For most of my early life, I wanted to be an art teacher, even though I was equally drawn to the social sciences–anthropology and psychology in high school. Nevertheless, during my freshman year at Indiana University, I decided sociology would be my major, and believing that was not enough to get a job, added a second degree in Social Work.
My first job out of college was as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. After I relocated to Seattle and before I started graduate school, I worked for a major Seattle Law Firm as a documents clerk, helping the attorneys and legal assistants prepare large civil ligation cases for court. I was a vocational program coordinator for a private non-profit training program for people with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and cognitive disorders. I was also a job developer and placement specialist for two summer youth training programs.
Eventually, expecting to enroll in a graduate program, I went to talk to the advisor for a new program at the University of Washington– a Master’s Degree in an inter-disciplinary program consisting of Vocational Education, Vocational Education and Special education. To my surprise, I was offered a fellowship that I didn’t even have to apply for, including tuition, books and supplies and a monthly stipend.
The Master’s degree honed my vocational assessment skills, particularly in the area of the assessment of motivation, barriers to employment, behavioral assessments, and the legal aspects of vocational rehabilitation in a variety of systems.
After I finished my degree, I got my first job in private sector vocational rehabilitation in part because of my interdisciplinary degree but also my job experience in the combination of the fields including the law, vocational rehabilitation, education, and training.
I continued to grow professionally and worked for a couple of great firms, OSC Vocational Systems and E.I.S. Group. They sent me to workshops and to Washington Self Insurance Association conferences, which gave me a good understanding of what happens at the intersection of business and vocational rehabilitation. I could not have started Barron Consulting Services in 1998 without working for these firms and was grateful for the on the job training that complemented my Master’s degree.