Employee of the Month Program

Peak Performers Employee of the Month

At Peak Performers, we understand that recognizing our employees is key to their job satisfaction and success. But we don’t see our employees as often as our clients do, and so we are turn to our clients to help us reward those who go above and beyond in their efforts and select an Employee of the Month for some special recognition!
In the past, we’ve recognized some truly outstanding employees. We hope you’ll help us identify our next Employee of the Month!

Program Overview

  1. Each month, a designated Peak staffing manager reaches out to clients to solicit nominations of Peak employees.
  2. On-Site Supervisors will have two weeks to submit the name of an exemplary Peak employee and provide a few words describing why they are nominating the employee. (See below for suggested criteria.) They can nominate someone simply by replying to the email.
  3. The staffing team here at Peak will evaluate feedback from all nominations and select an awardee.
  4. Peak Performers will award a $250 bonus to the selected Employee of the Month. We will coordinate with you/the on-site supervisor to deliver the recognition either in person or virtually. They will also receive some personalized recognition and goodies to share.
  5. Nominees who are not selected as Employee of the Month will be recognized with a $25.00 gift card and a note of appreciation from the Peak Performers team and may be still be considered for future nominations.
  6. Employees of the month may also be considered for Employee of the Year recognition.

Criteria for consideration:

Here are some of the many reasons you may consider nominating someone for the employee of the month nomination:

  • Excellent attendance/reliability – there to get the job done
  • Providing the highest quality of service
  • Making a personal effort to “go the extra step”
  • Treating co-workers professionally with warmth, courtesy, and respect
  • Being the kind of co-worker who makes the day more enjoyable while achieving results
  • Contributing ideas or new approaches to streamline/improve a process

Next Steps:

Please email your nomination. Our Employee of the Month will be announced the following week.

Meet Previous Awardees

Also check out, Vincent, our Employee of the Year last year!

Job Search Feedback

Feedback is critical to your job search.

Processing feedback when looking for a job

When you ask a friend to read your resume and tell you what they think, that’s feedback. When you go to networking events and give your elevator pitch, what you hear (or don’t hear) afterwards is feedback. Whether you get called for interviews, that’s feedback. During the interviews themselves, the questions you are asked is some of the most valuable feedback you can get. 

Sometimes feedback is direct: a recruiter tells you why you’re not a fit because of XYZ or someone tells you how to fix your resume. Often, it’s indirect: people don’t call you back, people say generally positive but non committal things, people don’t ask you follow up questions.

Indirect feedback insights:

If you hear nothing. If you hear nothing, this should inspire you to make changes. Hearing nothing is generally a signal of a lack of interest or a mismatch for your target audience. Either you’re talking to the wrong people or the right people aren’t interested in talking to you. Or, you somehow come across as a person who people don’t want to talk too—this is often the case when job seekers talk too much and the people they’re talking to are trying to break away.

If you hear positive, non-committal feedback. I call this the “cheerleader effect.” Perhaps you have a friend or spouse who is emotionally invested in your success, and they feel like cheering you on will help you get a job. While it feels good to receive this, dig deeper and ask people to provide feedback “as if you didn’t know me.” 

You are asked “dumb” questions. Your resume, cover letter, elevator pitch, LinkedIn profile, and even the emails you send are part of your whole marketing package. If you’re getting asked “dumb” questions—ones that you think should be obvious—there exists a communication gap between what you’re saying and what people are understanding. Try recording yourself speaking and printing your resume to read it out loud. What is clearly spelled out and what do you have to “read in-between the lines” to understand? What requires industry experience to understand? I’m a big fan of making it all clear enough for a layperson to comprehend.

Direct feedback insights:

Listen, don’t defend. It can be tempting justify or defend why we’re doing things the way we’re doing things. Direct feedback is a tremendous gift that takes courage to give. Listen to what is said and thank them for their feedback.

Listen to all, implement some. If you ask a dozen recruiters for feedback, you may well get a dozen different opinions. Sometimes we’re tempted to take the feedback of those who are most persuasive. Be careful about the pendulum effect. 

Listen for consensus. What’s more valuable than one person’s opinion is multiple people’s opinion. When you start seeing shared insights, that’s when you should really consider making rapid changes.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Learn to adapt and be flexible. Have multiple versions of your resume and elevator pitch and be ready to change things on the fly based on who you’re talking to.

Looking for work? Seeking feedback?

We’re happy to have a conversation with you! Check out some of our many open jobs.

Getting over your interview fears

Job interviewing fears

Interview fears and how to get over them

Interviewing can be scary. You’re meeting strangers, your self worth is in question, and your future income hangs in the balance of this one conversation. So let’s talk through some of the top interview fears and what you can do to combat them.

Common job interview fears

“What will I get asked?”

Most interview questions are NOT unique. There’s “where do you see yourself in 5 years” “tell me about a time…” “what makes you want to work for us” and maybe even “describe your greatest weakness.” It’s all pretty copy/paste until they ask you specific questions about your experience. This fear of ambiguity can best be combatted by practice: look up a list of common interview questions and practice how you’ll answer them. Then have a friend or family member practice interviewing you. Here’s a good list of common interview questions.

“What if they’re judging me?”

In short: yes they are—that’s their job. The best thing you can do is take practice interviews with friends and family members and then ask for honest feedback. How do I seem? Did I say the right thing? Would you hire me? Taking this feedback itself can take some practice: but in general:

  1. Ask open ended questions intended to simulate conversation and reflection
  2. Listen to what they say without defending yourself or seeking to provide additional justification
  3. Move past the cheerleading “you did a great job” and onto the critical feedback

“What if they don’t like me?”

If you make it to the interview, most likely the recruiters/hiring managers have assessed that you’re basically able to do the job. Often they’re seeking to confirm these opinions and then screen you for “culture fit,” which is basically how much they like you or think their team will like you. In general my advice is: smile, make good eye contact if you’re able, and seek to find personal commonalities.

“What if I get nervous?”

Most people will get nervous in the interview. I’ve seen people break down in tears or use the bathroom to vomit. However, realize that the interviewers are probably empathetic people. Politely explain that you’re feeling nervous, do the best you can, and your interviewers will try to give you the benefit of the doubt.

“What if I’m late?”

Preparation is key. Don’t be too late, or too early—I recommend being about 5 minutes early. If you get there before that, go for a quick walk around the block. Look up the route on Google Maps, plan for traffic, and have a backup plan in case the worst happens. 

“What if I say the wrong thing?”

It’s important to realize that in this instance, saying the wrong thing is better than saying nothing. If you never apply or ghost on your interview, you are effectively saying nothing. If you say the wrong thing, you might still get hired. If you say nothing, you definitely won’t get hired.

Final Word: Just Show Up

Showing up and doing the interview, no matter how badly it goes, still gives you a shot at getting the job. You might be nervous or uncomfortable, but showing up is half of the battle. The worst thing you can do is GHOST them. 

And if you’re looking for a job, we try to not have scary interviews! Submit your resume or browse our many jobs!

Largest staffing agency in Austin award 2022

Peak Performers recognized in Austin

2nd largest staffing agency by hours billed

Peak Performers Staffing Agency is pleased to announce that in Austin Business Journal’s recent survey of staffing agencies, we are the second largest staffing agency in Austin with 863,696 local hours billed by temporary personnel in 2021.

Comments from Bree Sarlati, CEO:

Peak Performers is honored to accept this recognition as the second largest staffing agency in Austin. We are changing the world one job at a time by hiring professionals with disabilities. A big thanks to all of our customers who are helping us hire–we could not do this without you. Also, thanks to all of the talented, professional job seekers who seek us out looking for their next opportunity. We appreciate your trusting us to help you with your career transition.

If you’re hiring in Austin, we can help. Find out why we’re an award winning staffing agency who can help you find great talent and advance your DE&I goals through diverse hiring.

And if you’re looking for work, we can help you find Austin jobs.

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Media contact: myles@peakperformers.org – (512) 453-8833 X 116

Everything you know about disability inclusion is WRONG

Everything you Know about Disability Inclusion is WRONG

Summary of Event

Everything You Know about Disability Inclusion is WRONG! In this hour long presentation, Disability:IN Central Texas brings together a panel of leading disability inclusion experts who will share their hot takes on what companies, leaders, HR, and even your well-meaning coworkers get wrong about disability hiring and inclusion. We debunk myths, share our real world stories, and get real about disability etiquette.

Everything you know about disability inclusion is WRONG…well maybe not everything, but we all have something we can learn!

Key Points from the Webinar

A big thanks to Kate, Dylan, and Chris for their insights into this topic. Feel free to connect with any of these panelists regarding questions you have about disability inclusion. This panel was moderated by Myles Wallace.

If you want to hire people with disabilities, Peak Performers is happy to help. If your business is looking for a peer group to support you as you work towards disability inclusion, consider becoming a member of Disability:IN at the local or national level.

We encourage you to watch the whole video. Below is the executive summary of key questions and answers from the panelists.

 

What steps are companies taking to be more inclusive, where are they at, and what do they still need to do?

Dylan

The pandemic has made many companies more aware of the health needs of their employees and made them more likely to grant accommodations.

Companies still have an opportunity to invest more in disability hiring and retention similar to how they do with other DE&I programs and to reinforce learning so that disability inclusion is something that stays top of mind even as the pandemic fades away.

Chris

COVID has forced many companies to invest and take seriously work from home as an accommodations. Digital collaboration tools have made it easier for the disabled community to find jobs and participate in the workforce. This has been a boon for many workers. 

Companies still have an opportunity to be more welcoming to employees and explicitly state that accommodations are available to employer upon request.

Kate

Companies need to be aware as they bring companies back into the workplace that many people have developed disabilities during the pandemic. Companies have an opportunity to step-up and be more welcoming to all people with disabilities.

During the talent acquisition phase, companies can be doing more to build a welcoming space where all feel invited to apply. We should also be moving towards a point where accommodations are not a big deal and a quick conversation.

How have well-meaning coworkers and bosses accidentally insulted or been non-inclusive. What could they have done differently in those situations?

Kate

Sometimes coworkers feel like they need to walk on eggshells around me and don’t know how to include me. So instead they just didn’t include me.

If you’re on the fence about how to include somebody in your workspace, just ask. Use an open-ended question and allow the person with a disability to specify what they’re comfortable with.

Chris

It’s important to hold your workers with disabilities to the same standards as people without. We don’t need to be babied, and we take great pride in our work.

Also, don’t come down hard on employees, disabled or not. Instead have constructive coaching conversations with the goal of providing feedback and helping people improve.

Moderator

If you’re working around people with disabilities, you’re probably going to say or do the wrong thing. Listen for feedback, own your mistakes, and seek to do better next time.

Dylan

Don’t rush to assumptions. We need to work towards intentional inclusion and express an earnest curiosity about people with disabilities. You have a lot to learn from their lived experience

Also, as a person with a disability, don’t be afraid to speak up and express what you need to be successful.

What does disability etiquette mean to you?

Chris

Treat people with disabilities like anyone else. Treat them with respect. Just try to be a good human.

Also, ask questions, be curious, but don’t be condescending.

Kate

Be intentionally inclusive. Be accommodating, accepting, and acknowledge the people with disabilities around you. This doesn’t need to be complicated.

Dylan

It sometimes take a moment of confrontation for us to do better. Don’t shut down when you are confronted. It’s a work in progress for all of us.

Furthermore, many of us have different experiences within our own disability culture. Don’t make assumptions about that person’s experience or preference. You’ll have to engage with each person with a disability in a unique way.

What is the difference between bias and discrimination?

Dylan

Bias is how we interpret situations without conscious thought. Discrimination is more of an action and intentionally preventing someone access to something.

Kate

Bias often comes down to a perception. When you act on that perception and intentionally withhold resources that we get into discrimination. Also, when you intentionally create barriers towards someone because of your perception of them, that’s when we get into the area of discrimination.

Chris

I think it’s important to point out where biases come from: stereotypes. Stereotypes fuel our biases and then our biases become beliefs and this ultimately leads us to taking actions against people and discriminating. 

We also have to quit using labels. Labels belong on soup cans not on me. Furthermore, we have to stop putting labels on other people as a way to empower ourselves by putting others down.

What interesting conversations have you had with a professional with a disability on your podcast?

Chris

I talked with someone from Red Cross and how he’s seen Employee Resources Groups (ERGs) positively impact his organization. The Red Cross wanted to be more inclusive towards people with disabilities but failed to include that in any of their messaging. We can all do a better job at broadcasting individually and as organizations that we’re disability-inclusive.

What training were you exposed to within organizational development and what would you have liked to see around disability inclusion in these trainings?

Kate

A lot of people accidentally fall into Human Resources. This leads to many issues in the workplace with people lacking formalized training. We need to spend more focus and training on people who “fall into” human resource roles.

At the local, state, and federal level and what would you hope to change regarding disability inclusion?

Dylan

At the federal level, I would work to permanently remove the sub-minimum wage.

On the state level, we’re missing access to community-base options. We have people with disabilities waiting too long to get access to services.

At a local level, it’s important to ensure that people with disabilities have a seat at the table and representation in local government.

Are you ready to be more disability inclusive?

Here are two quick ideas:

  1. Join Disability:IN Central Texas as a member.
  2. Work with Peak Performers to hire more people with disabilities.

Asking questions in an interview

Get your interviewer talking!

Advice for creating interview dialogue

An interview is all about you, right? Well, not really. 

An interview is about your potential future employer’s needs and how your skills and experience align with their needs. Also, it’s about how much they like you and see you as a “culture fit” for their team. 

A successful interview is a dialogue, not a presentation (nor an interrogation).

If you’re doing 95% of the talking, you’re doing it wrong. Here are a couple tips:

1) Flip the script

One of my favorite techniques to use in an interview is to start with flipping the script on the interviewer after introductions. Here’s how it might go:

“Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me today. I really admire your company and am honored to be considered for this role. If you don’t mind me asking, could you please tell me more about the role and what kind of candidate you’re seeking?”

Basically, this is asking them for the answers to the test before you take it. Most of the time, they will tell you what they’re looking for. You can then use all of this information to confirm that you’re the ideal candidate while you answer their questions about your skills and experience.

2) Connect personally

I recommend you find some small way to connect to your interviewer personally. Create small talk, listen for their response, and search for personal commonalities, such as a favorite pet, sports team, or even movie you’ve seen. You will have tons of things in common with anyone you meet!

Once you’ve found that commonality, get them talking about it.

“That’s really cool to hear you’re a dog lover too. Can I show you a picture of my dog? I’d love to see one of yours too.”

Reinforce what you have in common in order to make them like you personally and make them evaluate you as a better “culture fit.”

3) Ending Well

Finally, at the end of the interview they’ll often ask “what questions do you have for me?” This gives you an opening to ask questions. 

Focus on open-ended, feel-good questions, such as “why do you love working here?” and “what makes your team great?” and “what attracted you to this company?”

Then, always ask:

“Do you have any reservations about hiring me?”

This gives you one last chance to address any concerns they have and also gives you valuable intel about how you come across in the interview. Also, it will give you insight into whether or not you’re likely to even get the job.

Also, check out our jobs!

If you’re in the labor market, our team of recruiters and hiring managers don’t bite! They’re here to engage you in a conversation, understand your skills, and consider you for our open jobs. Check out our jobs here!

Changing your resume

Advice for how and when to change your resume

Your resume is not a tattoo. Be ready to change it.

A lot of job seekers I work with have played the job search before. This is not their first job…it might even be their tenth. And while this experience can be valuable, sometimes we need to recognize that what worked for us before might not work again. You will need to change your resume

Resumes are marketing pieces that will change based on the current needs.

Tips for changing your resume

Exercise creative writing.

Many of us will be pulled into tasks and projects that go beyond our job description. After a couple years, you have your core job as well as many other miscellaneous experiences. Pay attention to these experiences and be prepared to present them on your resume in order to “check all the boxes” on this new job you’re applying for.

Job titles are more flexible than you realize.

With many organizations, you’ll be issued a cool sounding title, such as “Customer Success Manager.” Or, you might be given a generic title that doesn’t tell an outsider anything about what you do, such as “Program Specialist.” Be prepared to change your job title after the fact to better market yourself. If you want to be completely transparent about it, you can put your functional job title in parentheses.

Curate your content.

A lot of us could write a short book about our work experiences. The problem is employers want to skim your resume, not read it. While reading, our goal is to do a quick evaluation, see if you are in the right ball park of what we’re looking for, and then get you to an interview. This means you will need to leave a good deal of your experience that’s not directly relevant to this job on the sidelines.

Take notes after an interview.

Each time you interview with a recruiter, take a note of 1) what they ask you and 2) why they were interested in interviewing you. If they’re asking you for clarification, it might be worth clarifying something on your resume, and if they are really interested in you because of a certain skill/experience, highlight this in future versions of your resume so that other employers will notice it.

Change your resume regularly.

As you take interviews and apply for jobs and have others give you feedback on your resume, it will change. In order to be as agile as possible, make a habit of changing your resume regularly. So make it routine in order to keep yourself agile. Just remember to save all those earlier versions too!

You should have multiple versions of your resume.

My own position is a mixture of community relations, marketing, business development, and recruiting. If I were to look for a new job, I would create four different resumes focused around each of these core duties. Be prepared to have multiple resumes in order to give yourself flexibility in what jobs you can apply for.

Want more resume tips?

Check out our Youtube Channel!

Also make sure to apply for one of our open jobs!

Career coaches

All about career coaches

What does a career coach do?

A career coach will often help you with several key activities:

  • Editing your resume, LinkedIn, and cover letters
  • Helping you expand your network
  • Advising you on making a career shift or overcoming employment barriers
  • Evaluating job prospects
  • Preparing for interviews

How do I find a career coach?

You can find potential career coaches by simply going to LinkedIn and searching for “career coach.” However, if possible you should find a career coach that has worked with someone you know or is in your target industry. Ask friends, family members, and network connections for people who might be able to help you in your career search.

When should you hire a career coach?

1) If you can’t do it yourself. Some people struggle with composing a resume or need significant help with being able to overcome an employment gap or switching careers. If the difference between you getting a job and not getting a job, it may be worthwhile to hire a job coach. However, realize that they can’t do it for you—they can give you advice and help you craft a well-written resume, but it is ultimately your job search activities that will lead to a job.

2) If you’ve exhausted all your resources. A little while back I wrote “a guide to Austin job seeking resources.” Utilize services such as Workforce Solutions, job clubs, and online resources first before you seek out a coach. Attend networking events and send messages to people you know on LinkedIn. There is a wealth of information out there and available to you as a job seeker. Paying for assistance can expedite the process but make sure you’re not overlooking free resources.

3) It’s risky for you to look for work. If you’re already currently fully employed and planning to make a big career shift, it might be worthwhile to hire a career coach to help advise you. Making a career shift can be really hard, and they may be able help you strategically prepare for this all while minimizing the risk of losing your current job. After all, sometimes the best path is to seek a new role or alternate job duties in your current company instead of quitting it outright.

What should you consider when hiring a career coach?

  • It’s a fuzzy science. Many successful job coaches gain their experience from working in HR or recruiting, or even going through the job search process successfully themselves. Some will go on to gain credentials such as Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC). Instead of looking for fancy credentials, look for local career coaches who have helped other people you know or who come from industries you want to focus on. Hire career coaches for their skills and their network.
  • Most will do an initial conversation for free. It never hurts to take a free consultation. At the very least, they may offer some free DIY advice or general guidance to help steer your search, even if you don’t hire them. Just be wary of a hard sell or over-inflated promises. 
  • Most do it to help people. Most people who get into career coaching do it because they want to help people. Many come from HR roles and want to take a more direct role in helping the job seekers they encounter. Yes, they want to charge money for their services but many also have an altruistic motives.
  • You’re still going to do this yourself. No matter how good the coach, they should not write your resume and cover letters for you. They should not apply for jobs for you. And they should not attend networking events for you. At the end of the day, you’re the one that an employer is hiring. 

How much does it cost to hire a career coach?

Business news daily estimates it to be $75-150 per hour with rates going higher depending on the industry and demand.

If this makes you wince, remember that most job seekers go without a career coach. However, recognize that we are each our own small business and sometimes paying for the expertise of a consultant can be valuable.

If you’re looking for a job, we’re hiring.

We’re hiring and would be happy to look at your resume.

Here at Peak Performers, we don’t charge candidates to help them with their job search. We make our revenue from having employees work for the customer and typically will spend some time with a job seeker for free to provide feedback and guidance so they can better market themselves. Our services offer a bit of coaching, but not at the level that everyone needs.

Disability Inclusion Starts With You

You Must be Part of the Change

Making Meaningful Change to Disability Inclusion and Hiring

After explaining Peak Performers Staffing Agency mission of hiring people with disabilities to a new person, I experience a range of emotional reactions ranging from enthusiasm to curiosity to indifference.

But my least favorite reaction is…

“Well, good for you. I’m glad someone is helping those people.”

While this seems like a benign statement, what is often implied here is “someone else is helping people with disabilities so I don’t have to.” Furthermore, the speaker usually makes it pretty clear in the statement that they are not part of this “other” group of people.

Not my Problem?

It’s estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that disability affects 26% of the population. This is not a mysterious group of “other” people. These are your friends and family, your bosses and coworkers, maybe even you.

Furthermore, the longer that you live, the more likely it is that you will acquire a disability through accident or aging. Looking out for disability inclusion is not only looking out for other’s well-being but also your own future well-being.

Access to accommodations, embracing an inclusive environment, and hiring diverse people with disabilities directly makes your workplace better and helps ensure you will have a future there.

We’re All in this Together

Disability inclusion is a direction, not a destination. This direction is the result of effective leadership, policy changes, and hiring goals. But meaningful change really happens through one hiring decision at a time, one job accommodation at a time, one work conversation at a time. Change happens through small incremental steps you have the power to impact.

Maybe you have the power to hire someone with a disability. Maybe you have the power to grant an accommodation. Or maybe you have the power to disclose your own disability and empower others to speak out about theirs.

You have the power to join us in changing the world, one job at a time.

 

Tips for phone interviews

How to interview on the phone

Advice and tips for having a great phone interview

Following the pandemic, many initial interviews have switched to over the phone. Sometimes this will be followed up with an in-person interview, and sometimes the phone interview is your only chance to land the job. Here is our advice for having a great phone interview to get the job.

6 tips for improving your next phone interview

  1. Dress up (or at least be presentable). There is an unconscious effect that happens when you dress professionally–you generally feel more professional. This small psychological trick can help you perform better. Also, sometimes interviews will be changed to video interviews at the last minute and you don’t want to be left scrambling.
  2. Plan for a spot with good reception. Unfortunately, it’s all too common that a candidate sounds garbled on the phone due to a bad connection or we get disconnected and the interview just ends prematurely. Seek out a place where you can ensure a good connection and if you think there’s any risk of dropping a call, ask your interviewer for a call back number in case you get disconnected.
  3. Minimize distractions. It can be tempting to take these interviews “on the go” like at the grocery store or at a restaurant. Similarly, it might be easy to forget about your barking dog at home because you’re so used to it. Remember that we can hear everything going on the background and might be easily distracted by these small things. Focus solely on the interview and minimize auditory distractions.
  4. Speak up. Most people sound softer on the phone than they are in-person. Also, bluetooth headsets sometimes don’t pick up your voice as well as you think they do. Speak up and focus on annunciating during your interview. It’s also important to start the interview by asking if they can hear you clearly.
  5. Sit up and smile. When you sit up, you naturally project your voice better. Similarly, when you smile, as you would in an in-person conversation, your voice sounds more up-beat and dynamic. These small adjustments can help you sound more charismatic and confident when taking the interview.
  6. Get “in front” of them. If you’re having an interview at 9:00 a.m., email them a copy of your resume and a link to your LinkedIn profile at 8:30. Then send a thank you email right after you’re done! If a recruiter is doing multiple phone interviews in a day, it can be hard to keep them all straight. This helps us differentiate you as a candidate.
  7. Treat it like an in-person interview. It can be easy to treat phone interviews casually. Don’t! Take the time to research the company, connect with the people talking to you, and otherwise make a great impression.

Professional Employment References: A Job Seeking Guide

Professional Employment References

What are professional references?

Professional references are your way of providing proof that you can do a job and that people like and respect you. A potential future employer may ask for these references as part of your application.

You will be asked to include contact information: phone, email, job title, and maybe even a work address.

Do people still check references?

Not all employers will check employment references (even if they ask for them) but you should assume they will. Make sure to include accurate contact information.

Depending on the employer, if they are not able to get ahold of your reference, they may or may not try them multiple times.

Education organizations and competitive, specialized professional fields are more likely to rely on references. Also, if you are struggling to get a job, perhaps due to seeking your first job or after after experiencing a period of unemployment, what your reference says about you can often help overcome these objections an employer has and help you land a job.

Personal vs professional references?

While some applications may call for “personal references,” usually what’s expected are references from people at work.

If you don’t have any work experience yet and an application calls for professional references, you can use places where you’ve volunteered, teacher/professor references, or other respected people in your community. (Just try to avoid sending references from your direct family members; these are not likely to be taken seriously.)

Who can give professional references?

You have a lot of flexibility on who can give you professional references. You can usually include references from:

  • Bosses
  • Co-workers
  • Clients
  • Industry peers

Usually, employment references from bosses will carry the most weight.

When asking people to be references, make sure that you have a solid professional rapport with them so they will say good things about you. Also make sure to get their permission to include them as a reference.

When do I include references?

Include references only when asked to do so.

The mistake I see a lot of job seekers make is listing their references on the bottom of every resume they blast out. You don’t want to over-share their contact information.

Also, you don’t need to put “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume. This is generally assumed by the employer.

What about reference letters?

Some applications will go a step further and ask for “letters of reference.” This is where a potential future employer is asking you to provide a letter that a previous employer has written in order to recommend you.

This is a bigger ask of someone, so make sure that you save a copy for your records.

Don’t forget to ask for referrals.

Did you know that 75% of jobs are filled by referrals?

If you’re asking people to be your references, don’t forget to ask them for referrals to people and companies they know who are hiring. A personal reference is way more valuable if the person/company knows the other person.

Labels for people with disabilities

Labels matter

Respecting what people call themselves

It can sometimes be confusing when a group of people start calling themselves something different and ask you to do the same. Language changes and so too does cultural norms and the labels applied to people. Over time, we have seen people with disabilities (as well as other minorities) change what they prefer to be called.

  • Once we used the word “handicapped.” Now many prefer to use the words “person with a disability” so as to put the person before their disability.
  • Once we referred to people as having “shell shock.” This has moved towards “post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” perhaps to be more inclusive people who share the condition who are not survivors of war.
  • Once we referred to people as “retarded.” Now, most will prefer the words “intellectual disabilities,” perhaps due to how many have used “retarded” in a casual derogatory sense.

These changes can be confusing

As an outsider, this can seem overwhelming and confusing. You will probably say the wrong thing and you might even be corrected. I certainly have!

This experience of being corrected can be embarrassing, especially if it happens publicly. But it’s important to realize why you’re being corrected–and why this is more important than your pride.

Often, labels are applied to a group of outsiders and people in the minority, including those with disabilities. Often, these people did not choose what to be called–the labels might be chosen by medical professionals, government, cultural influencers, or society at large. Historically, some labels might have been used to denigrate people or remind them of their “lesser than” status in society.

And so people choose to change these labels.

Giving people the power to identify themselves shifts the power from us to them. This shift is important: this empowers them to transform a label into an identity.

Labels will keep changing

Recently, we’ve been seeing a growing popularity around the word “neurodiversity.” This term aims to be more inclusive of people whether they have autism, ADHD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. Some people prefer to use the term “neurodiversity” while others prefer to be specific about the condition they experience.

And these labels will keep changing. For example:

Currently, it is culturally acceptable to casually use the word “crazy” in order to describe any number of wild and unpredictable things. We call ourselves “crazy;” we call each other “crazy;” everything is just “crazy.” People who experience psychological disorders would be right to take offense to this. So it’s important to be receptive when the time comes to retire this word. And we need to be especially mindful of applying this label in a way that’s hurtful towards people who are different.

Bottom line: be respectful, be empathetic, and seek to call people what they want to be called.