In college, the path of advancement and success is straightforward. Whatever one’s field, there is a required course of study that everyone takes, which progresses with time from beginning courses to more advanced studies. A student’s year in school, major, and GPA give a reasonable idea of where they stand academically. By contrast, advancing into the workforce is a much more uncertain prospect. There is no single number that can express the value of academic coursework to a company, and no concrete way to judge how one’s skills rank among the applicants for any given job.
As I faced the prospect of entering the workforce as a newly-minted graduate, I found that the challenge of muddling through seeking employment for the first time was compounded by my orthopedic disability. Although the situation for people with disabilities has improved in the 20 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I still found myself doubting that I could ever successfully find employment. What could I possibly offer in terms of skills or experience, as a new graduate, that others with more experience, specialized knowledge and no disability could not?
Fortunately for me, one of my advisors recommended that I apply to the Workforce Recruitment Program, which provides companies interested in hiring new workers for internships and full-time jobs a repository of candidates with disabilities from which they can recruit. The most important aspect of the program for me was that companies expected my disability; there was no initial shock or uncertainty to overcome when the interviewer saw me for the first time. It could not ease all of the fears that came with being a first-timer in the job market, but the WRP gave me a level playing field with clearer expectations on which to compete.
Through the Workforce Recruitment Program, I was worked as an intern for 2 years at Prudential Financial. There I was able to use and improve my technical skills by leaning two new programming languages, and bolster my language skills by translating business Japanese that I had not encountered in the classroom. At the end of my second summer as an intern, I was offered a full-time position with Prudential. I was tremendously pleased, and quickly accepted. The best part of the offer though, was that I felt that I had earned it on my own merit. Though it ultimately was my own effort that led me to full-time employment, the Workforce Recruitment Program gave me the essential confidence and the opportunity to succeed.
Editor’s Note: The author, Alexander Forbes graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 2010 with a degree in Science, Technology, and International Affairs and a focus on International Security. A former WRP intern, Mr. Forbes currently works as a Systems Analysis and Development Associate for Prudential Insurance Co. of America.