Preparing for Your First Month at Work As an Employee Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Street sign with the text 'New Job' and an arrow.

Oh, the complexity of emotions that take hold when anticipating the start of a new job! I remember well the weeks leading up to each position I’ve undertaken, from serving tables to teaching teenagers. The feelings were a combination of excitement, worry, gratefulness, pride, fear, exhilaration, and a hefty pinch of “What have I gotten myself into?!” Thankfully, as weeks and months progress, work routines are established, coworker relationships are formed, and anxiety generally subsides.

You’re awaiting the start of a new job? I’ll try to quiet your nerves by helping you prepare for a successful transition into the workplace. Keep in mind:

  • Not to heap on anxiety, but bear in mind that your reputation takes shape the first time you meet your employer, supervisor, and coworkers. Be intentional in meeting and greeting each person, recording names and titles, and displaying genuine interest in others.
  • Be positive. I don’t think anybody desires to spoil a workplace with a negative attitude, but it will happen if you’re not intentionally remaining positive. Not only can negativity (such as complaining, gossiping, or negative attitudes) spoil the workplace, it can quickly spoil your reputation.
  • Get to know how your company operates. Ask questions, read handbooks, and pay attention. If you are blind or visually impaired, request an accessible company handbook.
  • Ask your supervisor about her goals. As far as they pertain (even remotely) to you, adopt the goals for yourself.
  • Be prepared to find out the needs of your employer and find out his expectations regarding your job duties. This is accomplished by reading your job description or handbook, and asking your supervisor about your responsibilities. Set related, realistic goals for your production levels and quality of work.
  • Note what isn’t working well within the company and aim to devise solutions. I’d recommend focusing on one problem at a time, as you’re not looking to “make waves”, but benefit the company.
  • Brush up on your assertive communication skills.
  • Prepare to set up your work space with tremendous organization.
  • Read 8 Thoughts and Considerations on Job Accommodations for Workers who are Blind or Visually Impaired to prepare for requesting reasonable accommodations.
  • Read Employer Expectations Over Time to gather tips for exceeding your employer’s expectations over the course of the first year at your new job.
  • Prepare to pay attention to the company culture and attempt to assimilate. If they’re a quiet bunch who work independently, okay then. If they enjoy laughing over lunch in the communal kitchen, okay then. Be part of the team, however that looks.

Lastly and importantly, anticipate any training you may need as you successfully transition into your workplace. Schedule any blindness-specific instruction, which may include orientation and mobility training at your new worksite, vision rehabilitation therapy, vocational rehabilitation counseling, assistive technology training, or support from a job coach. Be prepared.

“Remember, action today can prevent a crisis tomorrow.” – Steve Shallenberger, Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders