Competitive, Integrated Employment for People with Disabilities

Sheltered Workshops vs Competitive, Integrated Employment

When you hear hear “employment for people with disabilities,” what do visualize? The first picture that enters many people’s head is a sheltered workshop. In sheltered workshops, groups of individuals with disabilities work side-by-side. Often these people with disabilities have similar disabilities to each other. Sheltered workshops help many people but are not competitive, integrated employment situations.

Sheltered workshop image
Light assembly work being performed by people with disabilities in a sheltered workshop
  • Sheltered workshops are often run by nonprofits to employ people with disabilities.
  • Employment in sheltered workshops is often based on their disability.
  • Their work is often light assembly.
  • Pay to people with disabilities in sheltered workshops is usually very low, sometimes even below minimum wage.
  • People who participate in sheltered workshops can often only earn up to a certain amount before they become ineligible for state assistance.

My great aunt participated in a program like this. Due to the extent of her intellectual disability, this was a good environment for her to do something during the day. Also, it gave time back to my grandparents, who were her full time caregivers. For this reason, I would argue that these programs do have an inherent value in our society and are appropriate for some people with disabilities.

Competitive, Integrated Employment Matters

When sheltered workshops are the only thing society envisions when they picture “work for people with disabilities,” we are discounting the abilities of many people.

Every person with a disability also has a unique range of abilities. We cannot make assumptions about a person’s ability because many people with disabilities are capable of competitive and integrated employment in the regular workforce.

Competitive and integrated employment means:

Competitive: Their employment is primarily contingent on their ability to perform the work.
Integrated: They are working side-by-side with people who do not have disabilities.

Peak Performers Staffing Agency was established to help people with disabilities find competitive, integrated employment. This means:

  • The most qualified applicant who has a disability gets the job. (We cannot help every job seeker with a disability find work.)
  • Some if our employees we have to terminate for failure to meet expectations.
  • Our employees are paid competitive wages and offered competitive benefits.
  • Some of our employees will work for Peak for multiple assignments.
  • Many of our employees will go onto get hired by the client or find other competitive jobs.
  • Sometimes a client will know an employee of ours has a disability (since it is visible) and sometimes they won’t (if it’s an invisible disability).

People with disabilities are a large group of people with varying abilities and also varying limitations–just like people without disabilities! If you are ready to hire people with disabilities, first look at the person and then at the disability. If you utilize this mindset, you’ll be surprised by what they’re capable of.

If you’re not sure how start but are interested in employing people with disabilities, we can help!

Answering the Phone to Recruiter Calls

Answer the Phone to Recruiter Calls

Many people dread phone calls. They will do just about everything to avoid phone calls, even if they’re looking for a job. But in the business world, the phone is still the go-to communication tool. That means if you’re looking for work, answer the phone. You should answer your phone when job hunting because it might be a recruiter phone call.

Phone Etiquette for Recruiter Phone Calls and FAQs about Answering Recruiter Calls

Question: If job hunting, do I need to answer an unknown or out-of-area number?
Answer: You should absolutely answer unknown numbers. You never know if it’s a recruiter phone call. Also, many recruiters may be using their personal cell phone to call you…and they might not even be in the same state they’re recruiting for–which means it’s likely to be out of area. Answer all calls when possible.

Question: Can’t I just call recruiters back?
Answer: The recruiting world is fast-paced. We don’t know how long it will take someone to call us back (or even if they will) and so we may not wait. This means we might call down a list of people and hope someone picks up and forget about the rest of the people.

Question: What if I’m in a noisy place…or at my current job? How do I answer recruiter phone calls?
Answer: That’s ok! Whether you’re in a noisy place or just don’t want to be interrupted, still take the call and politely schedule a time to call them back, preferably later that day during business hours. Most recruiters will be totally ok with this.

Question: Can I use Google voice to screen recruiter calls?
Answer: Our experience with Google voice has been pretty spotty. Google voice calls are often garbled. Also, from our perspective it feels presumptuous to have a “personal assistant” asking for my name and why I’m calling. Many recruiters might just hang up as opposed to trying to talk to you.

Question: Can I text recruiters instead?
Answer: You can try to text back recruiters–our systems support this! But phone lines (and especially land lines) shared by a group of people may or may not be able to deliver your messages. It’s safer to just answer the phone if possible.

Question: What if I really can’t answer?
Answer: At the very least, make sure you have a professional sounding voicemail that’s set up and that your voicemail is not full. Seriously, check it right now and make sure!

The Bottom Line

Often, the difference between who got the interview and who didn’t was who answered their phone to recruiters. Do your job search a favor and answer the phone to a recruiter phone call.

Are you looking for work? Our recruiters are here to help! Here you can find a list of all our current job openings. Want to read more phone tips with recruiters, check out what Chron has to say.

Top Rated Staffing Agencies in Austin

Picking the Best Staffing Agency

Whether you’re a job seeker or an employer, picking a top rated staffing agency in Austin is key to your success. Staffing agencies are key partners. Here are some considerations to keep in mind to help you pick the top rated staffing agency.

Staffing Agency Considerations

Staffing Specialization

When considering the best staffing agency, consider first your industry specialization. Many staffing firms will specialize in particular kinds of staffing. The leaders of these staffing firms often have experience recruiting for that industry and plenty of connections. Furthermore, the search process for an accountant or information technology professional may look very different than recruiting for a warehouse worker–the staffing firm might have to go to different places to find those workers.

And if you’re a job seeker, seeking out a staffing firm that specializes in your field means you’re more likely to find a job faster.

Finally, you may want to pick a company that has the kinds of service offerings you’re looking for. Peak Performers, for example, offers temporary, temp-to-perm, and direct hire opportunities.

Retention and Re-deployment

Unfortunately, some staffing firms, even top-rated ones, have a “revolving door” reputation.

As a job seeker, you don’t want a company that doesn’t value your loyalty. And as a business, having employees constantly coming and going costs you time and money.

Ask about the company’s retention and re-deployment focus. For our part, both are key to our success and our nonprofit mission and we have a turnover rate that is half that of the industry average.

Benefits Offered

Key to keeping employees happy is offering them benefits. Many staffing agencies have little-to-no benefits that they offer, or their benefits are substandard. It’s no wonder then that their employees keep looking for other work and they struggle with retention.

For our part, we offer health, dental, and vision insurance after 60 days. Also, we have an Employee Assistance Program. Finally, we recently rolled out a 403(b) retirement program to help employees save. This helps keep our workforce engaged and committed to their current job.

Ratings and Referrals of Staffing Agency

These days, every staffing business in Austin is rated online (you can find our Google ratings and reviews here). As a job seeker, this is important so you can hear honest feedback and insights into the company. But it’s also equally important for businesses to use this evaluate staffing agencies. After all, staffing agencies are acting as an extension of your brand and representing your jobs.

What’s also valuable is asking for referrals from your network.

Recruitment Costs

If you’re a job seeker, a staffing agency should never charge you to consider you for employment. This is most likely a scam.

If you are a client, consider staffing agency cost from multiple perspectives: hourly bill rate, conversion cost, direct hire fees, and other add-on fees. Also ask about their “placement guarantee,” which is like insurance on your direct hire. Also, keep in mind that you may not want to pick out the “cheapest” staffing agency. (Sometimes, you get what you pay for.)

 

Are you looking for work? If so, browse our jobs or join our talent pool. We’re happy to consider you for employment.

Are you looking to hire a top rated staffing agency in Austin? Peak Performers has solutions temp, temp-to-hire, and direct hire staffing needs. Also, we service both government customers and private companies.

Job Search Recommendations and Referrals

Job Search Referrals

Ask around for job recommendations and referrals when looking for your next job.

When I first moved to Austin, I needed to find a dentist. So I asked my co-workers and friends. Who do you use? After talking to a few people, I found one who was in my area, covered by my insurance, and well-regarded by multiple co-workers. And they’ve been great–which is especially valuable to me since I’m afraid of going to the dentist!

The jobs we see online are typically the ones that are best advertised. After all, Indeed and Ziprecruiter make a lot of money through paid advertisements.

These jobs may not be the best one for your skill set…or the best paying…or even the best company. They’re simply the most visible. Perhaps ABC Dentistry is going to treat me and my smile right, but I’d feel a whole better about it if someone I knew recommended them as opposed to them just popping up in my Facebook feed.

Ask for Job Referrals and Recommendations

Are you looking for work? If so, call up your friends and colleagues (past or present) to ask them:

  • Do you know anyone who is hiring?
  • Can you get me in touch with someone to discuss the job and the organization?
  • What kinds of organizations in the area could use my unique skills?

Then seek to build relationships with each new person you meet and ask them these same questions. This core to your networking strategy!

Most people want to help you. Even if they can’t think of any job referrals right now, they may help you keep an eye out for future opportunities.

Want to know what people think of us? Check out our testimonials page or visit our listing on Google.

Focus on What You Can Control

Job Seeking Challenges

If COVID-19 and the last couple years has taught me anything, it’s to take a step back and focus on what I can control (because there’s an awful lot of things I can’t!)

I feel the same goes for job seeking…

I talk to many, many job seekers who are feeling frustrated, burnt out, and like their situation is hopeless. They feel like they’re either stuck in a job that they don’t like or stuck without work altogether. This in spite of employers nationally struggling to find workers.

So what can you control?

-What jobs you apply for
-How often you apply for jobs
-The follow up you do with recruiters and hiring managers
-Your networking activities
-Your interview preparedness
-The presentation and quality of your resume, cover letters, LinkedIn, etc.

How to Stay Motivated while Looking for Work

The job search process can be a long one, especially if you’re trying to get back into the labor market, switch careers, have an employment barrier, or are trying to find your very first job.

But I will tell you what I tell all the job seekers I talk to: no matter how many “no”s you get, it only takes one “yes” for you to get hired. The best job search strategy I have seen is persistence. If you keep trying, the odds are in your favor.

 

 

PS: Peak Performers is hiring! Furthermore, you’re always welcome to follow up with us if you submit a resume and don’t hear back. Check out our many open jobs!

Take Advantage of Peak Hiring Cycles

Timing Your Job Search

Hiring often comes in cycles. As a job seeker, you can take advantage of these cycles in order to apply at the right time. Here are several examples of hiring cycles:

Budget-based Hiring Cycles

Typically we see an increase in hiring activity towards the end of the fiscal year for government agencies as they seek to fill headcount and get projects done with their leftover budget. The federal end of fiscal year is September 30 and state of Texas is August 31. Many private companies begin their budget year January 1st.

Seasonal Hiring Cycles

Retail will start aggressively recruiting in the summer in order to bolster their workforce for the coming Christmas season. By contrast, construction and landscaping companies in colder parts of the country will slow hiring during the fall/winter and accelerate in early Spring as the weather warms up. Think about your industry and when do they hire most people?

Surge Hiring Cycles

Tax preparation, for example, is a $10.8 billion dollar a year industry. The Internal Revenue Service also must surge its workforce to handle all of the annual returns. These two entities will often start recruiting heavily around January 1, though the IRS will often keep workers well into the summer to handle all the tax returns.

Staffing firms are often used during these surge hiring cycles to help handle the need for extra workers. If you’re hired during one of these cycles, don’t be afraid to work for a staffing agency.

Project-based Hiring Cycles

The recently passed infrastructure bill, for example, will mean construction and public transportation across the country will see a huge boost. Currently, many of our customers have hired workers to handle COVID-19 -related projects. You can look at other macro trends in your area and your industry to anticipate what workers will be needed.

New-business Hiring Cycles

When a new business moves into town (such as Tesla here in Austin) they will need to hire a lot of people. Local news such as Austin Business Journal and Community Impact Newspaper can help give you a head’s up that there’s a newcomer in town. These businesses will need a lot of people and may want to see your resume!

*You know who’s always hiring? Peak Performers Staffing Agency is! We can help you navigate these cycles to get your resume in at just the right time!

How Do I Compare Multiple Job Offers?

Tips for Comparing Job Offers

Many job seekers now may be getting multiple competitive offers and be faced with a new predicament: which job do I accept?

While it’s tempting to look only at the bottom line—the pay—there are many other intangible factors to consider.

To start off with, as you begin your job search, it can help by making a list of what matters to you. Then seek to compare apples to apples. For this I included a video that can help you evaluate all the offers of benefits packages.

Factors to Consider When Comparing Job Offers

Compensation

This is a straight-forward comparison. Who will pay you more money. However, also factor in location of the job. From a cost of living perspective, a $50k / year in Austin, TX is way different than a $50k / year job in San Francisco CA. Here’s a free calculator to compare cost of living. Also keep in mind any bonuses or commissions you may be entitled to in your equation.

Insurance

Medical, dental, and vision are the primary offerings. When comparing insurance packages, make sure to consider things like annual deductibles, monthly premiums, and out of pocket maximums. Employers may offer disability insurance and life insurance.

Retirement Benefits

This often takes the form of a 401k, pension, or 403b if you work for a nonprofit. Peak Performers is excited to soon be offering a 403b to all of our employees!

Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits from an employer may include things like a work phone, airline miles, or possibly even a company car.

Paid Time Off

Paid time off from an employer is another key benefit. This often takes the form of sick days and vacation days, but also may be one single allotted amount of time to spend as you choose.

Remote Work/Location

Currently, there are way more job seekers looking for “remote jobs” than just looking for “jobs.” Many job seekers factor in location as key deciding factor. For our part, about 46% of our jobs are remote. And if you are working on-site, factor in your daily commute and how much that will cost you in time and gas.

Time Flexibility

Don’t forget to ask about whether your hours can be flexible. This is important for taking care of things outside of work, such as childcare duties or going to the doctor. Time flexibility is a non-tangible but extremely valuable job benefit.

Workplace Culture

While not a tangible benefit, having ping pong tables in the break room has done the start-up industry wonders! Seek a workplace culture that will align with your own work style. Use social media to research the company and ask acquaintances who are currently working there what it’s like.

Organizational/Role Prestige

Finally, factor in the “prestige” when considering job offers. People spend less than 3 years on average at each job, so this job will likely not be your last. Does the company or your job title look good on your resume? Will it help you find an even better job several years from now?

Don’t Forget…

At the end of the day, remember to politely decline the offers you don’t choose and keep those people in your network. Perhaps that organization will be a fit for you several years down the road when you’re ready for your next career journey?

Working from home advice for job seekers and businesses

For job seekers

Is work from home the new normal?

I get a lot of questions these days about work from home (WFH) jobs. I also get a lot of job seekers that are only looking for remote options. Here’s my perspective:

 

Depends on the job.

If you are an office worker, it is more common for your job to be WFH, as opposed to two years ago. There are many jobs that are obviously excluded from WFH options, such as retail, hospitality, and essential roles. What’s less obvious is that lower-level jobs are often still asked to be done on-site. When an entry/junior -level role is WFH, it’s often used as recruitment perk. Temporary roles are often less likely to be WFH as well.

Hybrid roles are more common.

Often job descriptions are binary…is a role remote, yes or no? There is no middle option. Similarly, you can search job sites for only remote roles. More common now is that offices are now shared, fluid spaces and you may be expected to come into work a certain number of days a week. Managers may not have made up their mind about if the role can be WFH or not. Perhaps also a role may start on-site and shift to WFH once you’re a trusted member of the team. In my opinion is worthwhile to get to the interview to politely inquire about WFH options. Don’t screen out opportunities preemptively.

Willingness to work on-site is now a competitive advantage.

There are a lot of job seekers out there seeking only 100% remote roles. Think carefully about whether you really want to say “no” to all on-site opportunities.

For businesses

How can I leverage work from home for my business?

We get a lot of questions these days about work from home (WFH) jobs. We also get a lot of job seekers that are looking only for remote options. In a recent market research, we’ve found Google searches for “remote jobs” to be DOUBLE the searches of simply “jobs.” So what does that mean for you?

 

How common is work from home?

It is more common for office workers and professionals to WFH, as opposed to two years ago. It’s estimated by flexjobs that 41.8% of jobs are remote. There are many roles that are obviously excluded from WFH options, such as retail, hospitality, and essential roles. Also lower-level jobs are often still asked to be done on-site. When an entry/junior -level role is WFH, it’s often used as recruitment perk. Temporary roles are often less likely to be WFH as well.

What about hybrid roles?

Too often job descriptions are binary…is a role remote, yes or no? There is no middle option. Similarly, you can search job sites for only remote roles. More common now is that offices are now shared, fluid spaces and you may be expected to come into work a certain number of days a week. Managers may not have made up their mind about if the role can be WFH or not. Perhaps also a role may start on-site and shift to WFH once the new hire has been trained. Seriously look at your role and how it’s marketed–marking it as strictly “non-remote” may be driving away candidates.

Is it a disability accommodation?

It can be! Here at Peak, we specialize in helping placing professionals with disabilities. We get a lot of questions about accommodations and allowing work from home is one of the easiest and cheapest accommodations your business can make.

The bottom line…

You will attract more candidates if you advertise your roles as remote or hybrid. There is some evidence that some job seekers are even willing to take a pay cut in order to work remotely. Allowing remote work also expands your pool of potential recruits as it expands your geographic recruiting area.

Peak Performers and Texas Veterans Commission Job Search Give Advice

Upcoming Virtual Job Fair with Texas Veterans Commission

Peak Performers recently partnered with the Texas Veterans Commission to share job seeking tips for veterans and job seekers with disabilities prior to their job fair on September 22nd, 2021.

You can watch the video on Linkedin.

“You are more than your disability. Focus on your capabilities.” -Myles Wallace, Strategic Partnership Specialist at Peak Performers.

By the way, did you know that Peak Performers is a veteran friendly employer? 10% or more of our workforce are veterans.

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

Now Hiring in Austin – Hot Jobs August 16, 2021

Austin Growing Rapidly: More Jobs Heading to ATX!

This just in: Austin is growing really, really fast. In fact, according to the recent census data, we have seen 21.7% growth in the last decade. As a large MSA, Austin was second in Texas only to Fort Worth which grew 24%. Similarly, we saw surrounding bedroom communities such as Round Rock, Pflugerville, and Georgetown grow rapidly.
With this growth will come more people needing jobs. If you know someone who just moved here, be a friend and send them to Peak Performers. (Also, send them our guide to Austin Job Seeking Resources.) We’re happy to consider them for one of our many open jobs, and they’ll get a chance to expand their professional network in Austin. Right now we’re recruiting for everything from Auditors to Enterprise Data Architects.
*A complete list of our open jobs found on our jobs site.
This is a chart showing Austin's growth according to the census
Austin grew 21.7% in the last decade. Chart showing Austin’s growth

Now Hiring in Austin: August 16, 2021

Grant Accountant Job! Do you have experience with Texas Grants Management Standards and 3 years of experience working in accounting operations? If so, we’re looking for a Grant Accountant. Pay is $27 / hour.

Auditor Jobs! Are you an Auditor? Do you want to work in compliance, investigations, or records review? We are filling multiple positions with multiple agencies. Pay ranges from $20 – $28 DOE.

Grant Coordinator Job! Do you have experience working for a state agency? Do you want to help grant administration, monitoring, and preparing of education material? If so we’re looking for a Post Secondary Education Grant Coordinator. Pay is $29 / hour.

Enterprise Architect Job! Do you have experience working for state agencies and a passion for data modeling, collection, and storage. We’re now recruiting for an Enterprise Data Architect role. Pay is $69 / hour.

Purchaser Jobs! Are you a state certified Purchaser? Are you looking to work for the state of Texas? We now have multiple roles and levels open for experienced purchasers. Pay is $22 – $28 DOE.

Many more jobs can be found on our jobs page.

Cover letters for Austin jobs

How Important are Cover Letters?

The utility of the cover letter will vary between jobs and between job seekers in Austin. While somewhat old fashioned, cover letters are a nice way of introducing yourself and expressing your interest in the job.

At the very least, they can’t hurt.

Cover Letter Comic
Cover letters aren’t always read, but when they are they can have an impact. Comic from amazingsuperpowers.com

Cover Letter Tips

Don’t rely on the cover letter to tell your story. A cover letter may or may not get read. So make sure that it’s supplemental to your resume and a “nice, personalized touch” that will help you stand out between multiple qualified candidates. In addition to a cover letter, I recommend putting in a brief statement at the top of your resume about what kind of role you’re seeking and a summary of your qualifications.

Cover letters can be helpful if you’re not the obvious choice candidate. If you are attempting to switch careers or get back into the job market after an employment gap, cover letters can help you overcome objections or add more context and explanation to your candidacy.

Make sure to customize your cover letter. Too often, when I do see cover letters, they are very obviously copy-pasted from a template. Job seekers won’t bother to customize the thing that’s supposed to be a personal touch! If you’re using “Dear Sir or Madam,” you probably haven’t done enough networking and research into the organization for the cover letter to be truly impactful.

Emphasize your network connection/referral. As a follow up to the previous point, if you have a personal connection into an organization, a cover letter is a great way take advantage of this network. You can name drop your connection, and it increases the odds that your application will get seen and will spark a conversation about you.

Watch for typos on your cover letter. You want a cover letter to be the best representation of yourself. Since it’s a bit of a formal document anyway, if you can’t make it typo-free and grammatically sound, I’d skip it as it may jeopardize your candidacy. Attention to detail is important.

Cover letters are a great follow up. What I also see is a cover letter used as a follow up after you apply. I think it can have a good value used this way!

Cover Letter Templates

It’s still good to have a template even if you don’t think you’ll need to use a cover letter often. All job seekers should have a cover letter template they can customize and send at a moment’s notice. Some employers still require it as part of the application process. Indeed has an amazing  library of sample cover letters. You can also check out this previous article on Peak’s site with tips for writing a good cover letter.

Now Hiring in Austin – Hot Jobs August 10, 2021

Austin Job Market Growing Fast

Austin has almost regained all jobs lost prior to the pandemic as our area continues to see rapid hiring. However, there are A LOT of people still out of work, including: people who took time off to care for dependents, retail and service workers who saw their jobs permanently disappear, and people with disabilities.  People with disabilities are often the first to be let go and last to be re-hired in organizations

Many with disabilities were laid off or voluntarily dropped out due to health concerns, and they can use your help finding their next job!

So who do you know who’s looking for work? Who do you know who has been out of a job for a while and is tentative about getting back to work? Peak Performers can help these professionals find their next job—let’s put people to work!

*A complete list of our open jobs found at https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs/

**More information on the Austin Job market can be found on the Austin Chamber of Commerce Blog

Chart Showing Austin Job Growth
Austin has re-gained 96% of jobs lost from the pandemic

Now Hiring! Our Hot Jobs August 10, 2021

NEW JOB! Do you have experience working for a state agency? Do you want to help grant administration, monitoring, and preparing of education material? If so we’re looking for a Grant Coordinator. Pay is $29 / hour.

REMOTE ROLE! Do you pride yourself in examining, investigating, and reviewing financial statements? Do you have a certification as an auditor (CGAP, CFE, CIA, or CPA)? If so, we are now hiring for a remote Auditor IV (Austin-based) pay is $28 / hour.

IT JOB! Do you have experience working for state agencies and a passion for data modeling, collection, and storage. We’re now recruiting for an Enterprise Data Architect role. Pay is $69 / hour. 

MULTIPLE OPENINGS! Are you a state certified Purchaser? Are you looking to work for the state of Texas? We now have multiple roles and levels open for experienced purchasers. Pay is $22 – $28 DOE. 

Many more jobs can be found on our job page.