Even over the phone, Colleen Collins radiates a calm energy that makes you feel like you are the center of her world, for that moment. It’s no surprise that she has been in the business of caring for people, in one way or another, throughout her career. “I worked in Pediatric Intensive Care at Kaiser for 14 years.” She loved the work, and became adept at both assessing and providing medical care for her patients.
Then Colleen started having trouble with her vision. “I began knocking things over, and I also had episodes of night blindness,” she said. Eventually Colleen was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. After a stint working at a plastic surgeon’s office, she decided that because of her decreasing vision she would need to stop working directly with patients and look for another way to make a living.
At the recommendation of a friend, Colleen took a right turn career-wise that turned out to be an excellent fit for her engaging personality. She became a successful mortgage banker, helping her clients get the best loans to fulfill their particular needs. But as the real estate market went from boom to bust, concurrently, Colleen’s vision got dramatically worse. This made it difficult to do the driving and sales work required for the job. “I had to stop driving and start facing reality. That’s when a friend told me about the Department of Rehabilitation.” She signed up for services through DOR and went back to school.
In 2012 Colleen got her degree to qualify to work as a Nurse Administrator. The eight-year gap since she was last employed in a medical capacity made it hard for her to compete against nurses who had been working steadily. Meanwhile her DOR counselor referred her to the LightHouse to learn travel skills and use of a white cane. A positive experience led her to enroll in the LightHouse’s Employment Immersion program.
With self-deprecating laughter, Colleen said, “We think we know it all, we know how to find a job. But the Employment Immersion sessions really brought me up to date – I learned so much about what employers really want to see on a resume these days. And going over typical interview questions and practicing in front of the class and a video camera was invaluable. For example, one frequent question is ‘What do you consider a weakness?’ The pat answer is ‘I’m a perfectionist.’ Well, you know, that is just considered a cliché these days. Kate teaches you what works and what doesn’t! When you do an interview, you’re nervous enough, but when you’ve practiced and prepared you can quickly recollect answers you’ve been working on – it makes such a difference! Also, getting the feedback from Kate and from the class really helps build confidence.”
Colleen’s perseverance paid off and she was hired as an Intake and Scheduling Manager for the home health agency American Care Quest in San Francisco. “I talk to the departments at the various hospitals, gather information on new patients and decide which medical personnel (i.e., Skilled Nurses, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists) to send out. I’m working full time, ten to twelve hours a day. It’s great!”
Kate Williams said, “Colleen brought her undeniable energy and positivity to our Spring 2012 sessions. We helped her polish her resume and her presentation and she just went for it. She was dogged about identifying key decision makers and finding a way to get in touch with them. She knows what she wants and goes for it, but she is able to combine this tenacity with a warm and welcoming personality. Colleen positively lights up the room and I’m so pleased with her success!”
Are you looking to jumpstart your career like Colleen did? Are you looking for a job and need that extra little push to get that interview or take your resume to the next level so it rises to the top of the pile? The next session of the 2013 Employment Immersion Program will begin Tuesday, March 19 at the LightHouse’s office at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. For more information, call Kate Williams at 415-694-7324 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.