Junior High

High School


Independent Living, Employment, Post-Secondary Education




What does Transition Planning for Employment mean?

Transition planning for employment covers skills necessary for many levels of employment (i.e. competitive, self-, customized, supported, sheltered). These skills may be in areas such as career exploration, job-matching, applying for jobs, being on-time, following directions, associating with colleagues, job-specific skills, etc.

Why is Transition Planning for Employment important?

People work for many reasons. The most important may be making money to pay for food, clothes, housing, phone, internet, utilities, and many other items! However, it can also help fill many more of our needs -- work often provides us with opportunities for security, friendship and social groups, confidence, respect, achievement, and a sense of fulfillment. (Click here for an explanation of the hierarchy of human needs and motivation)

Unfortunately, people with disabilities are often unemployed or underemployed when compared to people without disabilities. One survey showed that "among all working-age (18-64) people with disabilities, only 21% say that they are employed full or part-time, compared to 59% of working age people without disabilities -- a gap of 38 percentage points" (Kessler Foundation/NOD Survey, 2010). Additionally, young adults with disabilities reported earning almost 30% less per hour than their same-age, non-disabled peers (National Longitudinal Transition Study-2). 

However, active transition planning for employment can help remedy these problems!

What are employers looking for?

  • Basic Skills that are specific to each job
  • "Soft Skills" -- These are the overall skills that are not specific to any job, but are required to be successful anywhere. Many employers note that while a person may get a job because of the job related skills, the lose it by not having the soft skills.
    • Good hygiene
    • Communication skills
    • Good attitude 
    • Willingness to learn
    • Time management (getting to work on time, finishing tasks in a timely manner)
    • Ability to take criticism
    • Follow instructions and routines
    • adaptability and flexibility
    • Persistence
    • Perseverance through difficulty

How should a student prepare for employment?

  • Practice filling out various job related forms
    • Know your demographic information (or have it easily available) -- name, address, phone number, email, etc. 
    • Fill out a sample job application
    • Fill out applications from jobs you are actually interested in (look up their websites)!
  • Work on planning and building a resume
  • Develop interviewing skills
    • List of common interview questions and possible answers
    • Video of good and bad interview responses
    • List of common interview mistakes from employers
    • Know how to dress appropriately (examples from SimplyHired and About.com)
    • Mock Interviews are a great way to practice your interviewing skills! It can be done with parents, teachers, friends, etc. Here is a powerpoint presentation about mock interviews and a rubric for scoring (courtesy of Melanie Allen). 
  • Get a job while in school (one of the greatest predictors of having a job after high school is having a job while in school!). Remember though, you don't always get your dream job at first; you have to start low and get experience.
  • Finish school! Many studies have shown that high school completers are much more likely to be employed than those who drop out, and to make more money.

What job do I want?

Great question! The world is a wealth of possibilities! There are many options, but it is important to find one that is a match for you.

  • Realize that your first job may not be your career job choice! In other words, its okay to take an entry level job that may not even be in your area of choice. Get a job early on that will give you work experience and teach you basic employment skills (the "soft skills"). Then, not only will you have the skills to be successful at future jobs, you will have experience to list on your resume! 
  • Once you have done the O*NET Interest Profiler and discovered your three-letter RIASEC code, you can enter it on the O*NET website to discover jobs in those areas that may be of interest to you. You can also search by bright outlook, career cluster, and many other formats.

What services are available for students with disabilities in Employment settings?

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act require employers to offer basic accommodations in the workplace. It is the responsibility of the employee to approach the employer and let them know what accommodations they need. The business will likely have a protocol about how to apply and what documentation is needed from you and from doctors. They are not required to just provide the accommodations you received in school; they must determine what accommodations are reasonable and do not fundamentally change the basic skills required to do the job. 

Employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities solely on the basis of the disability.

Check out these resources:

How much should I tell my employer about my disability?

Obviously, if you want accommodations on the job, you have to disclose some things to an employer. In fact, they are not under obligation to provide them unless you request them. However, you don't have to tell them everything. How do you find the balance? The 411 on Disability Disclosure is a fantastic workbook to help teach what is appropriate. (Also available in audio and other formats here)