Job Development: Turning Deficits into Assets

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Section 4: Turning Deficits Into Assets

So far, you have learned how to compile your student’s best features by creating a Positive Personal Profile.

Now you will learn how to reframe what has appeared as deficits for your jobseekers as assets, with the right job placement. And you will learn how to use the Features to Benefits strategy when approaching employers; this strategy is based on each student's interests, dreams, and talents.

Deficits to Assets

Oftentimes, information about a jobseeker you represent may come to you in the form of deficits - emphasizing what the jobseeker cannot do or as a negative characteristic. If taken at face value, this might seem to be a barrier to employment. We have to learn to really get to know our jobseekers in order to effectively complete a Positive Personal Profile, as we presented in Section 3 - and sometimes we have to learn to see deficits as potential assets. Keep in mind that Assets and Deficits can be very environmental. For example, a student may have such severe ADHD that he has difficulty sitting in class, being still, paying attention and taking in information. As a result, he might act out, disrupt, and have difficulty focusing enough to answer questions. When you gather information from that teacher, he might be described as unfocused, with disruptive behavior, and the inability to process information. As a job developer, you need to look at the environment and recognize that this young man will not be successful sitting still for long periods of time processing verbal information. But perhaps this young man learns quite well while moving around and taking visual cues - which could be an excellent match for a person in charge of managing 15 kids in a party place full of inflatable slides, ball pits, and trampolines. The necessary qualities of a person good at this job are the ability to move around, see what is going on, intervene (pulling the extra kid out of the ball pit; helping a kid scared at the top of a slide), and constant movement from activity to activity. So you could say that the inability to sit still and focus on verbal information is a deficit in the school setting, but it can be translated into high energy and multi-tasking ability - a great asset for the manager of a party activity center. If you can match characteristics to the right environment, you will be able to turn deficits into assets - and make a good job match. If you would like to practice, refer to the Assets and Deficits Activity in the resources section to the right.

Features to Benefits Strategy

  1. Start with the interests and strengths that were identified in the Positive Personal Profile.
    Examples: If a student loves animals, try pet stores or veterinary offices. If a student loves working outdoors, look for landscaping companies, etc.

  1. Then move on to geographical locations and your student’s transportation limitations, and find businesses he or she can get to as independently and consistently as possible.

  2. Once you target a business, do a little research: check out their website to see what they are looking for in employees, visit the location as a customer to get a feel for the culture, etc.

  3. The final step is to match the sellable features of the student with the needs of the business you are selling to. The easiest way to do this is to use a strategy called Features to Benefits. It’s a classic marketing strategy and is illustrated with the following story about a car salesman.

This story actually happened to Amy Dwyre from TransCen, Inc. You can also listen to it in Amy Dwyre’s podcast. In addition, read the article Deficit Marketing by Erin Reihle in the resource section, to understand what happens when we don’t speak to businesses in the right manner and don’t clearly state the benefits to hiring.

Case: Features to Benefits

I needed to buy a car in the city I had moved to; my dad wasn’t there to help me. I knew exactly what I wanted but the one thing my dad had said was, “do not buy the first car you test drive because your car right now isn’t so great. Any car is going to feel better.” I realized I needed to shop around, so I started at a Volkswagen dealership.

I explained that I drive all day for work in the city, I transport lots of students to job interviews, I often need to park on the street in the city and in front of my apartment, and I also have two big dogs that I like to take with me hiking on weekends. And then I gave a price range. The car salesman said, “I have the perfect car for you.” He took me over to the Jetta and said, “it’s sporty, has 12 new colors this year, and my wife and daughters drive this car; it’s the perfect car for you.” So I test drove it and it felt great, but I remembered my dad saying not to buy that first car.

I then walked into the Subaru Dealership using the same description of what I was looking for— my driving in the city, the two dogs…etc. The Subaru Dealer responded, “I changed my mind about what car I was going to tell you about. When you first walked in, I had an idea of what you needed, but after listening to you, I think the Subaru Outback Sport is the perfect car for you and this is why: it’s shorter than the regular Outback which is better for city driving, easier to park, and better to get around in traffic. It gets good gas mileage, which is helpful for city driving. It’s a 4-door car, so you don’t have to get out of your car, fold the seats, let the students climb in the back, fold them again, get back in the car, close the door, which can be a real pain. It’s also a hatchback so that both dogs can get in the back with the seats folded down, get the dog hair all over that, fold it back up and there’s no dog hair in the back seat. So when you pick up students again, they aren’t sitting in dog hair and covered in dog hair for their interviews. It’s also good for taking dogs hiking because it’s all wheel drive and it handles the snow much better which is important when students are in the car.

You can see the difference between the first salesman and the second salesman. The first salesman didn’t listen to a word I said. He had in his head that any female who walked in, he would sell them the Jetta. If I had walked in and said I was looking for a car that had 12 sporty new colors this year and that your wife and daughter drive, then he really would have had the perfect car for me. Instead the second salesman listened to everything I said, and then turned every single feature of the Subaru Outback Sport into a benefit to me. So as you can imagine, I bought the Subaru Outback Sport.

That is what you need to learn to do: take the features of your student, and market them as benefits to a specific employer.

To Learn More: 

In this 14-minute podcast, Amy Dwyre discusses the development and use of Positive Personal Profiles (PPP) and a Features to Benefits strategy in job development with a real life example. ...Read more

Use this Features to Benefits example as a guide for how to sell yourself and get your foot in the door to start negotiations with potential employers. Read more

This article discusses how agencies representing jobseekers with disabilities should approach businesses and market their clients by using a strengths based approach rather than focusing on deficits and disability.Read more