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Work Toolkit:


Not working, wants to work

Starting an employment search is an exciting — but also intimidating — time for many people.

If you're working with someone who is interested in work but has little or no previous experience, your primary role is to create progress toward the person's employment goals. In this section, you'll find resources to help the person define their goals as well as find and secure a job. You don't have to be the job search expert, but you can help the person understand their options and connect to helpful resources. 

Jump to the section on not working, has concerns if you're supporting someone who is worried about employment or is unsure if work is right for them. 

If someone is unsure about the type of work they'd like, use the information in this section to help them identify their core interests and develop a plan that will move them toward employment. If someone already has employment goals or a job in mind, check here for information that could fill in any gaps and then skip to the Connect section below. 

To understand what a person is looking for in employment, ask questions that address what they like to do in their daily life (for people who may not have experience in the work world) or questions directly about their employment interests.

Daily life questions:

  • What are your favorite things to do?
  • How do you spend your day?
  • What do you like best about your day?
  • What do you like least about your day?

Work interest questions:

  • What would you like to do for work?
  • What new activity would you like to try at your new job?
  • What makes you feel important or proud?
  • What are you good at?
“” Key resource

Identify a person's core interests and develop a plan that informs future actions toward employment with this
Focusing on the destination worksheet (PDF) »

Once you have an understanding of the person's strengths and interests, help them build a plan for exploring or pursuing employment in these areas. You might:

  • Use the Charting the LifeCourse life trajectory for exploring employment worksheet (PDF) to identify what good employment looks like for them, what they want to avoid and what steps they can take to achieve employment
  • Connect the person to formal supports, such as waiver employment exploration services or customized employment and discovery services through Vocational Rehabilitation Services
  • Identify support needs, such as transportation assistance or job search assistance

Use the Connect section below to inventory existing supports and identify needed supports.

“” Key resource

Identify what good employment looks like and how to get there with the the Charting the LifeCourse
Life trajectory for exploring employment worksheet (PDF) »

As you learn about a person's interest in employment and their specific employment goals, document them in the support plan. This will help ensure that the goals are honored and carried forward in future planning.

Rapid engagement and progress toward employment goals is a key strategy in keeping people on a positive path toward employment. Make sure that you set follow-up goals at planning meetings — what will be done, who will do it and timelines for completion.

Work experiences (such as informational interviews or internships) can help people build their understanding of work, gain skills and make progress toward employment. See the Build work experiences section below to help someone get engaged in work experiences.

In this section, see how to identify current supports and sources for additional supports. 

When considering supports, begin with a person's natural (or informal) supports — such as those available through their network of family and friends. Natural supports are freely given and can be especially helpful in building relationships and decreasing reliance on formal service systems. Because natural supports often help people feel more included, they can support higher job performance and retention.

Also include the formal services they can access through a home and community-based services waiver or Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

When creating a list of supports, consider:

  • Sources for any needed accommodations at the workplace
  • Transportation resources, such as public transportation or people who can help provide rides
  • Benefits planning resources
  • People or organizations that can provide references or connect with potential employers (such as friends, teachers or temp agencies)
“” Key resource

To map out supports that can help with a job search, use the Charting the LifeCourse
Integrated supports star worksheet (PDF) »

Employment supports vary depending on a person's eligibility for specific programs or services. Consider these common needs and potential ways to address them:

Does the person need help discovering strengths or understanding work?
Use the Charting the LifeCourse life trajectory for exploring employment (PDF) to help plan their employment and set up work experiences. If the person has HCBS waiver services, employment development services-planning phase may be helpful.

Does the person need job search assistance?
Make a connection with a local Vocational Rehabilitation Services office.

Does the person need benefits planning assistance?
Recommend Disability Benefits 101 for benefits planning resources. Hub experts are also available to help the person understand benefits and how they support work, and to complete estimator sessions.

Does the person need accommodations in the workplace?
The Job Accommodation Network provides individual consultation on workplace accommodations.

Does the person need supports to maintain employment, such as job coaching?
For those receiving HCBS waiver services, employment support services provides ongoing supports to maintain employment. Minnesota's Extended Employment Program provides ongoing employment support services, including training assistance, dealing with schedule changes, adjusting to new supervisors, advancing to new job tasks and managing changes.

Does the person need transportation assistance to get to and from work?
Consider public transportation options in your area, including Metro Mobility if the person lives in an area near Minneapolis or St. Paul. For those receiving HCBS waiver services, waiver transportation may be an option. Also encourage the person to leverage natural supports, such as ridesharing with coworkers.

You can help the people you're supporting share what they've already learned or any previous planning they've done around employment (whether through your help, schooling, or previous work experiences or services) when they connect with new supports or programs. This will improve service effectiveness and prevent the need to repeat information. Ideally, you can equip the person to share this information themselves using tools such as the Vault.

If you will be directly sharing information about someone with another support professional, make sure to get any needed releases of information. 

A real-life understanding of competitive employment is critical to making informed choices about work. Although building this understanding will look different for each person, it should start with a person-centered process. This process can be informal, drawing on a person's existing social networks and assets. In some cases, you'll want to focus on opportunities for the person to build self-determination skills and self-confidence.

Begin with previous experiences. When you're identifying appropriate work experiences, don't assume that the person is starting from zero. Consider previous jobs, experiences during school and other experiences related to work.  

Options for building work experiences include:

  • Informal shared experience. Share success stories that would be meaningful for the person. Connect the person to peers who have jobs, especially those who had similar concerns about work or those who share interest areas.
  • Mentoring. Mentoring relationships can help people learn about the world of work and explore various career paths. Consider career mentoring, peer mentoring, group mentoring, and digital or remote mentoring. 
  • Informational interviews. An informational interview is a meeting between a job seeker and an employer or key staff member. An informational interview gives the job seeker the opportunity to ask specific questions about the business, industry or job.
  • Job shadowing. Set up opportunities for the person to follow and observe an employee doing work that might be of interest.
  • Volunteering. Help the person discover strengths and talents through volunteering. Be careful to approach the volunteer opportunity as a step toward competitive integrated work rather than a substitute for work.
  • Workplace tours. A workplace tour is an opportunity for first-hand observation of specific work sites. The person learns about the business, meets employees, asks questions and observes work in progress. Workplace tours are often done as a group.

Consider using the Charting the LifeCourse integrated supports star worksheet (PDF) to find a person's supports, such as family, friends, networks, technology or formal services that can support them in exploring work.

If the person you're supporting has access to waiver services, introduce employment exploration services to see if they would like more extensive supports to learn about the work world.

“” Key resource

Hold engaging conversations about work with this
Guide to work-based learning experiences »

Although someone may be excited to start a job search or build their path to employment, you're likely to hear concerns along the way. Anticipate common concerns so that you can be prepared with potential responses.

To support people who are unsure about employment, jump to the section on not working, has concerns.  

All benefits in Minnesota encourage and support work. They do this by having special rules, called work incentives, that can help you keep your benefits if you need them while you work or get them back quickly if they stop because of work.

In Minnesota, you won't lose health coverage because of work. In fact, there are health care programs that are specifically designed for people with disabilities who work. Review the health care programs that are available to you when you work, especially Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) and 1619(b). 

To see how work is possible, even with benefits, and how you can have more money when you work, watch the benefit videos and use the estimators on Disability Benefits 101.

Disability Benefits 101

Visit Disability Benefits 101 to
See how work and benefits go together »

We can talk about options for getting to and from work. There might be programs that can help pay for transportation, and we can look at public transportation options in your area. Your coworkers might even be able to help out, if needed.

We don't know for sure that the job will last or that you'll like it but, there are things we can do to help it be a success. And if it doesn't work out, that's OK. I'm not in my first job. It's OK to try. If we need to, we can try something different.

Discuss the variety of jobs available in the local area. Set up informational interviews with employers to help the person see the options and make an informed choice. Find opportunities to try out jobs or work options before starting a job search. Describe how the job development process will work and how job supports will be provided, if needed. 

Give examples of other people who've been successful in integrated competitive employment, and connect the person with peers or mentors who've had success in community employment.

Use a person-centered approach to discuss the person's interests and ways to explore work that incorporates those interests. Make sure potential jobs are a good fit socially and will promote interaction with others.

If it seems helpful, let the person know your statistics on both helping people find jobs or self-employment and retention rates.

That's OK, and that's why I'm here. I can help you figure out what interests you and what jobs might be right for you — or get you connected to others who can help.  

Let the person know that you'll set up activities like job shadowing, informational interviews or maybe even short-term job tryouts or volunteer opportunities to help them discover what's interesting and what might be a good fit.

What do you think? While their opinions are important, whether or not you work is up to you — not your friends or family.

Use the Charting the LifeCourse life trajectory worksheet (PDF) and integrated supports star worksheet (PDF) to identify and address any concerns friends or family may have.

Your attitude matters. As someone is pursuing employment, they are likely to encounter barriers along the way. Your belief that success at work is possible can make the difference in someone finding a job and overcoming challenges along the way.

In your daily interactions:

  • Recognize and acknowledge the value of employment
  • Stress what's possible while focusing on the person's abilities, needs and interests
  • Have positive conversations about employment
  • Support real-life work experiences
  • Be positive
  • Offer support for setbacks and encouragement to try again

To be a supportive presence:

  • Maintain high expectations. High expectations and the belief that employment is possible can strongly influence whether someone is successful in getting a job, regardless of disability. Support an expectation of work in your role.
  • Ensure progress. Make sure a person's job search is progressing forward. Set goals after meetings (identifying, who, what and when). Follow up on these goals.
  • Engage family members. Talk about employment goals and address any concerns with the person's family so that they can also be champions in the person's corner.
  • Support the person to be their own champion. As someone enters the work world, self-advocacy skills and a belief in themselves can be keys to success.
Next: Not working, has concerns »