Looking for a job?: Meet Michelle Furman, VR Employment Counselor
Michelle Furman is new to the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) team in Central Oregon, but she’s had plenty of experience helping people with disabilities find jobs they enjoy.
Before she began her position at VR in September of 2020, Furman spent over a decade in the field of disability services. Much of her work was with provider agencies—organizations that provide employment opportunities and support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. That background gave her a deep understanding from an organization and employer’s point of view. In her new role as a VRC, Furman focuses on helping clients with I/DD gain the experiences and skills to be successful in the type of job that is right for them.
“We focus on the Employment First approach and person-centered planning. Every person has strengths, gifts, capacities, and interests that match to an area of employment. Once we find that match, we figure out the support that is needed,” said Furman.
Like all VRC’s, Furman can serve clients of all ages, starting at 14 years old. But the years just after high school, while enrolled in a transition program from age 18 to 21, can be especially important. “Transition students have access to so many experiences. These opportunities are how young adults define their employment goals,” she explained.
How can transition students begin the process of adding a VRC to their employment support team? Furman has a few suggestions to help every young adult with disabilities take advantage of VR services (hint: pay special attention to the first tip – it’s important!)
Be sure to connect with I/DD services at the county level.
Every county has a Community Developmental Disability Program which determines eligibility for services, depending on what kind of support is needed. By enrolling in the county’s DD services, long-term job coaching supports can be put in place for students to be successful in the employment journey.
Build your support team to include both YTP and VR specialists.
Many transition students are already working with Youth Transition Program (YTP) or Pre-Employment Transition Services specialists (Pre-ETS). That’s great! VRC’s work alongside YTP and Pre-ETS to coordinate services. In fact, YTP and Pre-ETS specialists can help students complete the VR referral process.
Think about skills, strengths and interests. Once students are connected to VR services, they can jumpstart the process by thinking about what kind of businesses match their interests. For example, a person who loves fashion could look at jobs in retail. A volunteer or employment at a thrift or retail store is a way to see if it would be a good fit. Sometimes the day-to-day reality of a job is very different from what a person imagines it to be, and experience is the only way to know. YTP specialists can help set up these work experiences, as well as transition programs who focus on employment outcomes.
Remember communication is the key to success.
The VRC helps build a network that stays in touch on a regular basis. Every person on the team needs to be part of the conversation: the VRC, the YTP or Pre-ETS specialist, caregivers, family members, and most of all…the transition students themselves!
Keep setting new goals!
Even after a student works through the employment process, Furman suggests that they keep setting new goals. As a person grows and matures, their skills and strengths grow too. Few people stay in one position forever, and young adults in their first job may soon be ready for the next step. They can return to VR for step-by-step help with defining what that next step looks like, and what support they might need to make their dream a reality.