Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

Career Readiness During COVID-19

April 16, 2020 American Printing House Episode 4
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Career Readiness During COVID-19
Chapters
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Career Readiness During COVID-19
Apr 16, 2020 Episode 4
American Printing House

As unemployment skyrockets, how can you be job ready? Joe Strechay joins Change Makers to talk about how you can use your time at home to work on your personal brand, and be ready to land your next job.

Also a guest on episode 4, Claire Stanley from ACB shares how they're staying connected with members, offering virtual hang-outs, and even planning a virtual ACB summer conference.

LINKS
APH Typer: aph.org/sharpen-your-typing-skills-with-typer/
ACB Chat Options: acb.org/ACB-community-conference-calls
Career Blog: https://aphcareerconnect.org/blog/careerconnect-blog/19-tips-for-employment-preparation-during-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR2G-zY2ylb-vH7BnWS-OG439Dfkz8AR2mT83HkteiOcJdPB0GTMndc5Ge4

ACB Contact Info
advocacy@acb.org
202-467-5081


Show Notes Transcript

As unemployment skyrockets, how can you be job ready? Joe Strechay joins Change Makers to talk about how you can use your time at home to work on your personal brand, and be ready to land your next job.

Also a guest on episode 4, Claire Stanley from ACB shares how they're staying connected with members, offering virtual hang-outs, and even planning a virtual ACB summer conference.

LINKS
APH Typer: aph.org/sharpen-your-typing-skills-with-typer/
ACB Chat Options: acb.org/ACB-community-conference-calls
Career Blog: https://aphcareerconnect.org/blog/careerconnect-blog/19-tips-for-employment-preparation-during-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR2G-zY2ylb-vH7BnWS-OG439Dfkz8AR2mT83HkteiOcJdPB0GTMndc5Ge4

ACB Contact Info
advocacy@acb.org
202-467-5081


Claire Stanley:

Know that you're not alone, that there's thousands of us across the country and we'd love to connect.

Jack Fox:

Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Jonathan Wahl:

Welcome back to change makers, a podcast from American printing house. I'm Jonathan Wahl. Today we'll hear from Claire Stanley, the Advocacy and Outreach Specialist at ACB as they transition to helping their members virtually. But first we're talking jobs with Joe Stretchay. Joe currently works as a producer for streaming television and is a blindness consultant, but Joe spent much of his career working specifically on unemployment issues for people who are blind or visually impaired. Because COVID-19 has caused unemployment to skyrocket, we thought it would be a good time to talk about how you use your time at home to get job ready. Joe, thanks for being a part of Change Makers today.

Joe Strechay:

Oh, it's a great pleasure to be on the American Printing House for the Blind's podcast. I really believe in what APH does and as an organization and it's a really important time to provide employment advice and information to the individuals out there, uh, with our current situation around, uh, the COVID-19 virus.

Jonathan Wahl:

Yeah, thanks Joe. And you are super well connected in our field. When you're talking with your friends, how is COVID- 19 impacting job reliability for people who are blind and visually impaired right now?

Joe Strechay:

Yeah, I've been speaking to a lot of people who are blind or low vision around the United States who've been impacted, uh, by COVID 19 and, and really the employment world and, and our current market. Uh, many if people had been laid off or furloughed, other people were contractors and are not getting work. Uh, and they've been impacted where their employment's been eliminated or their hours have been reduced or they just don't know when they'll have work again. Um, and, and that's, that's a scary thing. I think people across the country, uh, and around the world or really being impacted in this way. And, and for individuals who are blind or low vision, not just the, that employment side, the accessibility as well to some of the remote, uh, employment or remote working, uh, whether systems are accessible and allowing them to do their work from home. Uh, you know, that's, that's, that's a big deal for sure.

Jonathan Wahl:

A lot of people are without a job and stuck at home and it, it's a super tough spot to be in. How can those people right now be using this time to prepare?

Joe Strechay:

Definitely. Uh, there are many ways it's people could be preparing for employment, but also seeking employment that is out there. Um, you know, first thing you have to know about yourself is really know where your, your skills lie. Uh, you know, not everyone can work remotely and do it in a efficient manner, uh, depending on like full time employment and versus contract or part time. Um, there's, there can be flexibility there, but working remotely means often that you have good technology skills unless you're doing some kind of a, uh, creative employment where you're uh, yeah, putting together some kind of product or uh, or some kind of a service. And most services at this point would have to be virtual. Uh, so those skills around technology com very important, the compensatory skills. So if, if you have to be self aware where your strengths and weaknesses are. So figuring out if your compensatory skills like your typing skills, uh, computer processing, like using Microsoft office or the Apple suite or Google suite, uh, you're able to use those in an efficient manner and it's not really should be taking this time to work on those skills, uh, and, and figure out how you can improve them. There are a lot of resources out there that offer assistance in typing. American Printing House has their Typer and such. Uh, and there are others out there, but, uh, APH is, is free. Uh, you could be downloading that and practicing your typing skills and getting them up to par. But then also there are all kinds of, uh, tutorials for Microsoft and, and other, uh, softwares I w knowing where your skill levels are in whatever you're doing and, and if, and if you're in, you have a certain level of education, there are a lot of online courses right now and uh, being offered whether through universities or through, uh, programs or certificate programs, uh, thinking about bettering yourself in another way. Um, I, I think this is a unique time and people have that time. Uh, you know, there is a lot to balance if you're a parent or family member and you have children and uh, you know, the education system, uh, and having to navigate teaching your child well, accessing a remote learning with them and uh, and then also your everyday, uh, pieces of life as well as, you know, sanitizing your hands and your home and products, uh, throughout a and they're taking the time to figure out, assess and become more self aware, uh, about your skills, uh, looking on at to enhance your skills and improve your weaknesses. We all have strengths and weaknesses and the more aware we are of them, the better off we are for the future. Uh, it's definitely something that comes up in the employment process. You know, they're common interview questions asked and often people ask about your strengths and weaknesses besides your strengths and weaknesses. Uh, you can be taking this time though to look at what your presence is like on social media. Uh, assess, uh, what your presence is like. Uh, because you know, when people are looking to hire someone, they are looking at your social, social media presence and not, uh, you know, having someone look at your social media presence, someone trusted out there who's a professional and who can give you realistic feedback on what you can improve. Uh, whether it's on LinkedIn, Facebook, or on another form of social media, Twitter, Instagram, you know, uh, Instagram is a visual media. It's become more accessible. It's not totally accessible, but it's come a long way. Um, but utilizing someone's assistance, visual assistance to look over those, uh, resources to see if your social media is something that presents you in the right manor. And, just like that when you're corresponding with people, your email address. Like I know I've been in the situation as a, when I was the Bureau Director in Pennsylvania or at the American foundation for the Blind, I remember hiring interns and from a local university, these are seniors and juniors and, uh, in college and, uh, looking at email addresses, like, uh, like huggy bear or, something like that. And when I see email addresses like that, I, pretty much dismiss that person and I usually try to give them feedback on that, uh, that that's something that turns employers off. I knew tons of them. Uh, employers and people in the business world who say the same thing. If you see these like sexy man, 19, uh, that's not appropriate. That's not something you want representing you.

Jonathan Wahl:

It doesn't set you up professionally very well.

Joe Strechay:

No, it doesn't. You're right, Jonathan,

Jonathan Wahl:

In a blog you just recently wrote for us, you alluded to it there, you talked about your personal brand and I think that's really important, you know, how do you want people to see you professionally? Any other tips for using this time to really promote who you are and how you want to be seen professionally?

Joe Strechay:

Yeah, your personal brand is constantly changing. It's how you want to represent yourself to the world. Uh, we, you should be self-aware about your strengths and weaknesses, but you also have to be self aware about your branding. Uh, what is your brand? And, and I think a great exercise is to write out what you believe your personal brand is and your professional brand and then, uh, asking others to, uh, to provide you with that information as well. The see if it matches up. Um, similar to your, if you were measuring kind of assessing your strengths and weaknesses, you might ask people about that, your personal brand or professional brand, you'd ask them to give them input, uh, give you input on what they believe your you're professional, personal, professional brand is. Uh, and, and then seeing how that meets up, but also looking at what you want it to be and how can you make your brand that, uh, this, this, this professional brand that really reflects what you want yourself to be seen as in the employment world.

Joe Strechay:

You know, I have a professional brand and it's changed over the years and, uh, and it's specific and the more successful you are out in the world, uh, often the, the more room you get to be yourself. And depending on what kind of profession and career field you're going in, there is, there's a lot more allowance, uh, for, uh, I would say I'm going to use the word deviancy like differences and, and, and also extreme differences in, in your personal brand and [inaudible] and your social media. Then there was in the past, but it's still out there. And when you're starting at the bottom, like trying to get your foot in the door and in a new employment, you want to present the best brand possible. And, uh, you know, I'm a person, an individual who has long hair. I have a ponytail or long hair and a, and a beard.

Joe Strechay:

And, and you know, when I was coming out of college, uh, at East Carolina university, I was going to interview for these, uh, for these opportunities with some major sports teams and uh, the New York metropolitan area and also sports public relations and marketing firm. And the two days beforehand I donated my hair. I cut my cut like 13 inches off and donated it and I had more, much more, uh, appropriate conservative cut. Uh, not totally conservative, but, and I remember going into these interviews and, uh, one of them with, uh, the New Jersey devils actually, uh, they, at the end of the interview, the person I was wearing, like a sport coat and pants that I bought for like 10 or $13 that my twin brother helped me pick out at a second hand thrift store. And I was bending over to reach for something the individual was handing me at the end of the interviews that went really well. We clicked and all the, I met with executives and, and department heads and, and uh, the, the gentleman saw a beaded necklace under my collar and, and he said to me, he's like, so I saw your necklace under your collar, your, you know, your shirt was a little loose there. And I could see your, you have this beaded necklace. You know, I, if I, if I had seen that right in the start of our interview, I pretty much would have taken your resume and thrown in the trash, met with you for like 30 or 40 minutes and then, uh, let you go on your way. Um, but you know, I, I saw who, uh, who you are from our time together over these hours and, and I, I really think you'd be a great addition to the organization, but my message to you is it's not the 1960s anymore. And if you were to come in here long hair, so he was referencing like a, a more, less conservative, more liberal, uh, look, uh, I would've dismissed you and he didn't know that I cut my hair two days before and donated it. And I, he's like, w we have a military background or my, our owner of our team has a military background or CEO has a military background. I'm a military background. Uh, we're, we're conservative organization. We use, uh, we were, uh, black suits, gray suits, a Navy blue suits, very, very professional and conservatives, and having long hair or a beaded necklace wouldn't fit our, uh, our brand for our organization. And that's not what we're looking to portray. So I would suggest that you walk out of here today, you have this opportunity, you can decide and, uh, you can, I suggest you, uh, cut that necklace off and never wear it again.

Joe Strechay:

And uh, I left that day thinking one little thing could turn someone off. And you never know what that, that little difference is. And if, when you're starting at the bottom and you don't have that professional experience or you don't have your foot in the door and you don't have a proven track record, uh, that little thing can be a big thing and you have to decide for yourself. I decided, I cut that necklace off right outside of the building ,the arena. And, uh, I didn't wear it again, but, uh, and I realized, but as my career grew, I was able to be a little more different and, and accepted for that. And, and times have changed as well. But, uh, um, not every organization has, so you have to understand, uh, what things about your brand, uh, might not meet up with the organization you're applying with.

Joe Strechay:

And, uh, that's something I've, I've learned. There are other times in my career where I've written my hair down or, uh, uh, done in a different way. Or, uh, I trim my beard down to a specific, in a specific way to get a job or start a job to present the image that they were, uh, they're looking for. And then over time prove myself to the point where then it didn't, didn't really matter. And, uh, yeah, those are some lessons that we talk about in that blog post and, but also, you know, those are life lessons and, and, and people have to decide what's best for them.

Jonathan Wahl:

Definitely. First impressions are huge. But I do want to say for people who don't know, Joe, he has great hair and I was actually thinking about embracing it the other day because I can't get to my barber and I don't know how long it'll be. So, you know, great example, but we might all look like Joe Stretchay before this is through.

Joe Strechay:

For sure.

Jonathan Wahl:

With people being laid off right now, there are some industries and some jobs that are hiring more employees. So do you have any recommendations for people who are looking for work right now with the kinds of fields or kinds of jobs that they may be able to do that may be, that are currently hiring?

Joe Strechay:

Definitely a lot of, uh, organizations that work in a health related fields, uh, and not just as doctors, obviously, but the surrounding fields are, are hiring and, and, and have opportunities. And again, there's some of that may involve actually being on site, but I number some of the logistical side of things. Um, what, whether you're working for a company that is providing products that are necessary for the current time period. It might be logistics working from home or over a computer and, and the, you have to have those good skills. But I, you know, we have customer service like Amazon and all these shipping companies and other businesses that are, uh, and they're offering opportunities where you can work from home, uh, what were call centers. And a lot of them are moving more remote. And, uh, so having that to a people working in distribution centers, obviously a warehouses, construction, essential construction, uh, as people are trying to meet the needs around or medical situation and, and such, um, progress in construction continues, uh, in those realms.

Joe Strechay:

And, uh, again, it has to be essential. But you know, these are fields that have like really amped up and the entertainment world, a certain, uh, companies have really ramped up their services and, and that involves some it side things. And some people who have software and cloud, uh, cloud work around programming, um, might have more opportunities, uh, people doing, uh, educational technology, uh, or, or that can do virtual technology, uh, online education. Uh, all of those realms have a ramped up, uh, opportunities and are really have been hiring. And, uh, so these are, these are areas that you could look at and, and, and you'll probably see lots of job postings around those businesses. But also as this comes to an end, a lot of these companies and businesses that I've had to lay off, people are going to be hiring people and not just rehiring people, but hiring new people because people are going to move on to other businesses or change fields or, uh, you know, so there'll be a lot of opportunities out there once this, the time settles.

Jonathan Wahl:

Lots of good ideas. Joe, for people out there. You know, struggling right now. This, I think the unknown is hard and not having a job in the midst of this unknown makes it even harder. Just any words of encouragement right now.

Joe Strechay:

Definitely I think, you know, being productive and really setting up your day, uh, like the employment process and our current time period. It's not like, I think I joked in a blog post about nine to five like Dolly Parton. Uh, but it's, it's really, it's, it's really about like making sure you're setting up your time, scheduling your time and using it wisely. This is in a lot of ways, this is a great opportunity for people to get their skills up and become productive in a different way and really focus on what their brand is and what their resume is. Get their resume cleaned up, get a, their personal brand Lake, not just their personal brand, but also their sales pitch there. 32nd to two minute elevator pitch. So you have the opportunity to get on the elevator with someone who holds the keys to your dream job or the job you want.

Joe Strechay:

Uh, and it's, and it's a, like a, the state of Florida is Capitol building, which is 22 stories and it's a high rise Capitol. You're getting on at the ground floor and, and you're getting into that elevator and that person holds the keys to your next job that you're interested in and you have between that ground floor and 22nd floor. Do you sell them on yourself? What your background is, what you can bring to that organization. I also at the end, I include my disability because you know, a, I think it was a 2011 study by the national industries for the blind where they asked, uh, gatekeepers and human resources professionals and uh, specific to, uh, hiring persons who are blind or low vision. What are your concerns about it? Uh, what, what are your thoughts about hiring someone who's blind or low vision?

Joe Strechay:

And number one was can they do the job and how are you, they do job like, uh, so explaining how you do your work, whether it's using technology, including assistant technology and talking about in practical terms, uh, like not technical terms. And then also, uh, you know, number two is how are they going to get to work. So talking about how you're gonna get to work, uh, but also how you navigate using your white cane or a dog. Uh, you know, the employment process is really about creating trust and, uh, you have that opportunity to practice all these skills, how to talk about it, how to help people trust you, but also create that, that relationship. You know, we're, we're living in a time when you can, uh, reach out to mentors who are doing a work that you want to do, like reach out to them and talk to them, uh, role models and, and learn more and explore more in and work on your skills.

Joe Strechay:

It's, it's, it's a great opportunity right now. You have that time where you can reach out and, and you can learn more and you can practice and talk to the people that doing the work you wanna do and find out how they got there. And we all have mentors. I have mentors who are successful people who are blind or low vision. But also I have mentors who are not a blind or low vision that uh, give me advice on employment and, and that are doing the work I want to do and, and help you with that path. So take, take advantage of this time but also be safe and, and, and stay healthy, you know, uh, you know, make sure your taking care of yourself and, and uh, staying physically fit, assessing your clothing as well to make sure that you're presenting a appropriate, appropriate image when you show up a dress dress for success.

Jonathan Wahl:

Thanks Joe. You've left us with a lot of things to think about and for those of you wondering about the blog, I'll be sure to add that link in the show notes so you can check in on that. And Joe, I just want to thank you and let you know that on behalf of all of APH we are grateful for your friendship and just everything you're doing for the field. So thank you for giving us your time and your expertise. We really appreciate it.

Joe Strechay:

Thank you Jonathan. It's been a great pleasure and I wish everyone out there the best. And, and I'll be thinking about everyone during this time and thank you again .

Jonathan Wahl:

Next up we're switching gears to talk with Claire Stanley from American Council for the Blind. She'll talk with us about how they're helping their members right now during this pandemic. Claire, thanks for joining us.

Claire Stanley:

Yeah, definitely. Thank you.

Jonathan Wahl:

There's so much going on in our community and our country right now really across the world. How is ACB working to connect with its membership with everything that's happening?

Claire Stanley:

So ACB is trying very hard to continue to bring our community together cause that's what we are. We're a community of members of people who are blind or visually impaired. So we're doing that in a few different ways. Um, the most obvious, I guess for lack of a better word, is doing a lot of community events through Zoom. So kind of virtual Hangouts, which has been a lot of fun. We realized that as we have to stay home and not physically interact with each other, we still want to interact with each other. So we've had a lot of fun zoom meetings. Some are serious more topics based on how to get through this crisis, what services are available. But some that are just fun and silly. Um, our executive director and our president had one a couple of weekends ago about baseball cause they love baseball. Um, so some just like fun, you know, lighthearted, get together and talk about our interests. So kind of the whole spectrum of just spending time together. Yeah. And then of course, um, for those of us who work on the advocacy side, cause that's, that's my job title. So we always like to bring up that we're also working toward advocating for the rights of people who are blind during the COVID crisis. So if anything that comes up, uh, government wise or services wise, that's been a negatively impacted, those of us who are blind, we're making sure that we're taking actions to make sure our voices out there. And if something happens we say, wait a minute, don't do that, or please change this. So, uh, that's also something we're working hard on.

Jonathan Wahl:

If there's someone out there listening who's saying, Hey, I have a right that's being affected by this, should they reach out to you to get help in that area?

Claire Stanley:

Yes, most definitely. That's what we're here for. We're here to advocate on behalf of the people who are blind and visually impaired. So we always tell people you can email us at advocacy@ACB.org or you can always call us on our, um, national office at (202) 467-5081.

Jonathan Wahl:

Perfect. Now you mentioned those virtual Hangouts. I know for a lot of people, myself included, part of what's hard about this is just feeling that isolation at home and I'd be able to go anywhere. What's the response been? Are people enjoying just, even though it's virtual, just getting to hang out and talk and feel human again?

Claire Stanley:

Yes. People are loving it. We have gotten such great feedback from people. Um, again, it's not the same as being physically in the room together, but it's the next best thing and people are having so much fun and people keep saying more and more people want more. So, um, it's, it's been a great positive feedback from people.

Jonathan Wahl:

Awesome. Speaking of in the room together, you know, I think we're all looking forward to ACB this year and I know you all had to make the tough decision to make that a virtual conference with everything happening. How is that going to move forward? What should people know about the conference this year?

Claire Stanley:

Yep. So we will be going virtually, which was such a hard decision, but we ultimately knew it was the right decision. Um, because we want to make sure that everybody in our community is safe and healthy. Um, but we are going to do our best to make it just like every other convention. Obviously that interacting together will be missing, but otherwise we're trying to bring together all the same, um, speakers that usually would come. We'll still have general session every day. Um, we'll still have our affiliate groups doing their own afternoon breakouts, a lot of the same fun. Um, evening events will still be going on. We'll still have our auction, we'll still have our like talent show that we usually have. So a lot of the same kinds of things. I'm just being virtually, so we're, we're working our hardest to make sure that almost everything is just like it usually is.

Jonathan Wahl:

For those of us who are planning to attend. Will those virtual updates just come by email?

Claire Stanley:

Yes. And a Janet Dickelman our convention planner is working really hard to, to get all the information out there for everybody.

Jonathan Wahl:

Thanks Claire. For anyone who's just struggling, you know, with all of this change and all the unexpected things happening, do you, from ACB's perspective, any just words of encouragement for, for your membership or people listening today?

Claire Stanley:

For sure. Um, you know, we just want people to know that we're there for them. Again, we are first and foremost a community, um, of, of members. So if you guys need anything, if you want to meet other people in your region, um, you know, Hmm, maybe you're a woman and you wanted to talk to another woman. If you're from California and you want to talk to another Californian, um, or other things like that, please reach out to our membership coordinator, Cindy Van Winkle. And we're really trying hard to just connect people cause we get it. It's a time where immunity is more important than ever. So just know that you're not alone, that there's thousands of us across the country and we'd love to connect in any way we can.

Jonathan Wahl:

Thanks Claire. We at APH are very grateful for ACB friendship and just for everything you're doing for our field, so we appreciate your time and wish you the best of luck moving forward with the conference.

Claire Stanley:

Definitely. Thank you so much.

Jonathan Wahl:

And that's it for today's episode. If you have any questions for APH, be sure to drop us a note@communicationsataph.org we'll answer what we can on our next episode. In the meantime, don't forget to look for ways that you can be a change maker this week. Coming up on the next episode of Changemakers, another important roundtable discussion with all of the summer conferences in our field going virtual, what's the best way to stay connected and work together? That's a question we'll tackle next Thursday.