On March 5th, 2019, UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits initiative, in collaboration with the American Association of People with Disabilities, held the 4th Annual Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) in Massachusetts. DMD promotes career development for people with disabilities through hands-on career exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships. A record number of participants participated in Massachusetts this year! Ninety-five (95) Mentors were paired with 63 Mentees providing an invaluable experience advancing career development and personal growth – for both Mentee and Mentor!
This year, ten employers from Work Without Limits’ Disability:IN Massachusetts network enthusiastically signed on to participate in DMD. The companies that participated included Eastern Bank; Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston; John Hancock; MAPFRE Insurance; National Grid; Public Consulting Group (PCG); Raytheon; TD Bank; TJX Companies, Inc.; and UMass Medical School.
In order to make the day successful, each employer designates a DMD Coordinator who is the liaison between the company and Work Without Limits. The DMD Coordinator role is crucial to making the day a success. They are responsible for planning the day’s agenda, arranging guest speakers, and most importantly securing company Mentors. I can’t thank them enough for all of their efforts during this endeavor!
The Mentees who participate are any individual 18 years of age or older with a disability. Mentees learn about DMD from a variety of sources:
- Work Without Limits website and social media channels
- Targeted e-mails they receive from us as a result of having signed up with Work Without Limits
- Communication from our vast array of Community Partners who share our information with their consumers.
The Mentees are paired with a career professional (Mentor) to experience what it is like to work at a particular company; observe a typical workday; identify necessary skills; enhance career development and, of course, network!
Each company has the autonomy to design their own mentoring day so, though they may be similar, they are not identical. One example is MAPFRE Insurance that took a unique approach to Disability Mentoring Day this year. They used the opportunity to announce their new partnership with Best Buddies Massachusetts and the launch of their pre-employment training program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This program will offer employment training and corporate mentorship in Central Massachusetts to help develop students’ career ambitions. This is a great example of how companies can partner with community-based organizations in their community.
This was the 4th consecutive year that John Hancock participated in DMD Massachusetts. Sofia Teixeira, Head of U.S. Diversity & Inclusion at John Hancock had this to say, “The most satisfying part of the day for me was not only seeing how much fun everyone was having, but also realizing that our employees learned as much as, if not more than, our Mentees did. It strikes me that we use the terms “Mentees” and “Mentors” for DMD because the truth is that these moments are more like peer-to-peer mentoring experiences, when we are all learning from and inspiring each other.”
No matter how the day unfolds for Mentors and Mentees, the goals of DMD are clear:
- promote disability as a central component of diversity recruitment for a more inclusive workforce
- dispel employer fears about hiring people with disabilities
- increase confidence among job seekers with disabilities
- enhance internship and employment opportunities for people with disabilities and
- serve as a launch pad to promote a year-round, national effort to foster mentoring and career exploration opportunities.
Both Mentors and Mentees provide us feedback on their experience and we are thrilled to share some of their impressions:
My Mentor is very kind and generous and a great listener. She was very open, willing and able to share about her personal life and honest feelings and thoughts about her experiences in her career. She is also very willing to communicate with me ongoing which is a great resource to me and very much cherished.
She has professional experience and connections relevant to my career interests, she tailored our visit based on what I wanted to accomplish, and she seems to genuinely want to help me succeed.
You get to understand the difficulties and hardships they endure just trying to find employment. It’s an eye opener for some of us who really don’t see this every day.
This was an excellent opportunity to put into practice many of the concepts we have been talking over the last couple of days regarding disabilities and incorporate individuals into the workforce. It was a great learning experience for me to create awareness and empathy for people that elaborates and process information in a different way.
We would like to thank the companies that participated, and all the DMD Coordinators, Mentors and Mentees for their participation. We could not have done it without you! We hope this experience accelerates the journey of disability inclusion in the workplace though awareness raising, skill building and networking. See you next year for the 5th Annual Disability Mentoring Day in Massachusetts!