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The Aspire Internship Program is designed to help adults with high cognitive autism spectrum disorder or a related profile navigate the various aspects of the work environment while gaining important on-the-job skills.
By Shayna Fel, MSW, LICSW, Career Counselor
The Aspire Internship Program is comprised of learning both on-site at the internship as well as in the weekly seminar. The interns are working at various sites around greater Boston and are learning and growing through their work, interactions with supervisors and colleagues, and observations at the workplace.
During each weekly two hour seminar, the interns come together to learn many of the intricacies and “unwritten rules” of a workplace as well as skills to move their careers forward. As an employer and supervisor, it would be helpful to know what is discussed each week as it could help guide supervision, discussions or other interactions with the intern. Below you will find a brief explanation of each seminar topic that is covered throughout the internship cycle.
Orientation: This is an opportunity for the cohort to come together, get to know one another, and prepare for the internship experience. This involves discussing everything from appropriate work attire to planning for a new commute and many other details involved at the start of a successful work experience. Additionally, we begin to discuss Aspire’s three S’s: , Self-Awareness, Stress Management and Social Competency. These are themes that will run throughout the curriculum each cycle. Orientation also serves as an opportunity for each intern to set individualized goals for what he or she would like to focus on improving throughout the internship cycle.
Small Talk in the Workplace: Small talk is a complicated social exchange that many interns find challenging. Through this seminar, interns learn that small talk is a necessity in most work settings and that it is key to building relationships in the workplace.
Executive Skills and Strategies: Time management, organization and prioritization are just a few examples of executive skills that all professionals utilize to be successful at work. During this seminar, executive skills, self awareness and strategies for improvement are discussed.
Feedback: Feedback is a crucial piece of on-the-job learning without which continued growth could not occur. This seminar focuses on giving interns a positive framework through which to understand feedback in the workplace as well as how to effectively receive and respond to it.
Self-Advocacy: Learning to stand up for yourself in the workplace can be a difficult skill to develop. It is crucial that the interns practice advocating for their needs respectfully, thoughtfully and with confidence which is what they learn during this seminar.
Self-Care: Exercise, drawing, listening to music and taking a walk with a friend are tools that can be used to decompress after a long and challenging day at the office. Interns are exposed to many different kinds of self-care and are encouraged to try them out until they determine the best fit for them.
Disclosure: Deciding to disclose information about a disability is an extremely personal choice and one that many of the interns face each time they apply for a new position. While each intern needs to decide for him or herself if disclosing is the right choice in any given situation, this seminar provides the interns with information to do so in a thoughtful and productive way if they choose to share this part of themselves with employers.
Transition Planning: During this transition planning seminar the interns have the opportunity to reflect on their current internships to understand what they liked or found challenging so that they are able to make more informed choices in the future. Each intern has the opportunity to meet one-on-one with his or her job coach to create a concrete plan for how to move forward at the end of the internship cycle. While transition planning is just one seminar topic, it is very much a focus of each internship cycle as a whole.
Resume Building and Cover Letters: This seminar focuses on giving guidelines for writing successful resumes and cover letters as well as provides them with concrete samples. Interns then receive peer feedback about their resumes as well as suggestions from their individual career counselors for improvement.
Interview Skills: For the vast majority of interns, the interview is the biggest road block between themselves and gaining meaningful employment. During this seminar time is spent on providing tips and reviewing challenging interview questions. The interns receive clear and direct feedback on their performance so that they understand their strengths and challenge areas.
Networking: Networking requires planning, socializing and follow up all of which can be challenge areas for the interns in this program and for many young adults. This seminar focuses not only on how to network but also, and maybe even more importantly, why networking is necessary. Interns are exposed to the different kinds of networking from social media to formal networking events, from appropriately utilizing personal contacts to informational interviews and so much more.
During your weekly phone calls with the career counselors, supervisors should feel free to ask questions or request more information about the weekly seminar topic. By providing this information, it is the hope of the internship program to create a richer, more meaningful, well-rounded experience for each intern.
Please note that seminar topics may be presented in a different order depending on the needs of each intern cohort.
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