Learning how to get hired

Students who are blind practice essential job-search skills at Perkins’ Work Experience Open House

A student speaks with an employer at the Work Experience Open House

Students who attended the Work Experience Open House had a chance to speak with more than 20 employers about volunteer and work opportunities.

January 30, 2017

At 21, Perkins School for the Blind student Brian has a firm grasp on his interests and how they might translate into a future career.

“PR is what I want to go into,” he said with conviction. “My big thing is promotion, I’m a promotional kind of guy.”

As he uttered those words, Brian was waiting to speak with a representative from the Perkins Marketing Department about job opportunities open to students. When his turn came, he listened to Kevin Hartigan describe a student tour guide position, and put his name down for consideration. It sounded like a good fit for his promotional skills, he said.

Brian and dozens of his peers were attending Perkins’ Work Experience Open House, where they had a chance to speak with more than 20 employers from on and off campus about volunteer and work opportunities.

At one booth, representatives from Franklin Park Zoo were looking for a wildlife interpreter to answer visitor questions about animals and conservation efforts. A few feet away, Perkins Training Center employee Emily Moore was searching for an office assistant. She passed a braille description of the position to Kevin, 18, who took a moment to read it over. Ultimately, he decided that the job wasn’t for him.

“It was nice meeting you,” he said to Moore, with his hand outstretched. “Thank you for telling me about the job.”

Interactions like this one are precisely what the Open House is for, said Perkins Job Developer Karen McCormack. For students with visual impairment, introducing themselves, shaking hands and distributing resumes are actions that require practice to get right.

“This event is a way for them to refine their skills,” she said. “Are they neatly dressed? Did they come prepared with questions?”

Across the room, Perkins Solutions Director of Operations Dan Roy and Mechanical Engineer John Hudelson spoke with Jon, 20, about different positions in their department, including a job assembling components that make up the classic Perkins Brailler.

“You’d need to operate some staking machines (that connect parts),” explained Hudelson. “They’re interesting but a little loud.”

After some thought, Jon put his name down for the position.

“This sounds great,” he said. “I’ve never used a staking machine before but I’d like to learn.”

Many employers at the Open House have been providing job placements to Perkins students for years. One example is Watertown Savings Bank, where many students have gained valuable work experience as coin sorters.

On Friday, the bank’s head teller Rosemary Lahaise manned a table at the Open House, chatting with applicants about the requirements of the position. 

“I’m happy to be here,” she said. “It’s wonderful to meet (the students) and talk to them and be part of their learning experience.”