Preparing to Work

Work provides you the opportunity to become financially independent, integrated in your community, and self reliant. Getting ready to work requires you to look at your abilities, skills, education, and experience while thinking about what you want to do. This section presents resources and tips for you while you are getting ready to work. For information on the impact of employment on your benefits, visit link to “Getting the Facts: You CAN Work.” For information on the job search and application process, visit link “Looking for Work.”


Career exploration allows you to examine your skills, interests, preferences, and abilities and how they might match up with various jobs and careers.


Self-assessments are tools that give you a snapshot of your personality, skills, interests, and values by asking about your interests and preferences. The Maryland Workforce Exchange provides self-assessment tools for job seekers exploring a new career. The online tool starts with skills, interests and values, or occupation allowing individuals at all stages of their career to utilize the service. 

Some popular self-assessments include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory. If you attend a college or university or are an alumnus, check with the Career Center on campus to see if they offer these assessments free of charge or at a discounted rate.

While these are the most widely used assessments, there are numerous options available online free of charge. Also, check out your local library to see if they have the book Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Types (Tieger, Paul D. and Barbara Barron-Tieger. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995).


Job shadowing or mentoring provides the opportunity to spend a day with an individual in their place of employment learning about how they spend their day, the type of work they do, and their work environment. Individuals may set up shadowing opportunities through their school, college, or by networking with individuals around them. 

There are a number of mentoring programs in Maryland that incorporate job-preparedness training and career exploration. Many of these programs focus on specific areas and populations, so be sure to check out their participation requirements. If you do not meet their requirements or they do not serve your area of Maryland, they may have additional resources for you to access.

Disability Mentoring Day is “a nationwide effort to promote career development for students with disabilities throughout hands-on career exploration.” Disability Mentoring Day takes place every October in conjunction with Disability Employment Awareness Month. For more information, visit the American Association of People with Disabilities website.

Employment Options

As people with disabilities move through their employment options, it is important to have a good understanding of what the choice are. Individuals must consider what talents and skills they bring to the job and what work settings will be the best fit for them.

  1. Competitive Employment is work at a community job site, where the worker is paid equally to other people doing the same job and where most employees do not have disabilities.

  2. Customized Employment is based on matching the strengths, needs, and interests or the job seeker with a disability and the needs of the business

  3. Supported Employment is a service that helps individuals with disabilities find work, learn their jobs, keep their jobs, and find ways to advance.

  4. Community Based Employment is work that takes place in a business in the community, but the individual is paid by a service agency.

  5. Sheltered Employment usually has a training program that teaches pre-work skills and work skills to individuals with disabilities.

For this and more information on Employment Options, refer to MDOD’s Employment Options factsheet.

Career Options

When thinking about employment for the long term, you should focus on education and training that will prepare for a successful career. There are a number of career options to explore, including higher education, training, and starting your own business. 

  1. Higher Education: You do not have to go to school for four years to get training at a college (for information on career exploration while attending college as a traditional full or part-time student, see the Education section below). You can receive Letters of Recognition, Certificates, and/or Degrees through classes at local colleges, universities and community colleges.

  2. One-Stop Career Centers: The One-Stop Career Centers are places that have many programs for training, education, and employment under one roof. Services vary at each One-Stop, but most centers offer all job seekers easy entry to services such as job listings, referrals to employers, and placement assistance. Other services that may be available include career and skill assessments, senior services, youth services, veteran services, and training services.

    • To find your local One-Stop Career Center, visit the America’s Service Locator website, or call (877) 348-0502/ (TTY) (877) 348-0501 if you do not have internet access.

  3. Self-Employment: There are several programs that can help you start your own business.

    • RISE (Reach Independence through Self Employment) is a program for individuals who are eligible for services through the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). You may need to take two self-employment courses to see if self-employment is the right choice for you. Then you will write a business plan and it will be reviewed by business and banking experts. Visit for more information.

    • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers information on how to start your business, writing a business plan and financing. To find an SBA office near you, use the SBA Local Office Finder or call (410) 962-6195.

Education and Training

Education and training allow you the opportunity to develop the skills and acquire the knowledge necessary for advancing in your career.


Throughout school, you learn skills specific to your career as well as soft skills like reading, writing, effective communication, and dependability that are necessary in all employment settings. 

For information for youth transitioning from high school to work or college, please visit the Maryland Promise website.

Postsecondary education opens up many opportunities for career exploration, skill development, and career opportunities. Most postsecondary institutions (colleges and universities) have a Career Services Office that is available for career counseling with students. This office may provide self-assessments, and may be able to assist students in searching for jobs and internships.​


Inter​nships are usually short-term experiences in the workforce related to the student’s major or career goal that involve the student working in a professional setting for the purpose of on-the-job training, experience, and exposure to a certain field. Interns may be paid, receive college credit, be compensated non-monetarily, or be unpaid. Internships can last as long as a year, or as short as a summer. A student may participate in an internship through a business or employer, or they may participate in an internship program.

  1. The Workforce Recruitment Program is a recruitment and referral program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense. Students must be enrolled at a participating campus and complete an application process to be included in the database and be accessed by government and private sector employers looking for interns, short time hires, or permanent employees. Check with the Disability Support Services and Career Services office at your school for details about participating on your campus.
  2. Emerging Leaders and Entry Point! are national summer internship programs for students with disabilities that focus in business leadership and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) areas respectively.

  3. Visit your campus Career Center to see if employers have posted internship opportunities for students at your school.

  4. Take advantage of any required or optional internships that may be part of your academic program.

  5. To search for internships beyond the above resources, start with networking. Use websites like, and to search for internships in your field and area. 


There are opportunities for further training in your field without returning to school full-time. Many colleges, universities and community colleges offer letters of recognition or certificates for completing a few courses related to a specific field. For more information, contact your school.

The Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) provides personalized support and employment services such as career decision making, counseling and referral, vocational training, job search, placement and job-keeping services, supported employment, assistive technology, medical rehabilitation services, and other support service. Individuals may be eligible for services if they have a mental or physical disability that affects their ability to get or keep a job or live independently.

The One-Stop Career Centers have many programs for training, education, and employment under one roof. Services vary at each One-Stop, but most centers offer all job seekers easy entry to services such as job listings, referrals to employers, and placement assistance. Other services that may be available include career and skill assessments, senior services, youth services, veteran services, and training services. To find your local One-Stop Career Center, visit the America’s Service Locator website or call (877) 348-0502/ (TTY) (877) 348-0501 if you do not have internet access.

For more information on DORS and the One-Stop Career Centers, refer to MDOD’s fact sheet Supports and Services.

​Essential Workplace Skills

The Maryland Department of Disabilities has teamed up with Harford Community College to develop a series of webinars available to employers, job seekers with disabilities, and employees with disabilities that address some essential workplace skills. The following topics are covered in this seven-part series: 

  1. Accommodations and Self-Advocacy Skills

  2. Effective Interpersonal and Communication Skills

  3. Resolving Conflict for Job Success

  4. Human Resources, Your Supervisor, and You; Parts 1 and 2

  5. Strategies for Overcoming Barriers to Employment Success

  6. Goal Setting for Job Retention and Advancement.

Individuals that successfully complete the series will receive a certificate of completion. To access the webinars and quizzes, visit the Essential Workplace Skills website.​