Guest post: Individuals With Disabilities Can Start A Career In Business With These Tips

Linda Chase, from AbleHire.org , has written a guest post discussing tips for disabled individuals at the beginning of their career paths.

For many young people, the prospect of deciding on a career can be overwhelming. There are so many choices to make, and of course there’s a lot of money at stake as well. For individuals with disabilities, it can be a daunting task to figure out the best career moves due to the specific challenges they face everyday. However, the world of business is a great choice because it offers a wide variety of options as well as opportunities for advancement. Here are some tips on how you can get started.

Research your preferred path

Before deciding on a degree, you’ll want to do a little research to figure out which one suits you best. An education in marketing, for instance, is great for individuals who enjoy analytical thinking and putting together campaigns or promotions. International business is perfect for those who enjoy travel and are well-versed in other cultures. Accounting is the right path for those who are math-minded and can easily analyze technical information. Per Indeed, these three areas of business lead to some of the most lucrative careers and can provide multiple opportunities for moving up within a company or even becoming self-employed.

When you’ve chosen a focus area, consider pursuing a degree online. These days, there are scores of at-home educational opportunities from accredited universities, and they often make learning easier for individuals who are living with disabilities.

Consider an internship

The best way to find out if a career path is right for you is to actually work in that sector, and The Balance notes you can get some great experience while you’re working on your degree by participating in an internship. In fact, you can even look into the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program, which is designed to help those between the ages of 18 and 64 who receive SSI or SSDI and are seeking employment.

Not all internships are alike, however; some are paid, while others only count towards college credit. Some are better for summer break, while others can be done part-time throughout the year. Talk to your classmates and advisors to get a sense of what’s available in your area, and read up on the businesses you’re most interested in to find out what they have to offer. Look specifically at their policy for inclusion and find out what they can do to accommodate a disabled individual.

Don’t worry if the company doesn’t match up exactly with your specific major or interest; instead, think in broad terms. Once you’ve spent some time in your internship, you’ll have the experience you need to land a fantastic job doing what you prefer.

Look for an entry-level position

When you’re ready to begin the job hunt, an internship can be a great booster. Not only will it have provided valuable experience, it can also connect you to several people who can help your search. Networking on social media has several benefits, and you can also keep an eye on job boards.

One thing to note when it comes to searching online for a potential first job is that not all listings will include the words “entry-level”. Some might offer training or say that no experience is required, and these are the ones you should go for. Along those same lines, a job listing may ask for one to two years of experience, but this isn’t solely about post-degree work and may include an internship, part-time job, or specific education.

Searching for the right career path can be frustrating, but the business world is a great option for individuals who are living with a disability. With so many choices available and a multitude of educational opportunities, you’ll be able to pick the career that suits you best and advance quickly.

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An American Expat’s Advice for a COVID Thanksgiving

As an expat, I haven’t been with my extended family at Thanksgiving in almost 10 years.  I get it.  It’s hard.  On this holiday, which is so much about togetherness, being far away is so tough.  But flying home 8 hours for a long weekend that isn’t a holiday where I am currently living … just won’t work.  The kids are in school, we are working, flights are expensive, and travel is unpredictable.  So, we don’t come home for Thanksgiving.  And, it’s not easy.  It isn’t a holiday here, so we have to conjure up all of the festiveness ourselves.  No one else is celebrating, so we have figure out how to make it happen — we have to hunt down supplies (if we want to make dinner ourselves) or figure out how to mark the day (if we choose not to cook).

Over the past nine years, I’ve met many other expat Americans navigating the same challenges. We make different choices, fight different battles, but we’ve sorted out how to make it work for us (more or less).  We celebrate (or we don’t), we honor our traditions (or we make new ones), we share our culture with new friends from other countries (or we gather together with other Americans in order to feel more at home).

Along the way, we’ve tackled a lot of the same challenges that are facing many Americans this year.  Due to COVID, many people are having to cancel or seriously alter their Thanksgiving plans.  You can’t see the people you want to, or celebrate the way you’re used to.  Believe me, I understand.  Here’s what I’ve learned over the years, in case it helps.

  • Accept that it *will* be different.  Don’t try to replicate “normal” Thanksgiving in an abnormal time.  Accept that this year will not be a perfect copy of what you’ve done in the past.  It can’t be — circumstances are different.  You’ll make yourself crazy trying to “get it exactly right.”  So don’t.
  • Allow yourself to miss what you’re missing.  Being away from people you love on a day that is ABOUT being with people you love is really hard.  It’s sad, and it can definitely be lonely.  Let yourself feel sad, lonely, disappointed, or angry at the circumstances.  Don’t try to feel like everything is normal.  It’s ok to be sad about what you’re missing.
  • Figure out what’s really important, and figure out how to do that (or to approximate it).  Is pumpkin pie your favorite?  Make or buy one!  Are mashed potatoes the thing that makes the meal special?  Make some!  Would it not be Thanksgiving without football?  Find a game and watch it (even if it’s old, even if it’s recorded, even if you already know how it turns out).  Whatever feels essential to you that you CAN do, do it.  Don’t judge or criticize yourself, just go with it.  And don’t be afraid to try something that’s not quite right, but might be close enough.  (This is definitely a “close enough is good enough” situation.)
  • Let go of everything else.  All the other “stuff” that you don’t care about (candied yams, or whatever) just drop them.  Don’t waste any of your energy on stuff you think you SHOULD do, but don’t actually want to.  One of the silver linings for this year is permission to abandon anything that doesn’t bring you the joy of the holiday.
  • Remind yourself of why you’re doing this.  Why *aren’t* you doing a normal holiday this year?  As an expat, we think about the job, or the lifestyle, or the relationships that brought us to our new country.  This year, everyone can appreciate that we are spending the holidays apart to PROTECT each other. It’s as important as it can possibly be.  It helps to remember that this is all happening for the greater good.
  • Connect with the people you love.  If it’s at all possible, figure out a way to connect with the people you’re not able to be with.  Call, exchange photos of your day, video chat, arrange to watch a movie or a football game “together”.  Anything to feel as close as possible, while you’re apart.
  • Look forward to the future.  This is temporary.  It’s not for forever.  It’s what’s happening right now … but it’s just one year.  Think ahead to what you will be able to do next year. Make plans!  Having something concrete to look forward to really helps.
  • Appreciate what you created.  However it turns out, whether you ordered pizza and pretended it wasn’t Thanksgiving, or cooked the whole meal from scratch, you made it through.  Give yourself a pat on the back, and give yourself some real credit for getting through what might have been a really tough day.  It isn’t easy, it isn’t what you wanted, but you made it.

Happy Thanksgiving, and good luck, from one American who can’t be with her family, to another.

Life in Lockdown

We’ve been in “lockdown” since Monday.  We only found out about the new restrictions the day before, on Sunday.  The order for schools to close came late last week (effective Monday), as well as for almost all shops to be closed.  But on Sunday, it was expanded:  don’t leave your house unless required, don’t go out except for groceries, prescriptions, or necessary work (written permission required), no gatherings of more than 5 people, no gathering or going out with anyone not from your household, playgrounds shut, military and police to patrol, borders closed.

That escalated quickly.

That being said, the feeling here is tense, but not frightened; dutiful, not panicked.  There is a collective hope that by taking drastic measures, upending our lives, changing basically everything, that we can mitigate this disaster.  We’re happy to do it.  We want to help, and it feels good to have a role to play.

We’re on day four of “remote learning” today.  It’s a ton of work.  I know that some (most?) kids in the world are stuck at home, glued to screens all day, bored, and bothering their parents as the parents try to work from home.  I know that some parents are trying to navigate their full-time jobs as well as childcare that DOESN’T involve full-time TV or video games.  (Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure that doesn’t work.  If you manage to figure it out, please let me know.)  But my kids are still having school.  ALL of school.  The same classes, at the same times, as they would if they were in school.  For us, that means two different schedules (elementary and middle school) with classes changing at different times.  And their schedules are different every day.  Some classes are being taught by conference call, some are being conducted by text, or by email, or by prerecorded video.  Regardless, it’s intense.  There’s a ton of work, new tech challenges to sort out, and almost none of the mitigating social interaction that 3rd and 6th graders survive on.  I am lucky to have a very small workload right now (silver lining to being without a new freelance contract).  If that weren’t the case, either the kids would not be getting their school work done, or I or my husband would not be getting our work done.  As it is, most days, the kids are not finishing their school work and are sometimes following up 6 1/2 hours of “school from home” with another hour or two of “homework from home”.  I am fighting against feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the expectations of the teachers (even while I am immensely grateful for and truly impressed by their efforts) and I’m trying (and, I think, probably failing) to not compound the kids’ stress with my own.

Our grocery stores and pharmacies are still open.  The shelves are not bare.  My neighbor went out and got five new chickens on Saturday morning, so we’ll survive on eggs, I guess, if things get tightened down further (and as long as our neighbors continue to like us).  Dan was able to go out and pick up some staples at the store this week (including toilet paper, although we did get the last package).

Being expats comes with its own set of considerations, as it often does.  We’ve contacted some friends and asked if they will care for the boys if Dan and I were to fall sick at the same time.  With closed borders, airports shut down, and a pandemic raging that makes it especially dangerous to our parents to travel abroad (if they could even get into the country), we have to have a plan with a local solution.

As of now, we’re all fine, and life goes on, but these are very strange times.  We are not isolated in any real sense — I see my neighbors when I hang up my laundry, or when the kids go out to play — but we FEEL very much on our own.  As I tuck my boys in to their cozy beds at night, our home feels like a little island in an infinite sea, a tiny fortress of protection in the night.  I sense that we are on our own in a way that we have never really been before.  I hope that these efforts that we all are making, these minor sacrifices, have real consequences and maybe even help to save real lives.  This will be worth it, a million times over, if that is what we get in exchange.

VIPKid: How To Increase Your Bookings

Welcome to VIPKid, new teachers!

Many new VIPKid teachers struggle with getting regular bookings (or sometimes ANY bookings) in the beginning.  I get it.  TOTALLY.  I signed my VIPKid contract in December of 2017, didn’t have my first booking until March 2018 … and didn’t teach an actual student until May!  Eek!

But don’t let that freak you out!  First of all, my experience with getting started at VIPKid seems to be extremely unusual.  Plus, I did just about everything wrong that it is possible to do wrong during my first few months.  Now, I teach 3-4 afternoons per week, I have a bunch of regular students, and I teach pretty much whenever I want.  So even though I had a really rough start, it has gotten A LOT better.

But … don’t do what I did!  I want to share with you all of the mistakes that I made at the beginning of my VIPKid experience, so you can not make them.  Learn from my mistakes!  Don’t put yourself in the same frustrating and discouraging position that I did!  Here’s what I learned (by making all the possible mistakes as a new VIPKid teacher):

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My next adventure … with VIPKid

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Hey there everyone!  I’ve completely fallen out of the habit of posting here about my day to day life in Austria.  We’ve traveled to new locations, gotten a couple of new Corgis (!) from Italy, and become reasonably good skiers (more the kids than me!) from a couple of ski weeks in the Alps.  Life is an adventure (as always) but one of the reasons I’ve not been blogging as much is that I’ve been working.  A few years ago, I started working as a freelance copy writer and editor.  I’ve had some fantastic opportunities writing for a variety of companies and websites, everything from a nail salon to a new age health site to a clothing designer to a coloring book company!  It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been incredibly satisfying to help small, woman-owned businesses polish their public presence.

But the inconsistency of freelance work can be daunting — I can go from being overwhelmed with work one month to having tons of free time the next.  And frankly, I get used to the income during the busy months and kind of miss it during the quiet ones.  So I wanted to find something else I could do to help keep my income level a bit more consistent.

I started looking for something that would really suit my life.  I wanted to be able to make some good money for the time I would invest.  I wanted to have the flexibility to be available when my kids are off of school.  Ideally, I wanted to work from home.  And, in a perfect world, it would be something I’d enjoy as much as I like writing.  So my search began.

And what I found was VIPKid.

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7 years

7 years. Today is the day we literally thought would never come. We had been told, repeatedly, and by those who should know, that 7 years at the IAEA was the absolute, no questions limit for anyone without a permanent contact (and those are incredibly rare).  It was one of the few things that everyone KNOWS about working in a place where do much is fickle and uncertain.  So, we were SURE we would be “home” by now. Well, 7 years, and a few small rule alterations later, and here we STILL are.

I don’t have an answer yet to the question — when will we be home?  I’m not sure.  I can’t rely on the rules and regulations to tell me, because those seem to be oddly flexible at the moment.  We will come back, but I don’t know when.

In the meantime … we’ve built a beautiful life here in Austria.  We’ve made this our home.  We’ve adjusted to so much — the language, the culture, raising a family in another country, being at “home” in two different places while also feeling like we don’t quite fit in either.  We’ve made wonderful friends, had incredible experiences, and continue to enjoy this big adventure.

Long time, no talk


So, it’s been a while. Not since my last post, but, more generally, since I was writing regularly. I used to do this every day. For my first year, it was every day, no exceptions. I’d made a promise to myself. I knew that if I only wrote when I felt like it, I’d only capture the highest and the lowest points — our biggest victories and deepest frustrations. And I didn’t want that. I wanted to record, for myself, and for anyone else maybe going through (or contemplating) something similar, what it was REALLY like. And so I did. After the first year, I relaxed the “every day” rule, but kept up writing very regularly for years after that. And so, I’ve got one hell of a detailed story of our first few years on this crazy adventure. I’m glad. It has given me perspective on the progress we’ve made, and reminded me of small moments of the journey. And, every so often, someone finds the blog and reaches out, for help, for advice, with compliments or critique. And I love that. I love connecting with people, and as an introvert, any connection that doesn’t require me to change out of my pajamas gets extra credit.

But, the truth is that this blog was so much more to me than a journal. In the beginning, it was necessary for my survival and my sanity. Here, so far removed from almost everyone I knew and loved, at home all day with a baby and a toddler, with no social life and no friends, no chats or coffee dates, being able to express myself and have anyone even sometimes reading it was an absolutely vital outlet. Getting the occasional like or follow kept me from feeling so alone. I don’t know what those first years would have been like without this blog (but I know they would have been lonelier).

And so, I’ve realized that there are two reasons I’m not writing here so much anymore. I’d still love to keep up with the journaling and record keeping aspects, but I truthfully don’t need this blog the way I once did. I have a social circle now. I have friends, I get to talk to adults almost every day. My kids are in school full time, and my psyche is no longer so starved for connection. It’s a good thing. The other reason is that if you consider the original scope of this blog — sharing our challenges as we adjusted to this expat life — we no longer really qualify. We’ve been here 5 1/2 years. We’ve more or less adjusted. We’re still not locals, but neither are we “new” anymore. Things have changed.

Obviously, I don’t write every day anymore, and I have no intention of returning to that schedule. It’s my hope that in acknowledging the changes that have caused me to write less, I’ll hopefully feel drawn to write more, now that I’m aware of how I find myself to be in such a different place. I’ll still be writing, but I grant myself permission to branch out from my fish out of water story. I think maybe I’m back in the water now, it’s just that my new pond is quite different than my old one.

Please, though, if you’ve found this blog and want to reach out, ask a question, or just chat, please do! I love to help and I’m happy to answer questions. And I’ll be around.

You Should Vote

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In case you’ve been living under a rock, in a cave, deep underground, possibly on another planet, and somehow you STILL haven’t heard, the United States is having an election this year, and, unbelievably, it’s somehow more of an insane, media-fueled circus freak show than usual.

If you’re an American, living abroad, please, PLEASE don’t let being far from home stop you from participating in the process this year.  If you want it to be as easy as possible to vote, check out this site:

You Should Vote

(I have nothing to gain by this, just trying to help out.  Also, yes, I know it’s been about 1,000,000 years since I’ve written anything.  I’m hoping that will change soon, now that the kids are back in school, but it’s also true that my purpose in writing this blog no longer matches my current situation as well as it once did.  I started it as a record of “adjusting to life abroad”, and now, having been here for 5 years, I’m not sure we’re really “adjusting” anymore.  Anyway, there will be more, hopefully soon.  In the meantime, please register to vote if you haven’t already.)

To Prague! (Finally!)


It was our last hold out.  Of all the places we’d had on our “must visit” list before we came to Vienna, Prague was the only one we hadn’t been to.  It’s supposed to be lovely, it’s close to Vienna, and everyone who goes just loves it, so of course we were planning to go.

In fact, we’d planned to go 4 different times since we’ve been here.  I no longer remember all the reasons our previous trips have been cancelled.  I know that at least one was because the boys were sick, and I’m fairly certain another was because Dan had something come up at work and we couldn’t go away.  I vaguely remember that one time there was an issue with train tickets being sold out on the dates that we had planned to travel, but that might have been a different trip.  Regardless, it was past time for us to make a trip to Prague.

And so, last June, we finally went.  We found an apartment, booked our train tickets, did a minimal amount of research (I hadn’t realized where, geographically, Prague actually is until about 2 years ago — it’s actually WEST of Vienna).  And we were off, on another travel adventure, to a new country.

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We traveled by train, which was something we hadn’t done over a significant distance in quite a while, and we found it, again, to be fun and easy compared to our more recent air trips.  I love the train, because we don’t have to be there 2 hours early, we don’t have to worry about which luggage gets checked or carried on, we don’t have to wait in line for security checks (though that might not always be a good thing, I suppose).  All we have to do is show up and get on.  We got a spot in the “family friendly” carriage, so we were not the loudest or the crankiest passengers, and our table top at our seats had a board game built into it.  (The conductor dropped off the playing pieces when he checked our tickets.)  The trip from Vienna to Prague was uneventful and pleasant, and no one was interested in checking our travel documents (which is what we’ve gotten used to within the EU . . . though that may be different these days).  Our plan for getting from the train station to our rented apartment involved taking the tram, which was slightly complicated, because we don’t speak Czech, and were completely unfamiliar with the tram system, but we sorted it out once we arrived in Prague, and it was actually incredibly easy and relatively user friendly.  (Though we struggled, throughout the weekend, with figuring out how to use the automated ticket machines for the tram system.)  We managed to pick an unusually hot weekend for June, which was slightly inconvenient, because we had also selected an apartment without air conditioning or ceiling fans.

Once we arrived and were settled in, though, the heat provided extra motivation to get out and explore the city (since it was hotter inside than outside).  Our first destination was the Prague castle, high on the hill overlooking the city, and we got there (again) by tram (though at this point we were mostly catching on and we found it progressively easier and extremely convenient to navigate the city this way).

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We were struck, almost immediately, by how friendly people are in Prague.  People actually smiled to us at they passed (which I found unnerving, initially, until I realized just how much I’ve adapted to living in Vienna).  When we had trouble with the ticket machines for the tram, passersby stopped to help.  And in addition to being generally friendly and outgoing, almost everyone we encountered spoke truly excellent English.  We were worried that since we were traveling to a country where we spoke not a word of the language (apart from what we studied in the Rick Steves guidebook on the train on the way there) that we would have trouble communicating, but we absolutely did not.  It wasn’t an issue at all.

Now what WAS an issue was that, by the time we sorted out where we were going, got off a stop early accidentally, and walked the rest of the way up the hill, we had one very, very cranky and tired 4 year old with us.  He fell asleep on the tram, and by the time he got up, he didn’t want to walk, he didn’t want to see anything, he didn’t want to be there.  We found a quiet place at the top of the hill (behind a monastery) and sat to check out the view and give Liam a chance to rest.

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IMG_0015Prague really IS as beautiful as everyone says.  The bridges over the river are picturesque, the winding, cobbled streets are romantic, the view from the hill down over the city is lovely.  As we abandoned our post overlooking the city, and began to walk down towards the castle, we came upon a procession in celebration of Corpus Christi (which was apparently the day we were there).

By the time we got into the actual castle grounds, many of the buildings were closed for the day (it was late afternoon), but that was actually ok, because the kids wouldn’t have been up for much historical study at that point.  Instead, we explored the grounds in near privacy, the kids got to run around a bit, and we found a spot to enjoy the view from a slightly different perspective.  We took the tram back to the center of town, and went for a quick stroll to the Old Town Square after a lovely Czech dinner, but we were all tired at that point, and a more extensive investigation would have to wait until the next evening.

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Our first day in Prague, though tiring, was just as lovely as we’d come to expect from other travelers’ stories.  So often, when people enjoy a place so much, it doesn’t quite live up to its reputation.  (Plus, we’ve become a bit jaded with our extensive travel history.  We’ve seen a lot, and we’re getting a bit harder to impress these days.)  Prague, if anything, exceeded our expectations.  Journeys are always a bit more tiring than we expect, and the heat certainly took some of our energy out of us, but we got to see an impressive part of the city just in our first afternoon, and we were very much looking forward to our further explorations.