I did a teen employment workshop recently in New Brunswick, NJ at the Joseph Kohn Training Center, which is the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s vocational rehabilitation training center. I happened to work there for a little while right after graduate school as an orientation and mobility instructor with other duties as “Joe lobbied for.” I say that because I was always asking for new responsibilities or to try out new ideas.
I arrived in New Brunswick, New Jersey to do a three-hour teen employment workshop for 21 young people who are blind or visually impaired from around the State of New Jersey. I arrived early in the morning to get some time to visit and network with my old colleagues and my “two foreign mothers.” I say that with a lot of affection and some humor, as Pura is originally from the Dominican Republic, and Ganga is originally from Bangalore, India. I interned under Pura and then later worked with Pura and Ganga as their colleague, an orientation and mobility instructor. They were more than friends, as they mentored and looked out for me during that time, and I would say they still do. We were able to grab lunch after the workshop, and this caused me to reflect on what they have meant to me.
Mentorship has been a big part of my life, adjustment, and success in work. Pura and Ganga continue to provide tips and advice for my many projects. I love hearing other perspectives from the field to see what I missed. Through their mentorship, they provided me with tips such as:
- It is okay to say no, as we cannot do everything. I was always willing to take on more work and responsibility, and that can play a role in the quality of the work provided. We have to be able to say no. I still battle with this, as I always feel that I can find time to complete tasks.
- There is a lot of cognitive work that can be done to work on the many aspects that impact blindness. We can do lessons in the field, but we can also do lessons discussing expectations in preparation for a lesson.
- I learned the value of taking the time to review and debrief after experiences, to find out what lessons were learned, as an individual may not have realized the intended lesson.
- Just as they say not to drive in an upset state, traveling as a person who is blind or visually impaired in an upset state could be dangerous. I know that I have been guilty of this, as we don’t always take the necessary time or ask for assistance.
- Be patient, allow people to take the time to figure it our on their own, as they will learn so much more. We all wrestle with this as professionals.
- It is difficult to grasp the skills and embrace the use when we haven’t adjusted to the loss.
- We have to work with an individual at their current point, not what we think their level should be.
As the CareerConnect Program Manager, I work with an amazing team to provide resources on navigating the employment process, career exploration, job-seeking skills, and mentoring. Our program has grown from a database of mentors to a vast resource center including an online course, blog, articles, message boards, lesson plans, and much more. Mentorship is a valuable tool, and you can take the time to utilize CareerConnect’s Making Connections Section to find out about asking mentors questions. I have been influenced by all of my mentors, and I still have numerous mentors who impact my life, work, and planning for the future.