By now, chances are you have used or at least heard of the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect website, which is a free online career education and exploration program. Especially since you are on our CareerConnect Blog, but I want to make sure you get the full picture. The program incorporates e-mentoring, is fully accessible, very informative, and highly interactive. AFB’s CareerConnect is the perfect source for finding job readiness skills, peer and mentor support, and self-advocacy guidance for blind and visually impaired individuals. These tools help empower blind or visually impaired students and job seekers, setting into motion the ability to navigate the employment process, increasing the likelihood of obtaining and maintaining employment.
I am Detra Bannister, AFB CareerConnect’s Employment Specialist, and I oversee the e-mentoring aspect of the CareerConnect program. I also write the "Our Stories" pieces, as you might already know. I wanted to take the time to give you some ideas on how you can use CareerConnect with your students, clients, or consumers. Joe Strechay and I may be a little biased, but we think you all should be using it. Joe would tell you to make it your home page on your internet browser. Okay, I think you should do that too!
Interactive Features include:
- The ability to find and connect with a mentor who is also blind or visually impaired
- A self-paced course: the Job Seekers Toolkit
- Career Cluster message boards
What about access to an accessible online work station that includes:
- Personal profile
- Private message boards and web mail
- Personal Data Sheet builder
- Resume builder
- Online calendar
Mentoring Improves Chances of Future Success
I don’t have to beat you over the head with the fact that mentoring changes lives. There have been a number of studies done that show that mentoring can improve youths’ lives. The fact is CareerConnect mentors are eye openers for the fact that people who are blind or visually impaired are working in so many different careers. I could dwell on the fact that mentoring can lead to smarter decision making and reduce the possibility of negative behaviors. CareerConnect’s mentoring program promotes a greater knowledge of job accommodations, opportunities for success, preparing for the employment process, and exploring careers.
Through CareerConnect’s unique e-mentoring approach and fun educational materials, job preparation for adults and transition planning and teaching for teens just got a little easier! With this important connection to visually impaired workers, both adults and transition age students can learn from someone with similar attributes working in a job of special interest to them. Having your students or clients work with CareerConnect mentors is a great way to transfer knowledge; they get someone who can inspire and motivate them, talk about specific skills training and hands-on experiences, emphasize the importance of a good work ethic and attitude, discuss self-advocacy techniques, and many other aspects of what can be a wonderful world of work.
It goes without saying that all of us want to see people with vision loss succeed in their educational and career choices. So as you are putting your transition team together, writing individualized education programs, and doing vocational skills assessments, why not consider some constituents you may not have thought of before to be a part of your team? CareerConnect mentors! As additional support, they can be a great help in preparing your students or clients to become successful workers.
So here’s the tip: use mentoring through CareerConnect and its other features as a transition tool or classroom activity (even for adults) to help with career information and exploration, social skills development, getting answers to questions about work or related topics, and confidence building.