Thinking About Freelancing?

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man in wheelchair with woman sitting next to him looking at laptop

Have you thought about freelancing, or already started to build your freelance skills and business network? Here’s some food for thought on aspects of freelancing to consider.

Freelancing, defined

freelancer, or freelance worker, is self-employed, sells their work or services by the hour, day or project, and may work for more than one employer at a time, or different employers sequentially, for short terms.

Why freelance?

Freelancing appeals to some people as a means to use their unique set of talents fully, in ways they can’t seem to do in a standard job. Some like the independence of setting their own schedule, taking time off when needed, and working extra hours when they have the time. Others like the opportunity to earn a higher hourly rate of pay than they could as an employee. Some people get into freelancing after a layoff, quitting — or being fired from a job. They may want a break from the obligations of regular employment, have a hard time finding a job, or just need an immediate income source.

How freelancers find jobs

It’s common to build a freelance career over time, establishing relationships with clients and developing a network of business contacts that can provide leads for projects and freelance jobs. Reputation is key, as word of mouth referrals are like gold for freelance work. Freelance work may be posted on major job websites as well as on niche freelance work sites for writers, designers, developers and coders, photographers, marketers and more. Social media may be especially helpful for digital media freelancers, and for outreach to develop contacts and establish links to your portfolio.

The product

As a freelancer, you will benefit from having an articulate, clearly-defined brand that communicates who you are and what you offer an employer. It’s important to know:

  • What is your unique skill set?
  • Are there passions that freelancing will allow you to express, explore, and expand?
  • What are the work environments you understand, in which you thrive and to which you are able to make an immediate contribution?
  • How will you keep up in your field to continue to offer in-demand skills?

Most freelancers have a targeted skill set they’re marketing, so maintaining and refreshing that skill set needs to be part of the plan. Look for ways to keep your skills sharp such as sources for free or low-cost classes and software instruction or consider a skill training swap with someone who knows something you’d like to learn. Community college classes and certifications may be good options. Teaching your skills is another way to keep them sharp and build your reputation as an expert in the field.

Your product may best be communicated through a portfolio of your work — considered essential for most freelancers, so keep a record of your projects, publications, a client list, successes and accomplishments to include.

Costs for freelancers

Freelancers need to be aware of the costs of providing health insurance, retirement, and other benefits for themselves. For some, this may be the deciding factor in whether they can afford to freelance. Freelancers also forego unemployment insurance, so during gaps in employment, you are on your own. You may want to establish a reliable fallback income stream, such as a job you can easily pick up when needed.

Freelancers may also need to pay for their own equipment, tools and other gear. But unless items are essential for a particular project, you may build up your tool kit over time. 

Keeping a balance

Emotional support is a factor that some freelancers neglect to consider until its absence is felt. Many employees who work in teams and have longevity in a job develop close relationships with coworkers. This may not be part of a freelancer lifestyle, so you may want to take an honest look at how your social needs will be met by other means. Options could include joining freelancer networking groups, scheduling regular meetings with friends or establishing yourself as a regular at a gym, favorite coffee shop or volunteer gig.

Employers may have unrealistic expectations of freelance workers and impose workloads and deadlines that leave little time or energy for a life outside of just keeping up. In cases like these, freelancers may need to assert their conditions to make the work sustainable.

Source: CareerOneStop

I run a talent agency for models and actors with disabilities and visible differences. We’ve cast for Disney and Gucci — our clients’ success is the best part of my job.

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Zebedee Management Director Laura Johnson (left) and model Sarah D.

By , Insider

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with talent agent Laura Johnson. It has been edited for length and clarity.

The idea for a specialist talent agency came to me and my then-friend, now-sister-in-law Zoe while we were walking on the beach one afternoon in Eastern England.

It was 2017 and I was on maternity leave from my job as a social worker. During our walk, the conversation turned to the performing-arts classes Zoe led for children with disabilities.

While the children were talented and many were passionate about pursuing modeling and acting, there was sadly a lack of inclusion among traditional fashion brands, advertising, and media for those with a disability or visible difference of any sort. Not only did this lack of representation seem unfair, it also wasn’t exactly business-savvy considering people who live with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world.

The more we discussed it, the more we began to ask ourselves, “If no one out there is representing people with disabilities and differences, why don’t we?” Between my social-work background and Zoe’s work as a model and drama teacher, we had experience working with underrepresented groups.

Despite the fact that neither of us had ever worked at a talent agency before, we decided to join forces and launch Zebedee Management representing disabled and visibly different models, actors, and influencers who up until then had been virtually excluded.

We began by inviting Zoe’s students to apply and reached out to various disability groups seeking talent from within their community.

Talent was never going to be our challenge — getting clients to sign our talent was the biggest obstacle. We decided instead of waiting for jobs to come in casting people with disabilities or visible differences, we would simply pitch our talent for traditional commercial jobs.

In the beginning. it wasn’t easy. Many casting agents simply paid us lip service with no intention of actually booking our talent, but we continued trying.

Then a month after launching, we locked in two major bookings. One was for a print ad for Disney with child model Grace Wharton, and the other was for the Teatum Jones runway show during London Fashion Week with model Vicki Balch, who lost her leg in the Alton Towers accident.

Every time we get a call or receive a note from one of our models sharing their positive experiences with us, it just reinforces our mission.

One of our models named Louisa sent us a note saying: “I was always scared of what society would think of a young person in a wheelchair and I was afraid that people would judge, but then I found Zebedee, who wanted me for my disability rather than looking at my disability as a bad thing. They wanted me to spread awareness and make disability beautiful and change society’s thoughts and how they see disability.”

Another of our model’s named Roisin said: “I honestly feel so grateful to be part of something so special. The opportunities that Zebedee has given me are amazing. If me two years ago spoke to me now, she would be astonished and so proud, and that is because of the Zebedee community. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself because I feel so lucky. Also, I am amazed that I am part of the change I want to see.”

Click here to read the full article on Insider

Discussing Your Strengths in a Job Interview

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interviewees on Zoom call discussing their resumes

When you’re interviewing for a job, there’s a strong chance that a recruiter or potential boss will ask what you believe are your strengths. This is an easy question to answer. Interviewers will certainly want to know that your perceived strengths line up with the position you’re seeking, but they are also interested in whether you’re self-aware and confident. With a little practice, you can answer that question without appearing either arrogant or overly humble. Here’s how.

Show Your Strengths: STAR Method in Action

Talking about your strengths is an opportunity to show why you’d be a great fit for the job and how your skills align with the company or team. The key is to think about what strengths you have that match one or more of the aspects of the job description. A strength can be either a technical skill or a soft skill, such as teamwork or communication.

Once you’ve decided which of your strengths you want to feature, it’s time to identify real life examples where you’ve demonstrated that strength. The best way to approach behavioral questions is to use the STAR method. This helps you break down a scenario and explain how you successfully navigated it.

Situation: Offer some background on the task or challenge that you’ll be addressing.

Task: Define what your role and responsibilities were for the particular situation.

Action: Explain what steps you took or ideas you offered to help solve the problem or tackle that challenge.

Result: Share how the situation was resolved, highlighting how your actions helped reach that conclusion.

Here’s an example:

If you interview for a position that requires you to lead or even be part of a team, you might choose to say one of your strengths is leadership.

Situation: I volunteer as a gardener at a local park and enjoy working with new volunteers.

Task: The park identified a need to educate new volunteers about native plants.

Action: I organized a training session to teach my team members about native plants.

Result: The new volunteers found it so useful that the training is now part of the new volunteer onboarding process.

In this scenario, an interviewer might recognize your ability to take initiative to address needs and lead a new volunteer training. While this answer may seem simple, it demonstrates your strength in both initiative and leadership, which are valuable traits to all employers.

If you find it is hard to identify your strengths, consider your ability to:

  • Collaborate
  • Solve problems
  • Take direction and focus on tasks
  • Use technology
  • Lead or mentor

Rehearsing your answers can also help you feel prepared when heading into your next interview. Common interview questions to consider include:

  • “Why do you want this job?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you had to learn something quickly but knew nothing about it before.”
  • “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
  • “Tell me about a goal you set and how you achieved it.”
  • “What is one of your weaknesses?”

Reflect on your skills and accomplishments. Think about why they qualify you to succeed in the job you’re applying for. Think about the strengths of your professional role models and whether you have some of those same qualities. Consider a time when a teammate shared something they admired about you. Or think back to any times you received recognition for your work and what skills allowed you to shine.

Source: Ticket to Work

Creating Career Pathways through Inclusive Apprenticeship

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Man in wheelchair on computer doing Apprenticeship

Companies are searching for candidates to fill positions in growing industries, including clean energy, healthcare, information technology, cybersecurity and finance. Yet, more than half of human resource professionals believe the pool of qualified candidates that can fill these jobs is shrinking, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Apprenticeship programs can aid employers in tackling this challenge.

Traditionally, apprenticeship programs have focused on training job seekers to enter skilled trades in occupations such as manufacturing and construction. However, new approaches to apprenticeships are taking shape to meet employers’ talent needs in a wider range of industries; these programs help diversify the workforce and enable job seekers with disabilities to gain credentials and skills to succeed in high-growth, high-demand industries.

An inclusive apprenticeship program is an employer-driven program that can help provide access to lifelong career pathways for job seekers from diverse backgrounds, including those with disabilities. Training and instruction focus on helping apprentices master skills needed to succeed in a specific occupation. These programs offer opportunities for job seekers with disabilities from diverse backgrounds to sharpen their skill sets and pursue career paths through work-based learning that is accessible to everyone.

The Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship is an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. We collaborate with employers and the organizations that connect employers with apprentices–known as industry intermediaries–to expand the number of inclusive apprenticeship programs in the U.S. Job seekers with disabilities can benefit from joining a program that is fully committed to diversity and inclusion. For instance, people with disabilities who enroll in inclusive apprenticeship programs can:

  • Attain accessible on-the-job training and work in an accessible environment
  • Earn money through wages or stipends while training to be an apprentice
  • Gain skills and credentials (e.g., certifications, certificates, etc.) that can facilitate a pathway to in-demand jobs
  • Work directly with employers and mentors–those who understand the importance of inclusion and accessibility–to receive on-the-job experience

If you are interested in learning more about inclusive apprenticeship programs and enrolling in a program, these resources can help you on your career journey:

Visit Apprenticeship.gov

How to Get Your Resume Past Today’s Software

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multi resumes lined up

When you send out a resume today, you can be nearly certain that it will wind up going through automated applicant tracking system (ATS) software.

Many, and probably most, employers use these time and labor-saving programs to review job applications and make an initial sort of resumes to either send to Human Resources for review, or to reject.

Read on to learn about just how employers use these software programs to sort through incoming resumes — and find out how to tailor your resume for success.

How employers use ATS software

Once employers identify a job opening, they use ATS software to describe the skills, education and training, years of experience and other details they want in candidates for the position. As applications come in, the ATS scores each one and puts it in rank order based on how well it meets the employer’s list of criteria.

But unlike a human reader, the software is likely to reject resumes because:

  • Qualified candidates fail to use the employer’s chosen keywords
  • The system doesn’t recognize unusual fonts or formatting
  • Candidates lack the preferred experience, but may have qualifications that could make up for what’s missing

Navigating the ATS when you apply for a job

Use these tips to improve the chances that your resume will pass through the ATS to be reviewed by Human Resources staff:

  1. Use thoughtful, relevant keywords. Analyze the job posting to identify job requirement keywords, then use those exact terms in your resume. Any variation from what’s written in the job posting may be missed.
    • Aim to use each keyword twice, more is not helpful
    • Modify your resume keywords for different job openings
    • Ask someone in a similar job to check your terminology; find people in similar jobs on LinkedIn
    • Check professional association websites and publications for ideas for keywords
    • For additional keywords, review an Occupation Profile and check the knowledge, skills and abilities
  2. Follow the posting’s instructions to the letter. Send only the documents requested by the posting, and use the requested format. If no format is specified, use Word or plain-text files. Avoid scanning resumes and sending them as an image; these will not be recognized.
  3. Prioritize formatting details
    • If a font is not specified, use a basic font such as Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman, with font size of 11 or 12 (10 to 14 is generally OK)
    • Bold and all capital letters are OK to use, but avoid using italics and underline
    • Bullet points are fine, but only use solid circles, open circles or solid squares
    • Avoid graphics, logos, charts, tables and columns — this will disrupt the ATS’ ability to read text
    • Lines and borders may be used as long as they do not touch any text
    • For your name and contact information, avoid extra spaces and special characters
    • For dates, use the standard format MM/DD/YYYY or Month, YYYY; avoid abbreviations, such as ’19
    • When a job posting requests the day a past job began and ended, be sure to include one, even if you have to estimate it
    • Margins of 1″ on all sides are typical
    • Putting extra keywords in a white font on your resume will not “trick” an ATS
  4. Choose a resume style that’s compatible with an ATS. A chronological work history, with jobs listed in order by date, should be used to ensure the ATS will successfully interpret it.
    While a functional resume may best highlight your transferable skills, it is likely to be rejected by an ATS. You can use a section such as “highlights of qualifications” or “professional summary” for transferable skills, just include your work history as well.
  5. Keep these general tips in mind
    • Customize your resume for each job application
    • Resume length: 1-2 pages
    • The general rule is to include your previous 10 years’ work history. If your most relevant experience is older, consider noting it in a professional summary / highlights section, but not in work history.
    • ATS systems check both for your work experiences and the number of years on the job.

Since nearly all Fortune 500 companies use an ATS in their hiring process, double down on this advice if you apply to a job with one of them. But keep in mind that networking is still the best way to bypass ATS systems and get your resume directly into the hands of hiring managers.

Source: CareerOneStop

How to Manage Anxiety as We Re-Enter the World

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Business man with face mask works on laptop computer

By Angie Snyder, PsyD, Wellness Advisor

Since the pandemic, all of our lives have changed abruptly. For many, this sudden change led to life circumstances that were vastly different than how we’d lived before.

People across the globe have experienced great challenges including loss, grief, fear, stress, economic destabilization and the psychological impact of monotony.

Despite all of the difficulties, some have benefitted and enjoyed the changed circumstances – including a slower pace of life, more time with family and loved ones at home, new hobbies, less commuting, more sleep and fewer demands of planning and decision making.

Now that restrictions are easing and people are beginning to return to work and school, there is a whole new set of anxieties about what the near-future holds.

For example, those who struggled with social anxiety before the pandemic have had less opportunity to practice engaging with others, which has only increased their social anxiety. People’s anxieties about re-entry include, but are not limited to:

  • Fear of becoming sick with coronavirus, even if they’ve been vaccinated;
  • Self-consciousness and/or fear of engaging in-person with people;
  • Fear of being in public;
  • Uncertainty from a shifting of relationships and concern about who remains their friend;
  • Overwhelm with a flood of personal and professional decisions that were on hold, and
  • Worry about returning to an unhealthy, overly-scheduled life.

Fortunately, most of us now have opportunities to move more slowly and with more say in how we operate with the changes to come.

The following three steps might help you determine what is your unique, best path forward:

Reflect: Assess What You Want to Keep/Let Go – Give yourself time to reflect upon how you want to proceed in the coming months. Journaling and conversations with a trusted friend, colleague, family member or therapist can help you determine what you value and what you want to prioritize in your days. Ask yourself and answer, “What have I enjoyed and valued since the beginning of the pandemic, and what of this do I want to maintain?” Perhaps you want to ensure you continue spending time playing the guitar, baking, painting, or enjoying whatever hobby you cultivated during the pandemic. You might also want to continue monthly Zoom meetings with friends or family in another country or state. Maybe you want to ensure that you continue to have a couple of unstructured hours on the weekend or weeknights to relax. Then, consider and answer the following – “What do I want to let go of that did not serve me well during the pandemic?” Perhaps you have been eating or drinking too much or spending too much time on the computer.

Also, consider writing down what you know you need or want to do, but are scared to do – such as socializing in-person, going back to the lab, or traveling by plane. Acknowledge what you’re afraid of or nervous about with non-judgmental acceptance.

Act: One Step at a Time – Once you’ve taken time to reflect, you can begin to think about what you want to commit to personally and professionally. Even if you’re anxious about that activity or responsibility, gently encourage yourself to take a first step. Anxiety is fueled by avoidance, and the longer one avoids something, the scarier it seems. So do go forward and make plans to meet in-person with a friend, but don’t overextend yourself with too many commitments too soon. Going slowly is also important to help you titrate discomfort. While some discomfort is okay and helps to rebuild the “muscle” of returning to work in-person, commuting or socializing, too much anxiety can inhibit growth and thus thwart your efforts. Enjoy the luxury of choice where you have it, and move slowly and intentionally forward toward your goals and priorities.

Communicate: Your Feelings and Boundaries – When you know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do, you can more clearly communicate this with your friends and colleagues. Practice assertively sharing what you are most comfortable doing for your safety or mental well-being. If you are nervous about returning to the lab, consider speaking to your PI to learn what protocols are in place to ensure a safe work environment and what choices you have to balance work in the lab with work from home. If people invite you to a large gathering, and you prefer to start with a smaller group or an activity in a less crowded environment, let them know that you want to see them, and articulate options that would be most comfortable to you.

Overall, be gentle with yourself as yet again you adapt to change; and, remember to take care of yourself and reach out for support as needed.

Source: National Institutes of Health (oitecareersblog.od.nih.gov)

This manager is working toward diversity in Hollywood — and that includes those with disabilities

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Eryn Brown, talent manager at Management 360, has faced barriers in getting employment or even accessing industry events because of her disabilities.

ANOUSHA SAKOUI, Los Angeles Times

After her first experience of the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, talent manager Eryn Brown wanted to end her nascent Hollywood career. Attending film markets such as Cannes can be grueling for most attendees, with parties and meetings held in busy hotels, restaurants, theaters, even aboard yachts. For Brown, who has a congenital, unidentified disability and uses leg braces to walk, accessing many of the buildings and events was a struggle. At the iconic red steps at the Palais des Festivals, where women are expected to wear high heels, Brown either had to be carried or use a side entrance and be separated from her clients. Inside, accessible seating was reserved. “I actually contemplated leaving the business,” Brown, 47, said. “I thought, if I have to go through this dehumanization every year, I don’t think I can do it. I want to be the best at what I do, which involves filmmakers, and Cannes is the pinnacle, so how can I do that?”

Brown didn’t quit. Instead, she pushes for greater access for others with disabilities who have been hindered by discrimination in the film and TV industry.

Last month, the Stanford graduate officially launched 1in4, an initiative run from her Los Angeles home, 13 years after her first humiliating experience at Cannes. The grassroots coalition of executives and creatives has called on studios, streaming companies, talent agencies and other businesses to include disabled people in their diversity programs.

“We need to see a commitment from the contractors and vendors that really feed the studios and streamers,” Jim LeBrecht, the Oakland-based co-writer and co-director of this year’s Oscar-nominated disability rights documentary “Crip Camp.” LeBrecht, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, is one of the cofounders of 1in4 and featured in the documentary. Brown represents Nicole Newnham, the film’s co-writer and co-director.

“I’m yearning for this day [when] … we see our representation in comedies and on television and in film and in dramas that really represents our true numbers in society, and really has storylines that are much truer to our everyday lives.”

Of all speaking characters across the top 100 movies of 2019, only 2.3% had a disability, according to a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Another study of the top 10 network TV shows for 2018 found just 12% of disabled characters were played by disabled actors, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Brown said she was inspired to start a campaign for the disabled community after last year’s Sundance festival gave “Crip Camp” an audience award and racial justice protests refocused attention on Hollywood to diversify.

“I started to examine this greater rise in consciousness that we’re experiencing about marginalization and systemic discrimination, and in these conversations, I found that disability was always left out,” Brown said. “When I tried to advocate for disability being part of the conversation, I was met with indifference and in some cases hostility.”

Brown reached out to LeBrecht and others to form a group — also called 1in4 — to advocate for change in Hollywood. The name refers to the proportion of the adult U.S. population with visible or invisible disability. The group is in the process of registering as a nonprofit and is being financed by the coalition members, private donations and the pro-bono work of allies, Brown said.

The group has called on studios and others to add disability to their diversity policies, employ disabled people at all levels and create more content about disability by and with disabled people. The group also asks that employers require an accessibility coordinator for productions and that talent representatives work with disabled artists.

So far, Brown said, her group has met with representatives from Netflix, Amazon and talent agencies. She said the meetings have been positive. None of the companies would comment for this article.

One problem is that there are few executives in the industry greenlighting projects from the disabled community, LeBrecht said.

“I don’t think anybody’s really appreciated that the stories don’t have to be these harmful portrayals of people,” LeBrecht said. “There are really unique, compelling stories out there. But … we weren’t able to reach people to pitch them to necessarily.”

LeBrecht cites the 2016 Warner Bros movie “Me Before You,” as an example of harmful ideas about disabled people perpetuated by Hollywood. The film drew criticism of its portrayal of a paralyzed banker. Warner Bros. declined to comment.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Times.

Man with Down Syndrome Who Got Job at UPS Lands Permanent Position, Inspires Scholarship

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UPS worker with down syndrome lands permanent position and inspires a scholarship. The employee jake is pictured in his uniform in front of a pile of carboard boxes

By Joelle Goldstein, People

Jake Pratt, the Alabama resident with Down syndrome who landed a gig at UPS last year, is continuing to make strides at the nationwide delivery service. After getting hired at the Birmingham, Alabama UPS facility in December 2020 as a seasonal package runner, a UPS spokesperson confirms to PEOPLE that Pratt, 22, has now been asked to join the team permanently as a part-time employee. In addition to his new role, Pratt, a 2020 graduate of Clemson University’s LIFE program, has inspired UPS to make a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit organization Down Syndrome of Alabama, the spokesperson says.

That donation will go towards establishing the Jake Pratt Fund for scholarships for individuals with Down syndrome who want to pursue further education.

“College was one of Jake’s biggest dreams and he worked so hard to make it come true,” Pratt’s sister, Amy Hyde, tells PEOPLE. “Post-secondary education was once not even a consideration for those with intellectual disabilities. But now, specialized college and vocational programs are sprouting up all over the country.”

“The expense of these programs can be a huge burden to families who often didn’t imagine educational opportunities beyond high school,” she continues. “Knowing that part of Jake’s legacy will include helping those individuals and families bring us more joy than I can explain.”

Jake Pratt, the Alabama resident with Down syndrome who landed a gig at UPS last year, is continuing to make strides at the nationwide delivery service.

After getting hired at the Birmingham, Alabama UPS facility in December 2020 as a seasonal package runner, a UPS spokesperson confirms to PEOPLE that Pratt, 22, has now been asked to join the team permanently as a part-time employee.

In addition to his new role, Pratt, a 2020 graduate of Clemson University’s LIFE program, has inspired UPS to make a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit organization Down Syndrome of Alabama, the spokesperson says.

That donation will go towards establishing the Jake Pratt Fund for scholarships for individuals with Down syndrome who want to pursue further education.

“College was one of Jake’s biggest dreams and he worked so hard to make it come true,” Pratt’s sister, Amy Hyde, tells PEOPLE. “Post-secondary education was once not even a consideration for those with intellectual disabilities. But now, specialized college and vocational programs are sprouting up all over the country.”

“The expense of these programs can be a huge burden to families who often didn’t imagine educational opportunities beyond high school,” she continues. “Knowing that part of Jake’s legacy will include helping those individuals and families bring us more joy than I can explain.”

“There simply aren’t words to adequately express the emotions that come with this achievement,” adds Hyde. “We are so proud of Jake and the way he serves as a role model to others.”

Back in December, Pratt became a viral sensation when Hyde posted a photo of him on Twitter standing next to a UPS truck in his work uniform.

In the tweet, she explained that her brother works every morning at a golf course from 6-10 a.m. before running packages for up to eight hours per day.

“Thank you @UPS for giving my brother a chance & promoting inclusion in the workforce. Jake has Down Syndrome but that doesn’t stop him!” she wrote beside the photo. “I’m so proud of him!”

At the time, Hyde told PEOPLE that she was so thrilled to see UPS giving her brother a chance because it was “his dream to be able to live independently.”

“He has achieved so much, but none of it would be possible without people embracing him and giving him a chance,” she said at the time. “Jake is so worthy and capable, so it’s just awesome for others to be able to see that.”

Pratt’s greatness has certainly been evident to UPS’s team. In the months since that day, Pratt has continued to impress his colleagues with his work ethic and “enigmatic personality,” the UPS spokesperson says.

UPS driver Richard Wilson, who Pratt worked alongside, said Pratt “changed his life” and added in a video shared by the company that “Jake can motivate me any day.”

Click here to read the full article on People.

Employee Self-Advocacy: How To Talk To Your Employer About Your Disability

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Three business people standing in their suits speaking with one another in an office library

By Paula Morgan, Forbes

Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their personal lives with their employers, particularly when it comes to health issues and disability. Legally, you are in no way obligated to disclose your disability to your employer, or even to a potential employer during an interview. It is also illegal for employers to ask about it outright, but once you bring it up, the topic is fair game.

Sometimes, however, it’s necessary to mention your disability to your employer, particularly when you are requesting a reasonable accommodation to help you perform your job better. While it may be a scary conversation, talking about your disability with your employer is an important opportunity to be an advocate for yourself, which is something that all employees should learn how to do.

Self-advocacy is as simple as taking the initiative and having the confidence to talk with your employer about your needs in the workplace. For some, this conversation may center on a deserved raise or promotion, but at its core, advocating for yourself is about communicating what you need to do your best work. Even if you are working with a case manager to find a job that embraces individuals with disabilities, you cannot and should not depend on other people to advocate for you.

We’ve seen the powerful impact self-advocacy has had on our customers here at Allsup Employment Services. One success story that stands out came from an individual who had returned to work at the Post Office after being out of work for a year due to her disability. She struggled to do the heavy lifting required for the job and was about to quit, when she received a letter from her union about the possibility of switching to light duty.

After speaking with one of our case managers about what that would look like and getting a letter from her doctor, she met with HR and the union, who helped her to outline the duties she could do to fulfill the light duty assignment. She has been back at work and thriving for months, all because she made the decision to speak up.

Advocating for yourself begins by having a conversation with HR or your employer, and the best way to start is by framing it in a way that makes your priorities clear: taking care of your health and doing your job well. Use this time to be transparent with your employer. Talk about the challenges that you’re facing and lay out specifically what you believe you need to overcome those obstacles and function at your highest level in the workplace.

Make sure to keep the conversation positive and highlight the correlation between the accommodation you are requesting and the impact it will have on your performance. One of our case managers was helping an individual who was working really hard to manage a job she couldn’t physically do, and her supervisor recognized that, as well as the fact that it wasn’t a good fit. But because of her hard work and dedication, her employer offered her the opportunity to transition into a position that aligns better with her abilities.

Another piece of the puzzle that stops employees from requesting accommodations is the confusion over whom to ask. It’s different for everyone, and it may be more than one person. For some, it could be HR or a manager, but it’s always best to start out having these conversations with your immediate supervisor. Someone with whom you work on a daily basis is in the best position to recognize the great work you’re doing and the workplace obstacles that might be hindering your performance.

Employers will often need to strategize with HR to determine employee eligibility for an accommodation and how to provide it, but in most cases, the biggest obstacle is that the employee doesn’t come forward out of fear. Often the solution could be as simple as a flexible schedule, for individuals who have frequent medical appointments, or an inexpensive piece of equipment to make a desk accessible for use of a wheelchair.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

This Fairhaven native actor proves minorities and people with disabilities can take center stage

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Brennan Srisirikul posing in front of an all blue backdrop while sitting in his wheelchair

By Seth Chitwood, Standard-Times

FAIRHAVEN — Brennan Srisirikul knew about the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, but never had the confidence to submit a film — especially since he’s never made one. But after a crazy year, he knew it was time to go for it.

“With the anti-Asian murders in Georgia, it was personal for me, because I’m a mixed race,” Srisirikul said. “My dad is Chinese and my mom is American.” Srisirikul was born in Bangkok, Thailand and grew up in Fairhaven.

“My race wasn’t really ever something that I thought about,” he said. Srisirikul has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life. “I’m disabled. So, in my mind, for so long, I thought like that was the only thing people saw.”

But, Srisirikul said that during the pandemic he first faced anti-Asian racism. “The first time it ever happened, someone walked up to me and shouted in my face, ’15 Dollah! 15 Dollah!’”

Srisirikul also is a singer and actor. He wanted to create a short film that not only addressed racism but incorporated his background in musical theater. Alas, “BRENNAN! A New Musical, But Actually A Short Film” was born.

The short film stars Srisirikul opposite John M. Costa as Mike, his therapist. They discuss the impact of COVID-19 and Srisirikul wanting desperately to perform because of his new-found confidence for singing. Srisirikul struggled with his singing voice ever since he was 14.

“The most dramatic thing that ever happened to me was puberty,” he said

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