Flexibility, Creativity, and Persistence are Key to Employment Success! An Interview with Prabjoat “P.J.” Swan
Tell us about your work experience.
When I first started at the young adult workability program, I worked at Marshall’s, CVS, and Lodi Unified’s Payroll Department and Superintendent’s office to get work experience. I graduated from the Needham West Young Adult program, and for the last seven years, I have worked at Lodi Unified as a job coach and work experience assistant.
I teach students about job interviews, what to wear, and how to prepare. I help with math, laundry, hygiene, hand washing, how to scan labels, wipe down tables, and how to sort items. I also work in the classroom as an assistant with a sign language interpreter. I get to help students with basic sign language: “Hello,” “Good afternoon,” “No, I’m done.” I help the bus operator with securing seatbelts, transporting the students, and taking attendance.
How did you get your job?
A program specialist from Lodi Unified helped me. She helped me practice for the interview. She also helped throughout the school year. She helped me with the job application and with the whole process. She helped me prepare for meetings and conferences, which is part of my job, and develop public speaking skills. She helps me prepare the PowerPoint presentations and speeches.
Why do you like your job?
I like my job because I love helping students and staff. I love to learn from different experiences, and I get to talk about my story. Going to different states and doing public speaking. I love to do PowerPoint presentations and share my story. I really enjoy going to conferences because I get to meet new friends, stay at hotels, and have fun. I like to have fun, go out and talk about work, and get to know other professionals.
What skills do you use on the job?
I use my nice handwriting and organization skills. I use typing and technology skills, while being careful and problem-solving. I am a people person and also a happy, fun, and friendly person.
How has work changed your life?
Working has changed my life. I have done a lot of meetings, follow-ups, and YouTube videos to share my story. Working has made my life busier, and that makes me happy. It makes me focus. I like meeting new people and making new friends makes me happy. I get a paycheck, and I like to be independent and buy food from different places. When I get a craving for something, I can buy it. I buy things like fidget and stress tools. I have learned new ways to interact with people, and I have learned different social skills that teach me to ask permission before I say or do things like take a photograph of someone.
What do you do when you have a problem at work?
Sometimes, I get frustrated at work when people make schedule changes at the last minute, and I don’t like when someone uses a harsh tone or is really picky about how I do something.
What have you learned about problems or conflicts at work?
Real-time communication and feedback from a manager are really for the employee. If I don’t know I’m doing something wrong, I can’t change it. Taking a long time to give feedback can backfire because the employee may feel tension from the team, and that may make them feel bad. As a self-advocate, I don’t want to be treated differently from the team.
What advice would you give someone who was struggling to find work?
Look for work in things you enjoy doing, and make sure you have transportation.
How did you solve the challenge with transportation?
I have used a lot of different options. I have used Uber, but it was too pricey. I have used the public bus, but it is too far from home, and the schedules don’t work for me. I am waiting for regional center options to expand or resume. Sometimes, my brother and his friends have helped me get to work. You have to be flexible, creative, and persistent. Make sure you have a support plan. Identify who can help and know when and how to reach out to those people. Understand where they are in your circle of support. I have paid support staff from the regional center, SCDD staff, co-workers, managers, family, and friends as part of my circle of support.
What are your future plans?
I want to be a sign language interpreter or a paraeducator assistant. I am working on getting my license.
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