October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) - LandAjob, a division of NTI, Inc., which also includes NTI at Home and The Staffing Connection celebrates with those that are committed to working with employers and Americans with Disabilities! 

Expect, Employ and Empower.

The Over 50 Job Search

Looking for a job at any age is hard and looking for a job over 50 isn't an easy task.  A look at the percentage of those who are disabled in the United States shows that almost 64% are over the age of 50.

For those of us over 50, we probably hoped for one place to work for our entire career, promoting and helping a company become successful.  And when we were ready to retire, we would get a cake and a gold watch.  Well things have changed over the last 20 years!

That isn’t to say that some of us may have decided to try something new or find ourselves in a position to look for work due to an illness or another cause beyond our control.

If you are in the position of thinking of going back to work and over 50 year old, how do you overcome all the potential obstacles?

The first thing to do is to take an inventory, what do I want to do for work?  What am I good at, what are my strengths?  You want to get a sense of the type of work you want to gravitate to and decide if you have the education and skill sets to impress a potential employer.  Some people have trouble “tooting their own horn” but this is essential to the job search!  You want to be able to accentuate the positive, not only to a future employer but to yourself.  As Senator Al Franken’s Saturday Night Live alter personality; Stuart Smalley used to say’s: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.”

Many people looking for work can find themselves rolling out the obstacles to success, and in some ways find the whole process too much work.  Unfortunately, finding work is a laborious task that most of us don’t want to do.  It isn’t easy making this a fun process, especially if you aren’t naturally outgoing.

It is pretty easy to sit behind a computer screen and send out resumes and complete on-line applications, it’s anonymous.  It doesn’t take someone out of their comfort zone.  But sending out your resume on-line is usually not one of the most effective ways to land-a-job.

Networking with people you know and even those you have not yet met, is still the most successful way to find work.

Eeeeek!  That means you may have to talk with people.  This can be something outside many of our comfort zones.  It is usually good to start with people you know.  Just have a conversation about going back to work with a friend or family member, someone you trust or respect their opinion.

  • What pointers could they offer? 
  • Do they know of a place that is hiring and would have something that is of interest to you?
  • Would they mind helping you practice your “networking pitch” to others that are distant acquaintances?

When you have become more comfortable, would you be willing to attend a job fair?  Would you have developed the confidence to talk about yourself, promote your strengths?   Are there “job clubs” in your area? Job Clubs can offer support (you are certainly not alone) and even the ability to refine and practice your job search techniques.

Engage with people.  Show your personality!  You may meet new friends.  Be careful not to “overshare.” Listening is just as important as talking, especially if it is in an interview setting.  Remember to keep it professional.  A ten minute conversation about your cat sitting in the window to bask in the sunlight could be a turn off unless the person you are speaking to is a cat lover as well.

Avoid going through the motions.  This is something that will instantly turn off a potential contact and/or a future employer.  People can sense this pretty quickly.  You should research the company.  Today, you may even be able to research the person conducting the interview.  Prepare and practice (even if it is in front of a mirror.)

What are they looking for from this contact and what can you offer them?  If it is a job interview, you can offer them an employee who will do the necessary work so they do not have to worry about it, ask good questions.  Remember you will want to be sure it is a good fit for you too.

This is hard, but not impossible.  You may have to overcome your personal obstacles.  If you are honest about your abilities and you have a realistic plan in place, finding a job can be done.  Learn from the process.  If you happen to think you were stumped by an interview question, prepare in case you are asked that question again.  Don’t get discouraged.  Each interview is at the very least a chance to practice. 

Celebrate the chance to talk about yourself, meet new people and when you land the next job, let your new adventure begin!

Solution Challenge: Hundred Dollar Arm

It's National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so I thought we would start off the month by helping a few who can use some extra help get employed.
Unfortunately, many of you know of someone who has suffered a stroke, paralysis, or does not having the ability to use their hands like they used to. No one can ever prepare to be disabled, but maybe we can help enough so that person can move on with their lives.
I work for a non-profit called NTI that Americans with Disabilities obtain work at home jobs in the Call Center and Help Desk industries. My ongoing goal is to help everyone who requests our services. However, I have a major challenge I thought you can help with: how can we help individuals who have limited use, or no use, of their hands to be able to pass a typing test? A loss may have been due to a stroke, amputation, paralysis, or other physical disability.
The Scenario:
One of the key criteria our NTI clients require is for a candidate to be able to pass a typing test and successfully type at least 30 words per minute while talking to a customer over the phone. Many of our candidates are able to pass this test and move on to a successful position within a Fortune 500 Call Center or Help Desk. Some, however, due to their inability to use their hands for typing, do not pass, and we try to help them in other positions as they may or may not become available.

We’ve put various methods in place to help with the success of our candidates to reach the 30 word per minute goal. These methods include a Speed Building Course and the One-Handed Typing Technique. These are methods that take quite a bit of effort, time and investment on the part of the candidate in order to achieve success. In addition, candidates have asked if they could use DragonSpeak, Dictate or a Relay Service. The logistic issue with these methods is that a representative would need to pause with the customer, dictate the information, and then come back online to continue talking with the customer again. This leads to an awkward pause for the customer. Try it next time you are in the store. Start up a conversation with the clerk behind the counter, but pause before you say anything back by 10 seconds. The situation becomes very uncomfortable and the clerk will be soon wishing you left and never came back.
A Potential Method:
I typically find that your best solutions to service challenges don’t often come from the industry you are working in. When I started in the field of video production 20 years ago, teleprompters and light kits were very expensive. Therefore, to save money, I would find myself at a Home Depot over the weekend talking to a sales associate saying, “I need a piece of aluminum that bends this way and has an opening at the end that would fit this.” He would take me to a part of the store that had something similar and we would make it fit. I think the same case scenario applies here.
I thought of a way to get someone through the typing test with using just one hand, and how an individual with limited use of both hands could do it. My thought was to employ a dual monitor concept where an Ipad or Windows Surface with a touch interface would serve as the second monitor. On that second monitor, you would have a Swype type of keyboard enabled. Swype-ing on the second monitor would allow a user to complete the words with one finger as it auto-populated the words. The software I would use to extend my desktop across the two monitors is Splashtop Personal Edition. In the following , you can see how easy it is to extend your desktop across monitors by following the steps shown.

Unfortunately, the way I intended to use Swype as my virtual keyboard did not work as planned. Therefore, I decided to use TouchPad Keyboard, which is similar to Swype and seems to be the only solution for my needs.
Strike 1: Downloading Splashtop: I found it extremely difficult to gain access to the Microsoft Store to download Splashtop. It took about 45 minutes to log in, and then continuously encountered errors during the entire process. This provoked my colleagues to say, maybe they have this on iTunes or the Play Store. Bingo! I finally was able to download it with much less interruptions and frustration.

Strike 2: Microsoft Surface is Second to None:
 As my colleague looked on, the first trial of my concept was disastrous. It took roughly an hour to configure Splashtop between my Microsoft Surface and my laptop. Splashtop connected just fine and as directed. The issue was that Microsoft Surface refused to be the secondary monitor that ran the Touchpad Keyboard. I was unable to get the laptop monitor to be the primary and the Microsoft Surface to act as the secondary monitor.
Strike 3: What You See Isn't Always What You Think: The makers of Touchpad Keyboard must be special effect masters. Through the video shown here, they make it look easy to use and install. I think I had more of a chance jumping to the moon without a running start. The program which is not installable in your native language, was extremely difficult to configure; and once the program was set up, it didn't work as promised.
Well, my potentially workable solution was a fail, but I think the concept is still a good one. Unfortunately, the existing technology does not compliment it very well. On another bad note, if this did work, I could imagine the amount of frustration a candidate would have with the download, setup and successful installation of such a solution. Could you imagine taking another hour and a half setting up your computer for work everyday to accomplish this and not know if it would consistently work?
The Contest
Therefore, I open it up to my colleagues, you, to take this challenge posed by NTI: How do we help individuals who have impairments with their hands be part of the workplace again? We are asking you to come up with a user friendly tech method to help people type and successfully pass the typing test without compromising their patience and their computer.
If you can come up with the best method to meet this challenge, or come up with an alternative method for a Windows PC to accomplish what I was trying to do with a touchscreen device, here is what you will get:
  1. Gift Cards (Everyone Likes Money)
    • $100 American Express Card for the Best Proven Method for Success (1 Winner)
    • $75 American Express Card for the Next Runner Up (1 Winner)
    • $50 American Express Card for the 3rd Runner Up (1 Winner)
Note: Alternatively, you can donate your prize money to help Americans with Disabilities who need equipment to do work at home positions. If you choose this alternative, I will personally match the amount won. (You can only win once during this contest)
  1. Accolades to the individual who solved the problem by mentioning your name on the Website, in our Newsletter for Candidates, as well as in my Next Post.
  2. The gift of helping individuals who suffered a stroke, paralysis, amputation, or other physical disability the chance at being part of the workplace once again.

Here are the stipulations of what we need the solution to do:
  1. Work with a Windows PC which is a client requirement
  2. Have a Swype type of functionality that would allow the user to type
  3. Have the largest monitor the main monitor. Keep in mind that they need a 17” or larger monitor to succeed.
  4. Have a documented process that can be replicated and easily implemented.
  5. Can be used with multiple touchpad devices such as Ipad, Microsoft Surface or other device.
  6. It needs to be an inexpensive solution. Many on disability cannot afford a pricey program or device so that needs to be taken in consideration.

Once you come up with a solution, which includes documentation to replicate the solution, email it to me at msanders@nticentral.org with the subject heading Contest. Keep in mind, by submitting your solution, you will give NTI the rights to use it in NTI’s efforts to help others. The contest will end on November 30th, 2014.
I’m really hoping we can make this happen. If it does, I will make a personal effort to call every person who has interacted with NTI and had difficulty with the typing test due to their disability to tell them that there is a solution and tell them “Yes!” we want you to be a part of gaining employment again.
As an endnote, if you can’t figure out the answer, you can help by reposting it on your timeline or to a group you belong to. Perhaps someone from your inner circle of can think of a great solution.

Update: The title of this article was changed from "Solution Challenge: I Dare You! Make Me Say Yes and It Could Lead to $100." to "Hundred Dollar Arm."
You can continue to follow the NTI evolution as we will be posting updates to this article as well as the experiments to bring a re-evolution to NTI Technology to life on@technology_nti at Twitter.
Connect with me on LinkedIn at http://linkd.in/Yz4O2r.
Link in at the NTI Blog at http://goo.gl/gnTgNQ.
Mike Sanders is the Senior Director of Talent Management Services for NTI where he oversees the Training, Call Center, and Recruiting departments. In the past, Mike was the Manager of Training for Canon North America, worked for a few Financial Firms, and has built Interactive media, Websites and Learning Management Systems for several Fortune 500 firms and start-ups.

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