Feature Issue on Engaging Communities Underrepresented in Disability Research
How SEEC Helped Me Find a Fit
Hallem Martin and Courtney Murray discuss Hallem’s career strengths and interests.
Courtney: I work with job seekers who have completed a Project SEARCH work experience. Project SEARCH is an international network that provides employment skills training and work experience for transition-age youth with developmental disabilities. It’s been such a pleasure to work with Hallem, because he always goes the extra mile. His active participation in Job Club frequently helps those around him.
Hallem: When I was in Project Search, I worked at the National Museum of African Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution. It was a nice place to work. I shelved books, printed things out, and did other types of office work, which I liked. The reason I go the extra mile isn’t just because I like what I do, though. I like interacting with people who are different from me, or who have different opinions. I’ve always been interested in the way people see things. I’m not sure why, but I always found it interesting to hear other people’s side of the story, whether it’s political or not.
Courtney: And now Hallem works at An Open Book Foundation, an organization that brings authors to local schools and provides free books to the students. It was through SEEC’s discovery process that we thought he would be a good fit for them.
Hallem: As it turns out, I’m really good at organization and have been able to do several different things for them. I’m doing filing, data entry, placing stickers into the books to be given away, and in general I keep track of things. My mom is pretty proud of me for figuring all of this out. I work with people really well, and I’d like to stay here for a while. I don’t feel like I’ve experienced racism or ableism directly, but I know it is harder when you are a person of color with disabilities.
Courtney: SEEC has been progressive in talking about intersectionality. Disability has its own set of challenges, but being of African descent is another challenge, so it helps in the job process to have someone of the same race working with people on their job skills. But it’s more than just having that shared experience. I’ve studied Spanish throughout my life, for example, so having diverse skills to help people from other backgrounds is important, too.
Hallem: If I were to offer advice to other people, I’d say, ‘Get at least some experience any way you can, and know your strengths and weaknesses.’ I’m happy to have this work as part of my life. I was searching for a good job for quite a long time.
Courtney: Hallem has been very patient, indeed. It has been a process to get a job. He went around applying to a lot of places, including a fast-casual restaurant. Ultimately, we wanted to find a better situation suited to his strengths. It’s a dance, where everything has to come together for the right opportunity.
Hallem: It means something to me now that I’ve become pretty independent and it feels good to show those skills off. Sometimes I’ve been the only person here in the office and I did a pretty good job. People trust me and depend on me and I haven’t been here long so that says a lot. To anyone thinking of getting a job, I’d say give it a try. Learn about the place where you want to work. Knowledge is power, so study up on the job and go for it. You don’t have to know everything, but know some things.