It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. - Confucius

Each week we work on the six areas of focus in our pie chart that lead to a balanced, healthy lifestyle.  The second piece of the pie is Employment.  Every individual comes with their own history of employment opportunities and the first step is assessing where they are in this process.  During this assessment, it is important to understand the family’s expectations as well as the individuals experience and interests.  Individuals and families may come into your program with no expectations of employment and no exposure to the community or they may come into programming with a job in place and many years of community experience.  Most individuals and families will be somewhere in between these two extremes and finding where they are will determine next steps for moving forward in the area of employment.  For an individual who has not left their family home for years, the first steps toward inclusive employment will be successfully establishing appropriate community behavior outside of the work force.  It may take months or years for the individual to establish appropriate behavior in the community but without appropriate behavior in the community, a community job is out of reach.  However, we have found that volunteering (or unpaid employment) can begin as soon as the transition out of the house to shop or for entertainment are successful.  Volunteering is an important step for those without successful employment already in place.  The power of community-based volunteering should not be underestimated.  Volunteering must be done at a non-profit where other community members volunteer and must be at a community location not in one’s home.  While many typical individuals accomplish a lot of good in the world by producing something in their home and donating it to worthy non-profit organizations, this does not provide the social opportunities needed to grow community integrated employment skills.  Fortunately, there are many opportunities to volunteer in community locations.  We have baked cookies at the Ronald McDonald House, packaged food to be delivered by Meals on Wheels, delivered Meals on Wheels, made dog biscuits, walked and fed rescue dogs and organized food at food pantries, just to name a few.  Doing these activities weekly gives us the opportunity to learn to be on-time because someone is counting on us, to dress appropriately for work, to act appropriately with our co-workers, to stay at work until we are scheduled to leave and so many other “soft skills”.  Without “soft skills” community integrated employment is not possible and these take time to develop.  While some of these skills may be in place when an individual enters the program, many will not, and these skills will determine if an employment placement is successful.  Establishment of appropriate community behavioral skills and employment “soft skills” are our first steps in moving toward community inclusive employment.  Simple, short questionnaires filled out by staff during volunteer activities can help us establish strengths and weaknesses for each individual which will aid us in finding a good fit when they are ready to transition into paid employment.