“Keep going!” Meghan O’Grady stresses when asked what advice she has for blind jobseekers. Meghan graduated from the Employment Immersion program in May 2015, and started her job in November 2015. “I’m a dorm counselor at Orientation Center for the Blind (OCB), giving back to the community every day.”
For Meghan, Employment Immersion helped her get “unstuck.” Frank, her counselor at the Department of Rehabilitation, urged her to sign up for Employment Immersion. “I needed a push – in addition to perfecting my job seeking skills, I needed to gain confidence in myself.” Meghan now works with blind students at OCB, helping them feel comfortable while at Orientation Center for the Blind, and urging her students to use the blindness skills they’re learning. Meghan tells us, “The students I work with range from the ages of 18 to 60 years old. I check on their physical and mental well-being, secure the dorm, check out and instruct participants on how to use assistive technology, help participants problem solve and find resources and I offer guidance about their training and their adjustment to changes in their vision. I love getting to know the students and help build their confidence. I’m glad I completed the Employment Immersion program, because it really helped me land this job.”
Meghan learned a lot through from the Employment Immersion program. “[Program Leader] Kate Williams taught my class practical skills, like how to write a resume and cover letter, prepare for interview questions, and dress for interviews. She also taught us how to prospect for jobs, from searching postings to reaching out to hiring managers.” Meghan tells us she expected to learn these skills, but what she was surprised to gain was confidence in herself.
“Kate was our cheerleader. She believed in us, and that feeling rubbed off. She reminded us that we had to sell ourselves, and that in order to sell ourselves, we had to believe in ourselves first.” Meghan’s experience is something we’re familiar with; a lot of blind jobseekers downplay what they have to offer employers. Kate Williams said, “Blind people forget that employers need them. We—the blind—have vast skillsets. We are scientists, artists, journalists, you name it. Often our blindness has nothing to do with our careers, except that it can make us stronger, and hiring us adds a diverse voice in the workplace. I remind my students that they truly are assets to any company. It’s not just a line we feed the students; it’s a reality Employment Immersion helps them discover.”
Meghan is thrilled to be at OCB. “I’m very blessed. I’ve received so much assistance from OCB, LightHouse, my college and the disability community. It’s nice to be giving back and helping other people with disabilities, specifically blind people, get the support they need.”
What makes LightHouse’s Employment Immersion unique is that we teach our students how to ask for accommodations, disclose their disability and feel confident when arriving at an interview with a white cane. Meghan notes that being in the Employment Immersion program was positive because she was working towards the same goal—getting a job—with a group of peers who were experiencing similar challenges. “My class shared experiences and encouraged each other. I knew I wasn’t alone, which had an enormous impact on my success.” Kate reiterates this point, “Meghan’s self-confidence soared during her participation in the program. She began to recognize her value as she worked with her colleagues. Their encouragement and validation of her talents propelled her to apply for positions and interview with a ‘can do’ attitude!”
We asked Meghan to share a specific lesson she learned from her job-seeking journey. “Keep trying! You won’t get every job you apply for. Interviews can be disappointing. Not every position you apply to is a fit.” She stresses, “But it’s worth the effort. Don’t give up, don’t get frustrated; just keep going. You’ll get there, especially with Kate by your side! Kate reminded me that people hire people. Once I figured that out, I performed better in my interviews, and ultimately I got the perfect job for me.”
If you think that Employment Immersion might help you land the job of your dreams, but are worried about starting the program, Meghan has this piece of advice: “Just do it!” Employment Immersion works with people who are blind from any background, seeking any job. To learn more, contact Jobseeker Coordinator Wanda Pearson at WPearson@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-431-1481 x370.