Live. Independently.

Social Capital the Key to finding a Job

By on Sep 13, 2014 in From Janet

Joe experienced a brain injury in a car wreck. When he finally made it home after numerous rehab stays, he had a cognitive therapist and independent living skills specialist he met with on a regular basis. When he wanted to update his goals and talk about his progress, they would meet at the local donut shop. These meetings went on monthly, and sometimes he would meet with staff there individually as well. After 3 months, Joe said he was ready for a job. He approached the manager at the donut shop who immediately said, “You know, I have seen you in here a lot and a few times I thought about offering you a job.” Joe is now working 20-30 hours a week and no longer has staff.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 82.4%. That means only 17.6% of people with disabilities have jobs. The human service industry spends billions of dollars each year to help people get back to work. So how are we doing?

Thankfully, many people in the human service field have discovered the power and potency of social capital. Social Capital is a construct developed to look at the relationships between people in communities. Originally measured without asking about disability, the research found that those people with more social capital (friends and connections) were happier, healthier and lived longer. Social Capital is what got Joe his job, not a human service professional telling the manager about all of Joe’s deficits and problems. Joe was familiar to the manager as a guy who frequents the donut shop, not someone who was brought in there to find a job.

The best place to start when talking to someone about finding a job is to explore their already familiar relationships and things they like to do. Mary likes to make bracelets and goes to the craft store frequently? How about a job at the craft store? Joe likes to play the guitar and hang out in coffee shops? How about working at the coffee shop? If you start with a person’s passions and places they frequent you will make your job as coach and support a lot easier. You will also find that people are successful because they are doing something they are passionate about and had ownership in discovering.