Passion and Commitment: A Job Coach’s Journey
I used to be biased. I thought that hiring PWDs would be counter-productive, that they would be inefficient, that they would just cause problems at work. But I was wrong, very wrong. They are equally productive, and can demonstrate the same efficiency as any employee.
Job transition support is crucial to the success of employment of Persons with Disability (PWDs). To address this need, Project Inclusion opened a Job Coach training program to help ensure that PWDs are given the right support during their application and placement in companies. Last September 2016, thirty volunteers completed the 8-week training, and began their journey in supporting our PWDs as they step into a bigger space – the workplace.
One of the job coaches shares her story.
A friend of mine attended Project Inclusion’s orientation for volunteer job coaches. She told me about it, telling me it was HR-related. The training schedule seemed convenient, so I decided to attend the first Saturday session. I thought, “Pagbibigyan ko lang ang kaibigan ko” (“I’m just indulging my friend”), and then I would just find some excuse to skip the next sessions.
To my own surprise, I had perfect attendance, arriving on time for each of the eight Saturday sessions.
I could have quit after I received my certificate of participation, but I have met many wonderful people, and the program made me alive.
I also had an ulterior motive. I was happy for the chance to receive free training, and becoming a certified Job Coach for Unilab Foundation’s Project Inclusion was an added achievement. Quite frankly, I never thought I would become a volunteer, but here I am, enjoying it!
The challenges of a job coach
The work of a Job Coach is multi-faceted. You have to be familiar with both the personal and professional life of your client. For example, you have to meet parents or family off-site to discuss their adult child’s performance at work. This is something I would be not comfortable with, because there will be an emotional component, and I would be unsure of how to respond.
Whenever I visit my client at work, I can’t help but feel some anxiety. I become self-conscious, wondering if my voice, my body language or the words I am using are appropriate. I worry whether or not I am demonstrating properly how to interact with a PWD, for everyone else to see and observe. There are a lot of what ifs sometimes.
Another challenge is when supervisors or colleagues mention difficulties with my clients. Sometimesit is hard to tell if they are consulting with you so they would know how to approach the matter better. Other times, they might be sharing one of the reasons they are not considering the PWD for regularization. It is tricky.
It may seem that job coaching mirrors some of the functions of an HR Practitioner. However, I realized that this perspective is limiting, and it takes my focus away from my client. It is not an easy process, but I am learning as I go.
PWDs in the workplace
Here is an individual who is so ready to show the world his potential, his skills, the things he can do. Unfortunately, the response of society is “No, you can’t, because you’re different.” I used to say the same thing. But now I see the truth, and I want that truth to be recognized. I know that I can do something, and so I will. Yes, they may have a condition, but it is not a disability.
And how does this benefit the PWD? I think that their social skills improve. Being exposed to many people is good for their emotional intelligence, and it boosts their self-confidence. And I would think that one of their proudest moments is when they receive their first salary.
I think that PWDs help their co-workers become aware of their attitudes and discipline towards work. I think that employees interact with PWDs either appreciate the opportunity or see it as a burden, an additional workload. For those who appreciate working with PWDs, I think that at the end of each day, they are able to reflect on and be grateful for the inadequacies they have in life, and they can act positively on them. On the other hand, those who view working with PWDs as burden might continue to whine, or maintain a poker face every day at work.
I used to be biased. I thought that hiring PWDs would be counter-productive, that they would be inefficient, that they would just cause problems at work. But I was wrong, very wrong. They are equally productive, and can demonstrate the same efficiency as any employee. Give them a quota, and they will accomplish it. They can cope with pressure, and can multi-task.
But more important than any of these measurable outcomes, they will teach you about patience, about persevering to learn, about not giving up, about being happy even with the littlest milestones. They will remind you that even if struggles seem overwhelming, there is always a way around it, and that there is much to be grateful for. These are contributions that have no monetary equivalent.
There are many reasons why you should grab the opportunity to meet and work with a PWD. It is not always going to be a breeze or a walk in the park, but isn’t it the same with the rest of us?
Do companies want low turn-over rates? Then they should hire PWDs.
Do companies want conscientious and honest people to work with? Then they should hire PWDs.
Do companies want committed and passionate people? Then they should hire PWDs.
Do companies want happy people in their employ? Then they should hire PWDs.
Do companies want punctual people? Then they should hire PWDs.
Do companies want people who are always eager to learn? Then they should hire PWDs.
Want to find out what value PWDS can bring to your company? Then employ them.
Candice Balud-Serviento is part of the first batch of volunteer job coaches trained under Project Inclusion. A human resources professional, Candice brings in her HR expertise and learnings as a job coach in helping Ian and Osel, both adults with autism, transition in the workplace. She loves music, documentaries, dogs, photography, and DIY crafts.