Illinois Employment Specialists Share Their Thoughts

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

Trilogy, IPS Employment Specialist, Melinda Gibson, Undergrad Psychology, Master's Degree Human Resources

Melinda Gibson

What unique perspective do you bring to this work?

"I know from the recruiter side what companies look for. Soft skills, personality, work history.

You need to match skills and abilities to jobs. HR wants an A performer, they might take a B. They want individuals who will perform their best and set the bar for other employees. They want people who come to work the vision and mission of the company, people who have the bulk of what they are looking for so they don't have to do a lot of training.

I am receptive to what clients are looking for. It's a client centered service. I respond to how fast or slow a client wants to go."

Advice to Employment Specialists:

"DON'T GIVE UP! A high level of emotional intelligence comes with this job. You have to remain objective. I use a lot of coping skills, interacting with people, exercise, time with my dog. Utilize your resources and tools, engage in positive self-talk. Speak to your supervisor.

Remember it's a numbers game because you can get discouraged when you can't place people. When you are looking for work, you might not always get a yes. Don't take it personally when your clients are not getting hired right away. You have to find the right approach for people. Sometimes I'm disappointed or sad. You have to deal with things and move on."

What are your strategies for challenging vocational placement scenarios?

"Ask for help. My team leader helped me develop a script for someone who had disorganized speech and thought patterns. I was intimidated but the more I work with him and talk to him, the more confident I feel. She modeled a CBT thought record with me and now I use it with this client

Show you have an interest in your clients-developing rapport is important.

I have gotten family member's to assist. One client's sister helped him practice interview scripts to combat issues with disorganized thought. She also drove him to an interview."

What has work as an Employment Specialist taught you?

"Sometimes I am right and sometimes I am wrong. This work is a learning experience. Some of it is trial and error. What motivates me to stay in this is my clients. Who wouldn't want to see someone get better?

It's important to come to the table with a plan. I like to bring a lot of leads to meetings. I read a person's mental health assessment and about a person's background.

Understand the work that the job entails. Knowing your industry and work culture is important. Ask your client, "do you see yourself doing this on a continuous basis?"

Dayna Phillips, a former IPS Supported Employment Coordinator from Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4), shares her thoughts on the role of an Employment Specialist.

Dayna Phillips

"My personal motivation comes from helping clients find their own meaning of success-that can be very different for each person."

The role of an employment specialist is complex:

"Funding and time constraints can be challenging so being able to focus on the client is important. Ultimately, that is why I do this job. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing clients overcome obstacles and become successful".

Advice for other practitioners:

"Collaborate with your team. Draw insights and learn different approaches from them. You are all working together as part of a holistic support network. Don't be afraid to ask for feedback or help. As you job develop more, you get more comfortable with the employment specialist role. Over time you learn what works best for you, employers and clients. This makes you more confident in your abilities".

"My personal motivation comes from helping clients find their own meaning of success-that can be very different for each person."

The role of an employment specialist is complex:

"Funding and time constraints can be challenging so being able to focus on the client is important. Ultimately, that is why I do this job. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing clients overcome obstacles and become successful".