Networking is one of the most important components of successful employment. For teenagers, networking can be a great way to find a first job; a teen might get a weekend job in a family store, or a summer job at a restaurant where a family friend works. These connections can be especially helpful for students with vision impairments and can often be the key to securing a first successful employment opportunity. The benefit of networking extends beyond simply getting a job. It is important for individuals with vision impairment to understand who is in their network and how to maximize the resources available to them through the people they know. This is an important opportunity to discuss boundaries and opportunities.
The activity below encourages students to consider who is in their network and how these connections can play a part in their employment process.
This activity uses a lesson from the American Foundation for the Blind Transition Tote. However, this lesson simply serves as a model. If this kit is not available to you, the student can still participate in this activity.
- Talk with the student about her personal network, addressing the following:
- What is a personal network?
- How can a personal network be helpful?
- What kinds of people are in a personal network?
- If available, ask your student to read the section of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) Transition Tote entitled “Your Personal Network.” This lesson demonstrates a personal network as a series of concentric circles with the individual in the center. Each ring moving outward from the individual is a circle of people that the individual is connected to.
- Ask the student to list the people in her own network, modeling off of the AFB Personal network lesson. To do so, the student should identify the people in each of the following circles:
- Circle 1: the student is the only person in this circle
- Circle 2: immediate family and very close friends
- Circle 3: Friends and family who you might have over for dinner or hang out with on a weekend
- Circle 4: acquaintances, people you would say hello to but who don’t know much about you
- Circle 5: employers and service providers (i.e. doctor, teacher, counselor, housekeeper)
- Keep in mind that people can belong to more than one circle, i.e. your pet sitter (circle 5) may also be your friend (circle 3).
- Now, ask the student to answer the following questions:
- Which circle(s) of connections would be best to:
- Connect you with potential job contacts?
- Give you a ride to work or a job interview?
- Serve as a reference on a job application?
- Comfort you after a tough day?
- Talk with you about a frustration you have with your boss at work?
- Talk to you about your paycheck and the amount of money you make?
- Help you pick out an outfit?
- Have dinner with you at a restaurant?
- Why did your student make the choices she did? Encourage a discussion about the student’s responses. What are the benefits of each network circle? What are the boundaries of each circle?
By Courtney Tabor-Abbott