Succeeding at Work with a Disability

Sometimes I have to be reminded how truly fortunate I am to have a job with a flexible schedule and managers who seem to get me despite any quirks I may display. I have worked nine years at a major local department store and have thrived there even though I have a diagnosed invisible disability called nonverbal learning disability or NLD. NLD affects me in many ways in the workplace including:

  • Having difficulty with interpreting tone of voice
  • Finding it hard to interpret facial expressions, body language, and gestures
  • Understanding inferences and sarcasm
  • Displaying executive functioning issues such as planning and time management
  • Becoming stuck in routines

 

These issues have impacted me in my current job but with support from my family I have managed to compensate for these difficulties by demonstrating that I can work well independently with minimal supervision and knowing that I can always ask for help if it is necessary. Sometimes people wonder why I still work in the same place I have worked at since I graduated high school and my answer should really be that it is close to home and a place where I am understood and appreciated. You don’t always find that in a job.

I have succeeded at the store I work at mainly because my immediate supervisors and managers know that I am a very hard worker who puts 110% into everything I do and follow orders when given. I do not fool around or break any rules while working. I am punctual and efficient and credit this to being taught these principles at home. I am an example of someone who has demonstrated that a disability only holds you back if you want it to and that having a strong support system is key to overcoming any obstacles that come your way whether it is at work or in your personal life.

I am a reminder that you can flourish at work even when you have a documented disability and that by understanding your limitations you can accomplish anything you want to while working. Never give up on your dreams and work beyond your potential. You truly can be a superstar no matter where you are employed if you prove to your bosses that you are reliable and won’t do something stupid that will jeopardize your position within the company.

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Erasing the Retail Worker Stigma

I have begun to realize from seven years of working retail that the stereotype of being undereducated is simply just a stereotype. Many of my coworkers at the major department store I work at, Kohls, are either college students or are college graduates. With the economy the way it is right now, it has become more difficult to obtain full-time jobs that we have the credentials for. That is certainly the case with me—I have had a hard time finding a full-time job that I am qualified for so working retail is my source of income at this point in my life.
Is there a stigma around working retail? Yes, I definitely believe there is. Customers may treat you like you are uneducated and unskilled when in reality we are very bright and skilled individuals that deserve to be treated as such. I want to erase this stigma and have customers embrace us as individuals just like them, people just trying to make a living.
The people I work with have become a second family for me and Kohls has become a home away from home for me. I’ve watched my store evolve over the years and adapt to the times and I can honestly state that I have some pride in being a Kohls associate. Do I complain about what goes on? Yes, I must admit that I do outside of the store but it does not replace the good feelings that are usually associated with my workplace.
What I would like for us to realize is that everyone has to make a living somehow. Sometimes we have to work retail until the right opportunity comes to us. It may surprise you though that good opportunities can come in the retail environment as well. If you work hard enough and show that you are someone who can be a valued employee, then you may be rewarded with higher positions and higher pay rates. You can be promoted from within and I have seen coworkers go up the ladder to full-time positions within the store.
I know that the memories I have made at Kohls will remain with me forever and the people I’ve met there will be friends for life. I take pride in the work that I do at Kohls and making my department look great for customers. There may be things I want to change in my store but what I never want to change is the feeling that we work in a caring environment where we feel secure and comfortable.
I want to reiterate that there is no shame in working in retail. There are some great opportunities for advancement in this industry and you may find that you never want to leave this job behind. Right now I couldn’t imagine my life without Kohls and I do believe that if I were to be considered for a full-time position there I would definitely pursue it.
The next time that you walk into a store I want you to think about the gifts that retail workers bring to the table. Engage with us and learn more about what makes us unique individuals. You may even develop friendly relationships with the employees you meet during your shopping experience. I definitely have my regular customers who appreciate the work that I do and continue to come back and shop in my department. Don’t think of us as lesser people for the work that we do and treat us the way that you would want to be treated yourself.

Raising the Minimum Wage: The Pros and Cons

New legislation has been passed in New York, Washington, and California among others raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While I do feel that those who work part-time jobs should be paid a fair wage depending on the type of work performed, I also believe that $15 is simply too much of a wage for the part-time positions considered under this legislation.
One job sector that has achieved a higher minimum wage is the fast food service industry. Those who work in this industry do not perform highly skilled work and at times only possess a high school diploma. Why should someone who works at McDonalds be paid more than someone who provides skilled labor perhaps for a part-time office position or a position at a retail store?
From my personal experience I can attest that I have office experience from working at a nonprofit organization for 1.5 years and over seven years of experience working at a major department store, Kohls. I was paid $10 an hour at my nonprofit position which in hindsight was a very low rate of pay but allowed me to attain office skills that I can translate to my next office position. This was a job that required a college degree and involved appearing at medical conferences to publicize the work of the foundation.
In comparison I have worked in the same department at my retail job for over six years. This is not a job that you need a lot of skill to perform but does necessitate some social finesse to successfully engage with customers on a regular basis. I am paid only a little bit above minimum wage but receive annual raises that range between 20-25 cents. I have coworkers who have worked at this store since it opened fifteen years ago and some frequently complain about their rate of pay. My thoughts on these complaints are that you should appreciate the job that you have or leave if you’re not satisfied with working there.
Do I believe that we need to raise the minimum wage? I can honestly say that I do believe that it could help economically vulnerable members of the general population such as college students working to pay their way through school, parents working so they can put food on the table, and retirees trying to earn extra money to supplement what they receive from pensions and Social Security. However, I feel that a raise in the minimum wage should not specifically be targeted to one particular industry but should instead be targeted to all industries.