By Jonathan Lucus, Executive Director, NSITE
Early in my career, I worked for the United States government, helping resettle refugees. These were people who fled homes and careers, and through no fault of their own, were in a position of having to completely rebuild and recreate their lives. I saw first-hand how devastating it is to an individual with talent and drive, to struggle to achieve, or be overlooked for opportunities in life that most of us take for granted.
Most of us define ourselves, at least partly, through the work we do. Having a career that challenges and rewards us is an important factor in our sense of self-worth.
Here at NSITE, every day, we work with individuals who are seeking to advance their careers but, because they have vision loss, are too often facing roadblocks in the hiring process that other job candidates don’t encounter.
I’m so proud of the team here that has developed career-advancing courses that are specifically designed for low vision and blind individuals. These courses provide job skill training that allow talented job seekers to change or to advance their careers.
Brandi Hunter is a recent graduate of our Talent Sourcing course and, as a direct result of the course, has been promoted to Human Resources Staffing Coordinator at her company, a move that happened much faster than she had ever expected. Let her tell her story in her own words:
“I have a condition called Leber’s congenital amaurosis, which means I am legally blind. The vision I do have is very limited, usually somewhat better in low light conditions. I was diagnosed in infancy, so have had a lifetime with this condition.
As an adult, I chose work where I knew I could stay and not have to change jobs. It’s hard to find work when you’re blind. When I started at my current agency, I actually was hired to work on the production floor sewing. I held that position for four years before I was promoted. When I was helping with the AIMS (Paycom) system training our associates how to use it, my manager noticed my computer skills and how efficient I was with time management. They also felt I had strong interpersonal skills and so I was moved onto the HR team, which I loved.
It was my HR director who told me about NSITE’s class and encouraged me to sign up. I never had a counselor to help me find my way; I always just sort of stumbled onto things that moved me forward. So, this type of training, specifically for someone who was blind or had low vision was new to me.
The prospect of this class made me nervous. I didn’t think I would get in, but then NSITE called me for an interview! I put on my ‘confidence face’ and gave my best answers. And I was accepted into the program! The course was amazing. I learned so much. And the environment was so supportive. Our class was a real team. We’d meet and talk about our lessons or go to NSITE U, a platform where we could hear from others with different perspectives, different ways of doing things. It was so different than it would have been with all sighted people. It sounds crazy, but it really was a sense of family and of not going through this alone. The team at NSITE was great. I adore Marianne, who really encouraged me and helped me out. Going through the internship at Bristol Myers Squibb was just amazing to see how an HR department at a big corporation runs. So helpful.
I was promoted after taking this course, and now, I’ve been asked to step in and handle an extra assignment I wouldn’t have been offered before. As a result of this program, I’ve been promoted and entrusted with additional responsibility, and I know I’m up for it – the Sourcing Program has changed my career, moving me forward much more quickly than I could have hoped.
But I’m not stopping here. I’m using these skills to build onto something bigger.”
Brandi is an example of why we do what we do at NSITE. It’s about the individual, and about their life. Brandi hopes one day to be a director or manager in an HR department. Our money is on her, and that she can achieve whatever she wants to in her career.
Being open to the possibilities and being willing to take that leap. When someone decides they are ready for that next step, NSITE is here to encourage, and to provide the practical support, skills and connections. If you are looking for new career challenges, contact NSITE to explore the possibilities. Our whole reason for being is for people like Brandi.
Jonathan Lucus, MPA, EML is the Executive Director of NSITE, a DC-based non-profit that connects corporate leadership to exceptional, dedicated employees, and supports organizations across the entire continuum of corporate training, talent recruitment, talent development, onboarding, and long-term support. He was named one of Business Insider’s Top 33 HR Leaders and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.