Job Development: Creating a Positive Personal Profile

Think College Learn

Section 3: Creating a Positive Personal Profile

Once you have interviewed the student and observed him or her in multiple locations, and gathered all the information from other key stakeholders and interest inventories or other assessments, you now need to find a way to synthesize that information. So how does a job developer translate all that raw information into a marketable profile? A great strategy is to create a Positive Personal Profile. 

A Positive Personal Profile (PPP) is a way to "take inventory" of all the attributes of the youth that will be relevant to his or her job search, employability, job match, retention, and long-range career development. It is a mechanism for collecting information from a variety of sources—including assessments, observations, interviews, and discussions with the students and people who know them well. 

Because we are always learning new things about a student – and the students are always learning new things – the PPP is never 'finished.'  It is ongoing. If you observe a student in a whole new environment one day, and a new skill or behavior appears, record it on the PPP. If a student doesn't know his or her career interest area, you may spend several weeks visiting different industries or businesses and trying out a variety of tasks with that student. After those experiences, the student may now have an idea – and together you learned about new interests and skills that can now go onto the PPP. You can interview mom and dad and learn things no one else knew about their son. You can watch a student at lunch with friends and see a whole new side. You can watch a student on a volunteer job and get a good idea of a number of his or her skills and record it on the PPP. In the resource section, look over a sample PPP and even try it on yourself! Complete the sections with information about your own skills and talents and see how well you can capture yourself. You may want to ask friends, family or colleagues to add to it and you’ll actually probably learn things about yourself you may not have realized! In the resource section, review the Developing A Positive Personal Profile article to get a clear idea of what to look for in each section, and why.

Practical Uses of the PPP:

  • worksheet to help in the development of resume

  • worksheet to assist a student in preparing for interviews

  • when a prospective employer asks the youth to “Tell me about yourself” the youth can recall the highlights from his/her profile
  • can form the basis for developing goals on IEPs and transition plans (or IPEs in the case of vocational rehabilitation services)
  • means of ensuring that the job developer and others have a clear picture of the youth’s positive attributes, as well as areas where they may need support or accommodations.
  • developing a Features to Benefits sheet that can help create a Marketing Script

Dreams and Goals: When it comes to dreams and goals, the sky's the limit; however, many people—especially individuals with disabilities—have difficulty identifying and talking about their life dreams and goals. When planning with a student, it's a good place to start and a way to focus on a career area. The dream of being a basketball star, for instance, may be closely fulfilled by working in the sports industry.

Interests: Interests are frequently expressed through hobbies, leisure-time pursuits, recreation, and avocations—as well as through occupations. You can tell when someone has a particular interest, because you can observe them engaging enthusiastically in that activity, talking about it a lot, or intently focusing on an event or object. On a college campus, there are so many new opportunities for students to try new things and find out what they like, which offers insight into what they enjoy doing. If you can help a student find a job that matches an interest, there is a much greater chance that student will keep that job, do well, and even advance. Identifying interests is another good way to target your audience when starting the job development process.

Talents, Skills, and Knowledge: Everyone has certain abilities with which they seem to have been born; sometimes these are referred to as "natural gifts"— athleticism, the ability to make people laugh, mechanical acumen, a beautiful voice. Skills and knowledge are acquired over time through exposure, life experience, education, and training. Speaking another language and acquiring computer skills are some examples. If a student is good at it, there's a good chance she or he finds pleasure in doing it.

Learning Styles: Sometimes called "multiple intelligences", learning style refers to the manner in which an individual naturally prefers receiving, processing, and expressing information. Psychologist and researcher Howard Gardner and others have identified the following learning styles: bodily kinesthetic, musical, visual-spatial, intrapersonal, interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, and mathematical-logical. Once identified in a student, this will guide you toward career areas that provide insight into how he or she learns tasks, as well as what type of environment is best suited for each student’s learning style.

Values: Values may be thought of as our life philosophies—our unique perspective on what is important to attain in life and in our careers. Often it is the values we hold that motivate us to take particular actions. In terms of careers, values may be reflected in such things as a person's desire for high status, a minimum annual income, an easy job, a casual (or formal) dress code, wearing a uniform, making a difference, recognition, adrenaline rush (competition, risk-taking activities), working alone (or with people), or being their own boss. 

Positive Personality Traits: There are often things about a person's character that are genuinely recognized and appreciated by others, such as a beautiful smile, the ability to stay focused on a detailed task, the willingness to learn new things, or a sense of humor.

Environmental Preferences: When people get to spend a good portion of their lives in settings that match their temperaments, they have a better chance of being successful. For the student who thrives on social interaction and teamwork, a solo desk job in a quiet environment would not be the best fit. For the student who is averse to loud noises and crowds, working at a sports stadium would be difficult for that student to maintain comfortably. You can observe students in so many different settings on a college campus. Matching temperament and personality to the environment and work culture is essential for success.

Dislikes: To some extent or another, all of us have dislikes—¬things in which we have no interest, or would prefer to avoid if possible, or things that make us uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. Always find out the things that a student dislikes and try your best to avoid jobs that focus on those tasks.

Life and Work Experience: This is one of the most overlooked areas in getting to know students, particularly those individuals who may have had very limited, or no, previous job experiences. Employers want to know that a candidate has specific skills to accomplish specific company goals. How the individual job seeker acquired certain skills may be less important than the fact that he or she has them—and can demonstrate them. Acquisition can occur through formal training, informal learning (watching a neighbor or older sister), hands-on experience, and general life experience (camping with family, building a model plane with grandpa, joining a singing club on campus, etc.)

Support System: This refers to the unique "circle of support" each of us has around us. It might include family members, significant others, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, college mentors, and classmates. For people with disabilities, this also includes many individuals who are paid to provide support. It is important as job developers to call on all these individuals for insight and direct support throughout the process.

Specific Challenges: Often referred to as barriers, challenges can be represented by anything from conditions we are born with, the lack of opportunities presented to us, or a challenging life circumstance (such as poverty). Keep in mind that disability alone is not a challenge, but how it plays out in a student's life becomes the challenge—having an intellectual disability is not a challenge; not being able to read because of it is a challenge.

Creative Solutions and Accommodations: Once we have identified the specific challenges in our lives we can begin to think of creative solutions and accommodations. An accommodation may be thought of as any strategy that effectively alleviates, or lessens, the impact of a specific challenge. They fall into three primary categories: (1) physical accommodations, such as equipment, devices, and modified spaces and buildings; (2) special services, such as those provided by interpreters, translators, personal assistants, job coaches, medical personnel, therapists, parole officers, and so forth; and (3) creative thinking and common sense problem-solving.

To Learn More: 

This article describes and gives examples for each component of a Positive Personal Profile.Read more

This checklist presents common “satisfaction factors” that people receive from their jobs. This can be done by an individual job seeker or with the assistance of a job specialist or family member. The user should begin by reading the entire...Read more

This blank template can be completed with a student to determine personal strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and more, and is very helpful when beginning a job search. Read more

This brief checklist can help students identify in which areas their strengths lie (verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, interpersonal), and which learning style best describes them.Read more