“I’m just the Receptionist” How Voc Rehab Professionals can improve one of the most important parts of their claimants’ job search—their CONFIDENCE!

23 years ago I worked for a staffing and recruiting firm in Minneapolis and helped place a front desk receptionist at a large law firm downtown. I was excited for this sharp candidate because what she lacked in experience, she made up for it with an amazing attitude that I knew was going to take her places in the future! One day, a few months after she started, I dropped by the firm for an appointment with another hiring manager and I overheard her talking to someone in the lobby. She said four words that shocked me, “I am just the Receptionist!”
I was shocked because of the lack of confidence she was showing; I had ever seen that side of her before. After the front lobby cleared, I took the opportunity to tell her that I hoped she’d never say those four words again. She looked surprised, so I explained, “I understand there are a lot of high powered people around you every day, but you are not JUST the receptionist.” I asked her “Ann, what happens when you need to step away from the front desk for a few minutes and an important client is not greeted in the proper way, or when you are at lunch and a lawyer needs something that the backup receptionist can’t provide, or when you are sick and there is an important meeting that needs a lot of extra TLC?” She smiled and said, “It’s not pretty!” I told her to remember that, and to never consider herself anything less than the leader of that front desk and the law firm’s very important first impression. Our conversation gave her new confidence about the value she really offered that law firm, regardless of the size of her paycheck.
Lack of confidence is an anchor that can weigh you down when you are starting a job search or changing a career, especially when you are forced to do so because of a disability. Lack of confidence is one of the leading causes for RTW claimant failures. Here are three of the biggest confidence drainers when it comes to conducting a job search– and how to help your claimants get their confidence soaring again!
1) Claimants don’t know where to start.
In their past, many of our claimants have been able to find work without much of a problem because they were doing the same job in the same industry. They knew exactly where to look and who to talk to, and had confidence doing so. But, now they are in new territory, looking for jobs in industries where they have little to no experience. Where do they start?
A great way to help increase confidence (and update a resume at the same time) is to write down all past accomplishments. It is critical to not forget to write down those that you were not formally recognized for. For example, many times companies will recognize the top sales person, but fail to acknowledge the person that reorganized the shipping and receiving department that resulted in lowering of stock inaccuracies, increased speed of filling orders, and cut inventory time in half!
Since high levels of confidence are associated with past successes and a lack of confidence is connected with past failures, it is critical to start making a list of the positive things people have accomplished to help their past employers, customers, or co-workers. Help them identify their value and watch the confidence meter start to tick upwards.

2) Many claimants don’t believe anyone would want them.
If true, this certainly would be a drain on my confidence as well. But, it is usually not true. Once you have had your claimant write down the list of their accomplishments, you need to determine which are the most transferable skills, capabilities you can use to build a resume given their new work abilities. For example, if a truck driver’s biggest accomplishment was quickly loading and unloading their truck and they now have physical restrictions, they might not be able to use that as a core competency. Instead, focus on the accomplishments that they can use, such as when they were given an opportunity to work in logistics re-routing trucks and daily delivery schedules due to a large road construction project saving the company thousands of dollars a year in drive time, delivery time and even finding faster permanent delivery routes!
Given the fact that so many disability claimants have never changed careers, it is no surprise that they don’t know the first thing about how to determine what they have to offer an employer or how to communicate those offerings. Help them figure it out and their confidence will rise.

3) Claimants fail to put on their sales hat and conduct their job search in a proactive way

Once your claimant understands they DO have something to offer, they need to learn to sell themselves! A job search is a proactive sales process; not a reactive, post a resume on a job board and hope the phone starts to ring process. This is what you can do to help:
First, discuss past successes, determine how they helped previous employers save time or money, or how they improved a process or procedure. Finding their value helps them identify their new product that they can then sell to new employers. Then, help them develop a 30 second introduction pitch focused on the value they can bring to those companies. Finally, using a business directory, help them identify companies in their area of job search that are within 20 miles of their home and encourage them to pick up the phone and call those companies.

Once your claimants know the direction they are going to take their job search and how to sell themselves with newfound confidence– they will be well on their way to returning to work!