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Extensive brain research indicates that what we think about and do on a regular basis actually wires our brains. Our thoughts and actions create new neural pathways and can wear deep grooves in our brains. We can re-wire the brain when we learn new skills or patterns of thought, but this has to be intentional.
When we are focused on the negative, this tends to reinforce negative thinking patterns—it creates patterns of learned helplessness, where we believe that our actions don’t have an impact in the world so we don’t even try. We will focus first on challenges and then these will seem so overwhelming that we give up on working with anything else. For people with disabilities, this can be an especially powerful “bad habit” depending on their previous experiences.
When we focus on dreams, hopes and aspirations, we wire the brain to be more positive—to focus on success and possibility, rather than on failure and limitations. That is a big part of what the asset-based approach is all about--re-wiring the brain to focus on the positives.
So how do we start assessing a persons dreams? These are some tools we can use.
Review ideal work day in toolkit Can be used as interview form or customer can fill it out This can be used to write up an ideal day “vision statement” that fully describes the person’s work and then can be matched against job opportunities that come up.
Vision Boards—can be done on poster board or smaller sheets of sturdy paper Respond to a prompt (see next slide)—cut out images, words, etc. from magazines. Can add their own drawings, writing, words, pictures that they’ve taken, etc. Idea is to customize and use images to respond to the question. After customer completes, have them tell you the story of the board—what do the images represent? What do they say about what the person is looking for? Is there any significance to how the images are arranged? What can this tell you about the person’s dreams, aspirations, etc. Let the customer do most of the talking—you ask questions to draw out more details. Use the vision board as an aid to planning and as ongoing inspiration—suggest that the customer display it in a prominent place in their home where they can be reminded daily of what they’re working toward. Encourage them to share with their support network—family, friends, etc.
These are possible vision board prompts—people can do more than one or you can work with them to find the best one.
Another way to help someone focus on dreams and aspirations is through positive interviews. This is a technique where we use positive questions to draw out what inspires and motivates the customer.
As we’ve discussed, what you focus on grows in someone’s mind—the question starts you thinking in particular positive or negative directions. Notice the difference in how the mind starts flowing depending on whether you work with the questions on the left or the right.
Focus on failure, challenges and what we want “less of” De-motivate and drain energy Create circular/trapped thinking Ask “what isn’t working and how do we fix it ?”
Inspire & build energy Open up possibilities and ideas Build on successes Ask “what is working,” NOT “what isn’t working?” Create opportunities for learning and growth
Turn the normal interview you do into a positive interview by asking different questions—start with questions that will inspire, engage, and motivate. These are questions that help someone envision an ideal future. They can help you get at their dreams. Have group suggest other questions that could be asked as part of a positive interview format.
Adapted from Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness Project”—these are principles that people develop for themselves that can help guide their actions and thoughts. Often they reflect a person’s most important values—the things that they hold most dear. A job seeker’s personal commandments can help him/her remember to deal with personal challenges, but they can also be a reminder to focus on certain positive things in their lives. A good way to start developing the commandments is by looking through some quotes to pull out those quotes that seem most applicable. Sometimes commandments come from people that job seekers know—maybe something that a parent always says that provides guidance. The list should be short—no more than 12--and the statements should be short and snappy so they can be easily remembered. It’s helpful if the customer reviews them daily as a sort of reminder to pay attention to these throughout the day.
The 2 nd asset-based strategy is to build on experiences. Every experience is a learning moment and we want to teach people to use their experiences as ongoing fodder for thinking about what they do/don’t want in their work and how they can continue to reach for their dreams.
Often we will get into a cycle where we’re just doing things, but not thinking about what we can learn from our experiences. We just act, act, act. So we want to communicate to job seekers that it’s important to build in periodic “pauses” to reflect on their experiences. Reflection time gives them a chance to look at what has happened, what they’ve learned and how they want to use this information to shape their future actions.
These are some tools we can use to help people reflect on experiences.
We’ve already been talking about the power of positive questions, as when we were discussing the positive interview. Positive questions can also help people reflect on their experiences. Don’t take their answers at face value—probe to find out WHY something was successful or what they enjoyed about a particular activity. The idea is to get underneath, to core strengths, assets, passions motivations and values. Ask for other sample questions.
Journals are another great tool for reflection—can be written or visual. People can use collage, drawings, pictures they’ve taken, etc. to do a journal entry. Journals can also be audio or video—the person can record themselves talking about an experience. Any of the positive questions we’ve discussed can be used as a journaling prompt. We’ll be discussing more potential prompts when we talk about building positive habits with people in a few minutes. Journaling is a great thing to do after a particular experience—a job interview, to reflect on what they liked in their work day, etc. It’s a good ongoing habit to get into.
Experiments are a good way for people to try things out in the planning process, especially if they are reluctant to do something new or that feels really “big” to them. This is also a good activity to tie in with journaling—having people do their experiments and then journal about what happened.
These are the features of a good “experiment”
As the person is developing his/her plan, use these kinds of questions to help devise small experiments to try out.
Career assessment and planning is not a once and done event—it’s an ongoing activity, a process. Part of keeping that process going is helping the job seeker customer develop positive professional development habits. So the 3 rd asset-based strategy is to build positive habits.
The habit cycle actually consists of a “cue”—something that tells you it’s time for you to do the activity. Then the activity (habit) itself and then some payoff or reward for performing the habit. What we want to focus in with job seekers is helping them to identify positive habits they want to adopt in support of their ongoing career development and then setting up the structures for turning those into habits.
These are some positives habits we can encourage that will help people integrate ongoing assessment and planning into their lives.
In career planning we do a lot with goals, which are typically things we can achieve or events—like “get a job.” But with goals, once they’re achieved, they are achieved. But with resolutions, these are habits—things we keep doing. In working with job seekers, we can use resolution charts to monitor our progress in doing the daily habits that will take us to our goals. Chart has the habits down the left side and then the days of the week across the top. Habits can be filled in and then if they are done, put in a check mark. If not done, then an “X.”
Daily journal entry of one sentence—could be one thing they learned, something they’re proud of, something memorable that happened that day. Could also be done with images—could cut out an image from a magazine that represents the idea or maybe take a daily picture. This gives people a quick snapshot of experience that over time can reveal themes or ideas to act on in the career planning process.
This is a daily reminder to do something to move toward dreams or goals—each day the person asks this question, based on what will be happening in that day. So it might be that on one day, it’s making a phone call to someone who might be able to help with the goal. Another day it could be paying attention to what the person enjoys in their work day so that they can be clearer about the kind of work they like to do.
Another positive habit to build in are periodic visioning and assessment sessions. These are things the job seeker can do on his/her own and/or share with the employment specialist. You may want to have these visioning/assessment questions be a regular part of your appointments with the person.
Another good habit is to start helping people learn how to reframe their experiences from the negative to the positive. This can be a powerful way to begin re-shaping thinking patterns.
Help customers see the stories they are telling about their experience—How can you shift from negative language and questions to more positive ways of looking at experiences.
These are examples of some re-framing questions you can use with customers to have them explore what’s going on in a different light.
The 4 th asset-based strategy is to help the job seeker connect to positive peers. This ties in with the person-centered approach and its emphasis on including family, friends, professionals, etc. in the assessment and planning process. But there is also much to be gained from connecting to other people with disabilities to form a career or job club—this is something that staff can do as a form of group case management.
On an individual level, we want to encourage job seekers to form their own personal positive networks.
As employment specialists, one strategy we can use with job seekers is to create opportunities for “peer assists.” This is when when a group of people who are working on similar issues or problems meet together to help each other problem-solve and to provide support. Usually it works best when you’re working with 3-5 people in a session. The staff person acts as the discussion facilitator, helping the job seekers to identify the problems and discuss and document solutions.
Another way to work in groups is to run “Story Circles”—this can be a great way to help people learn more about themselves while connecting to others. These tend to work best with 3-5 people.
Following individual team discussions, have groups share their key insights/learning. Also find out any additional/lingering questions they may have and address these.
Asset Based Assessment and Career Planning
Asset-BasedAssessment andPlanningSupporting the Person-Centered Approach
Supporting the Person-Centered Approach Help job seekers establish a process of assessment and planning that: Inspires and motivates Supports ongoing/evolving career management and situations They can return to with minimal assistance
Key Issue “How can we attend to the hopes, dreams and aspirations of our customers?”
Vision Board Prompts What is my ideal life? What is my ideal career? What is most important to me in this world? What am I passionate about—what do I love doing? What inspires me? What are my greatest strengths? What am I really good at?
What You Focus On Grows What’s wrong here? What is working/has worked in the past? What are the barriers/obstacles? What opportunities do we see? What isn’t working? What do I want more of? What weaknesses do I need to overcome? What is my positive core that I can build on? Why isn’t this working?
Questions for a PositiveFuture “This is my ideal life. . . “ What do you want MORE of in your life? If success were absolutely guaranteed, what risks would you take? What are you excited about in your life right now? What would a perfect job look like? What do people always come to you for? What do you you think you do really well?
Positive Planning QuestionsWhat is working that you can build on?How is your life getting better? How can we bring more of that into your experience?Think of a similar situation you handled well. What made it a success and how could we bring that learning to this situation?What changes could we make, no matter how small, that would make your experience more enjoyable, effective and/or productive?
Positive Questions What have you done in the past that’s been successful that we can build on? What did you love the most about your previous jobs? Tell me a story about a time when you were successful in doing _______. Let’s list all your assets---the things that support and help you.
Features of Experiments Starts with an energizing question— “I’m curious about. . .” or “I want to try. . .” It’s a “try-out”, not a permanent change. You don’t know the outcome. Approach with a spirit of curiosity and learning— “What happens if. . .?”
Coaching forExperimentation What could you try, no matter how small, to get you closer to your vision? How could you use your positive core here? How can you expand on that? Who is doing something you’d like to do? How could you experiment with trying that? How can you get MORE of what you want?
Daily Question “What one thing can I do today, not matter how small, to move me in the direction of. . . “
Periodic Visioning andAssessment Sessions Visioning Weekly—For specific events coming up during the week, take 5-10 minutes to visualize the ideal experience or event. What happens? How do you feel? Monthly--15-20 minutes to write detailed vision of ideal life/career. Can also be done as visual collage. Assessment Weekly—10-15 minutes evaluating past week. What is working? What do you want more of? What are you learning? How can you build on all of this?
What’s the Story? “This is a challenge.” “This is an opportunity.” “This shouldn’t be “This should be happening happening.” because it’s teaching me something.” I can do this—I just need to learn now” “I can’t do this.”
Reframing Questions What can I learn from this? What are my greatest strengths and how can I use Who do I know who has them to help me work handled this well and what through this? can I learn from him/her? What am I excited or How will my life be better curious about in this? after I’ve worked through this? What am I grateful for in all of this?
Building a Positive Network Follow the energy: Who inspires me? Who supports me? Who challenges me (in good ways)? Who do I feel good with when I’m around them? Find new people who support what you want more of.
Peer Assist Guidelines Person presents problem or issue they want help on. Explains background and where they need help. “Assisters” listen and ask questions to get a clear picture. Facilitator may help with this. Assisters offer—”When that happened to me, this is what I did. . “ or “If I were in that situation, I would. . .” Facilitator helps person weigh pros/cons of options and figure out what would work.
Story Circle Guidelines Warm-up—Name and 1-2 things about you. Present “Focus Question” for stories. Participants tell a personal story to to group that responds to the Focus Question. Others listen for: Insights about the person telling the story How the story may apply to their own life or experiences.
Story Circle Focus Questions Tell us about a time when: You felt really proud of something you did. You participated in an activity or event you really enjoyed. When you were really successful at something. You solved a problem. Tell us a story about the best job you can imagine.
Story Circle Tips Encourage details to make the stories more vivid. Help story-tellers find ideas and insights in their stories that they can use for their present planning. Encourage listeners to respond to stories with ideas on how they see the story providing insight into the storyteller. Help participants leave with at least one action item based on their stories.
Next Steps. . . In your peer teams, will explore each strategy/associated tools and discuss how these activities could be used with your clients. Which tools/strategies seem to offer the most promise for your customers? How could you adapt/use these with your caseload? Which tools/strategies seem more challenging to implement? How could you overcome these challenges? Which tool/strategy will you PERSONALLY commit to trying before our next class?