Don’t just get a job: keep it


by Grant J Everett

Is your job all about getting jobs for other people? Want a better success rate? This article is for you!

Employers need employees who can get the job done. Matching the right employer with the right job seeker is a process ruled by this simple factor, and has very little to do with compassion. If a person isn’t qualified, then it’s unrealistic for them to expect to get the job in the first place. If they fail to do their job once they get it, it’s unlikely they’ll keep it. Playing the “disability card” may buy a little leeway, but such excuses will not remain effective in the long run.

Meet Joan Rapp

Joan Rapp of Boston University and three of her fellow staff members designed and launched a distance learning course entitled Job Development and Job Retention for Persons in Recovery. This course was specifically tailored for those of us who help people with mental health issues to attain and keep meaningful employment, and is meant to be approached as a team exercise between an employment specialist and a client. The course has had an overwhelming request for enrollment as a testament to its effectiveness, and a link is available at the end of the article.

The course is provided through online slides, videos, audio interviews, text and over 160 links that connect to additional information. There are a total of five modules to work through, and the course begins with learning how to meet potential job seekers at their own recovery stage in places that are convenient and comfortable for them. This step-by-step partnership building process includes sharing information, motivating, and providing feedback to the job seeker, which means both parties are actively involved. So, by offering the course as a distance learning option via the internet, it can reach people who don’t typically have direct access to employment-related training.

The original decision to develop this online course for job specialists and their clients was the enormous unemployment rate among Americans who were engaged in a mental health recovery journey: an estimated 75% of people in this category – which is millions and millions of people – are doing nothing with their time. This culture of apathy is beyond epidemic levels to the point where there isn’t enough hyperbole to properly express it.

Every case is different

There are many differing beliefs, motivations and values regarding work from country to country and culture to culture that can complicate things. Some demographics will be completely focused on obtaining the job that is best for the individual, while others will be more interested in how the job can support the needs of their extended family. For instance, a whole family unit – both parents, four children, perhaps even a couple of cousins – may work at the same kebab shop, while another family unit may all pursue employment in totally unrelated fields. Neither of these situations is abnormal in any way.

Get them young

Encouraging our youth to actively seek out work is an investment of great importance, one that will become especially challenging to instil once the kids start to receive benefits. As soon as a payment starts to turn up like clockwork for doing nothing, it can be very hard to give up sucking on the government’s teat. The very same can be said for people with a mental health issue on the pension. The sad truth is we’ve created a culture that says don’t work or you’ll lose your benefits (a stance that Panorama and RichmondPRA don’t encourage, by the way). If somebody is capable of more than assisted employment, they should be encouraged to work to the extent of their abilities. Their list of priorities shouldn’t be led by the fear of having their pension trimmed!

Short-term tactics

Over the years, Ms Rapp has noted that employment specialists who play the disability card to prospective employers often begin by implying that it is the employer’s civic duty to employ people with a disability. The business and industry communities, however, are typically more interested in whether someone is able to work, will show up when expected and won’t create problems.

When the time does come for an employment expert to match a job seeker to a particular job, the target employer will always focus on the specific skill set and interests of the individual. Any additional training that will potentially increase the worker’s job-related skills, broaden their career options or make the job more meaningful are all highly encouraged. As a plus,  here in Australia all pensioners are entitled to a free TAFE or OTEN course every year, and get paid a little extra during the learning process, so study is never pointless.

Who is Joan Rapp?

Joan Rapp is President Elect of the MA Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, and been an active member of USPRA since 1976. She has been instrumental in the development of Supported Employment, Supported Education, Rehabilitation Clubhouse Programs, Consumer Advocacy (M-POWER), family support and other rehabilitation services. She has co-chaired and served on the coordinating committee of the Friends, Voices for Recovery and rehabilitation for 35 years, which has provided over 100 forums on rehabilitation and recovery topics.


Job Development and Job Retention for Persons in Recovery online course

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