By: John Macko, director of NTID’s Co-op and Career Center
As the end of the school year approaches, many students are looking for summer jobs. This is a great time to seek employment as many businesses are trying to fill open positions. Summer jobs are an excellent way for students to get experience in the working world, earn money for themselves and develop a sense of what careers might interest them. Summer jobs also teach students time management skills, learning to work with others and money management. With a little preparation, a student who is deaf or hard of hearing can be on their way to earning some money and gaining valuable work experience.
In my experience as director of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) Co-op and Career Center for students who are deaf or hard of hearing enrolled at Rochester Institute of Technology, hiring managers in all businesses seek individuals who:
Maintain a positive attitude, show understanding and respect to others
Communicate and establish effective working relationships with co-workers and customers
Analyze and problem solve
Adapt quickly to changes
Young job seekers who are deaf or hard of hearing should keep these qualities in mind when exploring employment options and preparing themselves for their job search.
Here are some things to consider when helping your young person gain summer employment:
I encourage RIT students who are deaf or hard of hearing to use online resources to help them in their job search. These resources may be helpful for your student as well. You can be a valuable resource and support for your student in the job search process. Caregivers are in a unique position to provide appropriate guidance, as they know their children best. Here are some things you can do to help your student who is deaf or hard of hearing become more successful and ready for the workplace:
Ask your student about their interests. Be as encouraging and positive as possible, even if what they describe may be different than what your vision is for them.
Review job descriptions from various employers together and discuss which ones seem interesting and why.
Have your children ask other people about their jobs. Most adults are more than happy to share their experiences and career paths. This also is a way for young people to gain more experience communicating with adults.
The Basics of Creating a Resume and Writing a Cover Letter
A resume and cover letter are the first impression your student makes on a potential employer. Therefore, it is important to help them work through what these should look like. They can find resume templates by doing a simple internet search and should look for one they feel fits their personality and is a match for the type of job they are seeking. These resumes can be bright and interesting, but avoid anything too cartoonish.
Younger students may be tempted to think that they don’t have any experience to put on a resume, but being involved in Scouts, church youth groups, taking the Red Cross babysitting course, being part of student clubs and volunteering at local events are all good to include, and demonstrate to the summer hiring manager that your student is engaged and responsible.
Cover letters for summer positions don’t need to be lengthy, but should include the name of the company, the desired position and why your student feels they would be a good candidate.
Requesting Accommodations for an Interview: Virtual or In-Person
One of the most important things we can teach a young person who is deaf or hard of hearing is how to ask for what they need. When it comes to an interview, it’s important that they make the request for accommodations for themselves. First, help them assess what they might need to make communication clear during an interview—will they need an interpreter? Do they prefer to use an automatic speech recognition app like Microsoft Translator, Google Talk, Ava or others?
Encourage students to be very clear about their individual communication needs, for example, “I am wearing two cochlear implants that help me hear but it is still very helpful if I can see your face when you talk. If I am unsure of anything, I will be sure to let you know and ask for clarification.”
Prior to them making their requests for accommodations, take some time to role play with your student, pretending you’re the potential boss or person making the hire, and have them practice making the request. It’s good to remind young people that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures them “reasonable accommodations,” and that as long as they have a positive attitude, the prospective employer will most likely follow their lead.
How to Prep for an Interview
In the same way a parent or caregiver can role play as the potential boss when requesting accommodations, it is helpful to practice in-person or virtual interviews. You could discuss appropriate attire, bringing along a paper copy of their cover letter and resume, briefly explaining how the accommodation works, answering questions, preparing questions for the interviewer based on prior research on the organization and thanking them at the end of the interview.
Follow-up to the Interview Itself
Now that your student has completed their interview, it is a good idea to send along a thank you note—either hand-written or electronic—to the interviewer, letting the potential employer know how much they appreciated the opportunity to be considered for the position, that they would very much enjoy being part of the team and offering to answer any additional questions. Even in this electronic age, politeness and good form never go out of style.
Securing Accommodations Once Hired
Your student already has done the hard part—they’ve requested accommodations for the interview, and the employer has learned a bit about how this can happen. Now that they’ve been hired, it’s time to make sure these accommodations, and whatever additional ones may be needed, are available to effectively do their jobs. Accommodations vary depending on the needs of the individual, and not all employees who are deaf or hard of hearing will require the same accommodations. Perhaps it’s a tablet to have customers write their orders, or select options. It may be as simple as always having paper and pen available to write down questions and needs. Or it could be graphics with simple signs and their names that co-workers and customers can point to.
Here are some best practices that can be beneficial to employees who are deaf or hard of hearing:
Making sure colleagues’ faces/mouths are visible to the employee when speaking.
Getting the employee’s attention prior to speaking.
Reducing auditory distractions (background noise) in the employee’s workspace.
Providing assistive technology or supplemental materials (e.g., video captioning, CART (communication access real-time translation) services, appropriate visual emergency notification systems)
Learning to ask for what they need is one of the most important skills a young person can learn, and they will carry that with them throughout their lives.
If your student who is deaf or hard of hearing can interact with a diverse group of people, make decisions, obtain and process information, act ethically, demonstrate motivation, plan, organize, prioritize and understand the importance of volunteering, they are well on their way to being successful in the workplace.
Remember, career paths rarely are a straight line. Many young adults—and some not-so-young—may want to experience a number of jobs before deciding what is the best for them, which is why summer employment is so valuable. Ask questions, try not to judge, be patient and watch your child grow and thrive.
This article was contributed by Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a generous sponsor of Clarke’s Mainstream News, offering insights and guidance for older students, caregivers and professionals.