Neurodivergent Career Strategist
Harrison Assessment Consulting Partner
Every Comfort Career Journey™ is created with a series of Next Step Jobs™. Some Journeys are well planned and some are not. This is my Comfort Career Journey.
I began my Comfort Career Journey by working in my family’s store. I learned customer service and how to straighten stock. I enjoyed my work and seriously considered a career in business. When I was 15 years old, my older brother was unexpectedly hospitalized with mental illness and I decided to put aside my business ideas and pursue a career as a psychologist. I wanted to help my brother and others like him to get well.
In 1974, I graduated from the University of Connecticut with my bachelor’s degree in psychology and work experience using behavioral analysis at Mansfield State Training School. I got married that summer and began studying for my Master’s in Educational Psychology at Temple University with the hope of becoming a school psychologist. However, after one challenging year, my own mental illness intervened and I left school, never to become the psychologist I had imagined.
Next, I became a successful retail jewelry store manager (thanks Mom and Dad for my retail experience). I brought an income and benefits into my household and learned that I enjoyed sales. I also discovered a passion for hiring and training my staff.
Next, I became a sales and branch manager in the temporary staffing industry. I learned business-to-business sales, however, I worked in a few privately owned agencies and never found my pathway to a career in human resources.
Next, I was hired as the Manager of Job Placement for a large employment service provider organization in Philadelphia and began my career as a workforce development professional. I learned that I could use my sales and staffing skills to help career seekers who had barriers to employment move their careers forward. Because of the challenges in my client’s lives, this role felt more like being a psychologist and I found that I truly enjoyed my job.
I had been working mostly with dislocated workers, workers who lost their jobs due to plant closings and the consolidation of businesses. In 1996, there was a major shift in funding for workforce development and my employer changed radically to address the issue of welfare reform. I was introduced to my new manager, the Director of Job Placement, which meant that I had hit a glass ceiling at the management level.
Next, I responded to a professional recruiter’s call and took a new job as the salesperson in a 3-person office for another privately owned staffing service. I soon hated my job and I was fired after about 18 months. I learned that I couldn’t go backward and I needed to move forward.
Next, in 1998, I launched my first business and, within a year, I was working as a job development consultant to non-profit employment service provider organizations. Connecting their clients to the employers who valued them ignited a spark in my soul that has never gone out. The field of disability employment became my passion! For me, there is nothing like the feeling of connecting another person to a job where they can grow.
During these years, I chaired the employment committee of the Mayor’s Commission for People with Disabilities in Philadelphia and served on the Workforce Development Board in Montgomery County, PA. These volunteer experiences greatly expanded my understanding of the needs of individuals with disabilities and the government-funded resources available to help them.
I learned that workforce development programs could be valuable and I also observed that they often could not adequately meet their client’s needs. After 9/11, there were severe funding cutbacks and my non-profit clients were no longer able to afford my services.
Next, like any good entrepreneur, I pivoted and began providing disability diversity services to businesses. I had some amazing associates and clients, however, this business was not sustainable and I needed to find another full-time job.
Next, I became the Educational Liaison for Strayer University and helped them grow in the Greater Philadelphia Region for 4 years. As their community outreach specialist, I enjoyed the people contact and the marketing. Most importantly, I learned about the business of higher education.
Unfortunately, in 2006, I had become separated from my wife and lost my job at Strayer University. Although I had been in therapy, taking medication, and hospitalized once to treat my mental illness over the years, after a night of suicidal ideation, I finally began working on my recovery as if my life depended on it. Most importantly, I held on to my passion for improving employment outcomes for disabled individuals.
Next, in 2008, I decided to grow a new business with a new brand. I also decided to rebrand myself and disclose my history of mental illness which I had never done before. As I became more honest with myself and with others my recovery strengthened. Still afraid of the stigma of mental illness, I coined the word Qiwid, a Qualified Individual with an Invisible Disability, that others could use if they wanted to call me a name.
What had always been challenging in job development was explaining a career seeker’s fit for a job in a way that employers could trust. I decided to improve the process of supported employment and overcome the employer’s objections. I researched candidate assessment tools and chose the Harrison Assessment. Dr. Dan Harrison’s Enjoyment Performance Methodology and Paradox Technology offered the most powerful analysis of a career seeker’s strengths and job fit that I had ever seen. The Harrison Assessment has been used by employers since 1990 and is trusted internationally. I invested in becoming accredited to use the Harrison Assessment.
Next, I began developing a model for teaching career planning, CFACE, my Comfortable Fit Approach for Career Exploration. I developed the Comfort Career Journey and the Six Simple Qualifications needed to match candidate qualifications with employer expectations. As I coached more clients to identify their fit, I improved the use of Harrison Assessment reports with CFACE, and the Comfort Career Audit was born.
Today, I plan to grow my private career coaching business by adding more Comfort Career Coaches to work with me. I plan to consult with businesses so they can use my Audit internally to connect as many disabled career seekers as possible to jobs where they can prosper. My Audit can improve employee engagement for every employee so everyone enjoys their Comfort Job.
I love discovering innovative ways to connect career seekers to the jobs they will enjoy. I have finally created my Comfort Job and I hope my Journey never ends.