My name is Will Shawhan, and I graduated from the University of Maryland in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics. A few months ago, I accepted an economist position in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Office of Publications and Special Studies, Division of New Media. I’d like to share a little about my career development process and how it was to navigate it as an individual with cerebral palsy.
Some of the main factors that contributed to my success were taking time to discover my interests, taking advantage of opportunities and supports, and persevering after setbacks. I paid attention as my interests changed and didn’t let mistakes interrupt my plans. Organizations such as Independence Now, the University of Maryland Career Center, and Disability:IN gave me all the support I needed along the way.
A few years ago, if you asked me what my career interests were, I would have told you that I was interested in environmental and/or disability advocacy. But after taking a Food and Agricultural Policy course in Spring 2021, I decided to shift my interests to a career in that field. That led me to a course on Commodity Pricing and Markets, which I liked so much, I shifted my interests to that field.
Building on what I learned during a consultation at Independence Now , I started to expand my network by conducting informational interviews. During each interview, I asked the professional who I was meeting with about their job, for career-related advice, and if they knew anyone else who I could talk to. The information I learned during these interviews helped me a lot.
I also applied to Disability:IN’s NextGen Leaders Program where I worked with my mentor to draft a vision statement, practice for job interviews, and complete other career development activities. When I had questions about career development, I could ask my mentor or my career advisors at the University of Maryland Career Center.
While conducting informational interviews and working with my mentor, I received an email from USAJOBS, the Federal Government’s job recruitment platform, saying that a job opportunity announcement had opened that matched my search criteria. It was for a position at BLS. Unfortunately, I misunderstood a question on the application, answered it incorrectly, and was disqualified.
My disappointment changed to happiness when, seven weeks later, I received an email from USAJOBS with a similar BLS job opportunity announcement. This time, my application was referred to the hiring official.
In addition to continuing my career development and job search activities, I contacted the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). JAN is a service of the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy that provides technical assistance to individuals with disabilities, employers, and anyone else who has questions about job accommodations. JAN paired me with one of their consultants who answered my questions about requesting accommodations. We discussed accommodations I might need during the hiring process as well as on-the-job. He also referred me to resources on the JAN website that were particularly useful to me.
I started my job in October. Since starting, I’ve attended orientation sessions, completed online trainings, and received instruction from my colleagues on the duties of our office. I write for BLS publications such as The Economics Daily and help with other website-related needs.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I succeeded in finding a career and job that are good fits for me. I think it was important to use my classes to learn about my interests and proceed to learn about careers in that field. Doing these helped me when completing my job applications and interviews. I’d like to thank Independence Now, the University of Maryland Career Center, Disability:IN, the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services, and other organizations for giving me the advice, technology, and other support I needed along the way. I am grateful for their help and hope others seek help from them too.
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“I am still deciding what I want to do after I graduate, but some causes that interest me include reducing food waste, protecting the Chesapeake Bay, and advocating for more accessible housing spaces.”