Skip to page content
Office of Disability Employment Policy
Bookmark and Share

ODEP - Office of Disability Employment Policy

Disability Employment Policy Resources by Topic

Job Seeker Exploration

Customized planning is critical to negotiating a Customized Employment relationship. But before the planning begins, exploratory time is needed to understand the job seeker's dreams, goals, personal preferences, life experiences, and the needs they express. This exploration is also critical to identifing the complexities that the job seeker brings to potential employment relationships. Formal testing and evaluation may be used as a supplement to this exploration when specific information is needed to complete the picture.

Self-Exploration, Shared Exploration, Facilitated Exploration: Options for All Job Seekers

Exploration can be accomplished in a number of ways, depending on the needs and preferences of the job seeker. Many job seekers will wish to engage in a process of self-exploration, often facilitated by others, that involves answering questions, reflecting on ideas and past experiences, and identifying personal issues and challenges. Other job seekers may wish to participate in a peer group such as a job club or other group in which members assist each other in shared exploration. Still other job seekers, especially those with significant complexities, will benefit from facilitated discovery, a process in which an employment professional, family member, or friend spends the time necessary to understand the applicant's strengths, needs, and preferences. This range of possible approaches to exploration is critical to ensure true customization for each job seeker.

The Place to Start: Who Is This Applicant?

Discovering a job seeker's strengths and uncovering their employment-related goals and experiences is the place to start. Assisting the job seeker to explore answers to the following key questions will help guide the process.

  • What life experiences have I had?
  • What are my strengths, interests, and preferences?
  • What do I have to offer to an employer?
  • What is important to me in a job?
  • What motivates me to work?
  • What supports will I need to be successful?

But exploration involves much more than simply asking job seekers about their issues. Exploration also involves spending time with applicants and interviewing friends, family, and colleagues, recommended by the job seeker, who have positive information to share. It is critical that the life circumstances of the job seeker be understood through observation and participation as well as conversation. Adequate time to explore and understand the answers to these questions lays the groundwork for the customized planning process to follow.

Targeting Tasks and Other Potential Contributions

During exploration, tasks, skills, and other potential contributions can be observed and discussed with the job seeker. This Task List is a critically important component of the customized plan and employer negotiations that targets specific duties of the applicant's customized job description.

Exploration and Employment Supports

Employment supports are the formal and informal activities at a job that enable people to successfully complete their work. Employment supports can be both internal and external to the job. The customized planning process needs to consider what, if any, employment supports that individual may need. Exploration provides the information necessary to plan for the employment supports that might be needed for success.

The Individual Profile

The information obtained during exploration needs to be documented to account for the various activities used to get to know the job seeker. There are numerous strategies — including profiles, portfolios, and other creative means — to capture the body of information that will be used as the basis for the customized planning process.

How Family, Friends, and Personal Representatives Can Help

  • Job seekers will often use a personal representative to help them plan. The personal representative's role is to learn about the job seeker — not to presume information, diagnose, or test and compare the applicant with others.
  • People who really know the job seeker can help to fully explore interests, skills, and dreams.
  • Information from a wide variety of sources, such as those found at One-Stop Career Centers, is also often part of exploration. These resources can provide useful information about potential directions to employment and a perspective on the job seeker that might be otherwise overlooked.