fairs. Look for local opportunities through service programs, in the news, and online.

  • National Career Fairs This company holds job fairs in various cities across the United States.
  • Job Fair Tips This article from About.com overviews how to find job fairs & goes over some career fair tips.
  • How to Prepare for a Job Fair This excellent YouTube video teaches us how to prepare for a job fair with specific tips and strategies that can set us up for success.

Return to the main "Getting Work" page.

Where am I in my employment journey?

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