It’s important to remember that work is work, not play. And it can be challenging to find a job and keep it. But take heart: it’s a big, exciting world of work out there with a wide variety of job opportunities, job types and needed skills.

In Transition: Be a S.T.A.R. and Other Lessons Learned

Sep 8, 2016

By Guest Blogger Tad Asbury

Bridges from School to Work has been a Ticket to Work Employment Network for well over a decade and has served 20,000+ youth with disabilities over 25 years. In that time, our staff has learned a few things about youth transition. We know one size does NOT fit all, but we certainly notice patterns.

I shared some of the lessons we’ve learned as a guest speaker on the June 22, 2016, Social Security Work Incentives Seminar Event (WISE) webinar. These lessons highlight some realities that youth need to keep front and center in their minds as they enter the world of work.

It’s important to remember that work is work, not play. And it can be challenging to find a job and keep it. But take heart: it’s a big, exciting world of work out there with a wide variety of job opportunities, job types and needed skills. And, most importantly, employers need people of all abilities.

Lesson #1: Work Early, Work Often

It’s proven that being introduced to competitive workplaces and employment while still in school ties to success later in life, so get started as soon as possible!  Volunteer or find an internship, a summer job, or a job over the holidays, part-time or full-time. Just get started! The National Youth Transitions Center and its Youth Transitions Collaborative developed three short videos titled Work Early, Work Often that really drive home lesson #1.

Lesson #2: Master the Basics

Remember these three basic concepts: Knowledge, Communication, and Respect.


You need to know your “self” before you go into an interview. Great tools for this include interest inventories, personality tests, career interest assessments, etc. They all have some value. If nothing else, the inventories give you vocabulary, words and ideas that you can use to talk about yourself. Self-awareness is key.

Equally as important, you need to know the company or the organization where you would like to work. Know what the company does. Most companies have a website with an “About Us” section. Read it. Know their product, who their customers are, how they operate, and their values (and make sure they match yours). The more you know about the company, the better.


Remember that your communication is a reflection of you. Take time to develop a resume, perhaps using some of the inventory vocabulary mentioned here. Line up references ahead of time and make sure any social media sites you use reflect well on you. In an interview, you have one chance to make a first impression, so look and act the part. You also need to know your rights and the rules around disability. If you choose to disclose your disability to your potential employer, develop a plan ahead of time.


The last basic is respect. It’s talked about a lot but not practiced enough, so showing respect will set you apart. Be polite, listen, make eye contact if you are able, avoid distractions like your cell phone, get contact information, and get in the habit of writing a thank-you note after your interview.               

Lesson #3: Show What You Know

You are likely to be asked about your experience in an interview, so be prepared. Bridges staff around the country use the STAR method as a tool: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Think of one or more scenarios you can draw from related to the following: how you have worked on a team, helped a customer (or someone else), and managed your time. In each scenario, describe the Situation or Task you had to do, talk about the Action you took, and share the Result of that action. Create a few STARS and practice sharing them with others. You’ll be glad you did!

Once you receive a job offer and accept it, you can also show what you know.  Know the work and shift schedule, be at work every day you are scheduled, be on time, be organized, and follow the dress code.           

Lesson #4: Practice Success Daily

In just about any job, the secret to success has as much to do with attitude as it does with skills. Keep these thoughts in mind: take initiative, avoid texting and talking on the phone (unless that’s your job!), don’t do “favors” for friends or family, avoid drama and rumor mills, be professional, and work hard.

That’s it! Work early and often, master the basics, show what you know, and practice success daily. Stay positive, get out there, and get started!

About Ticket to Work

Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn more

To learn more about Ticket Work, contact the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (Voice) or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket to Work Find Help tool.

About the Guest Blogger

Tad Asbury is a Vice President and Executive Director of the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities. Tad leads Bridges from School to Work, a national program that helps young adults with disabilities find employment. Tad currently serves on the board of the Disability Funders Network and the Leadership Committee for the National Youth Transitions Center. 

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