Pellissippi State student garners job-search tips, confidence at disability conference

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Students with disabilities may face extra challenges when they enter college and later the workforce, but through a partnership with Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities, a Pellissippi State Community College student is gaining the confidence and skills to take on whatever challenges come his way.

Darrell Bowles, a Pellissippi State student who is legally blind, attended the COSD-sponsored FULL ACCESS Student Summit in Raleigh/Durham, N.C., in April. The two-day event provided 60 students from around the Southeast with techniques and resources for networking and self-advocacy, plus methods to become better prepared for today’s competitive job-search process.

“They give you advice on how to be better prepared for interviews, how to make yourself presentable, what questions you can ask your potential employer,” said Bowles. “It’s information most people would pretty much kill to have for their first interview. It gives us insight into the minds of employers.”

Bowles will be able to apply what he learned at the Summit once he graduates and begins his career search. He just wishes he’d had those tools when he applied for his first job at the Apple Store a few years ago.

“I was up against a lot of people with retail experience,” he said, “and what little confidence I had was taken away from me.

“My first thought when I was passed over was, ‘Oh, they did it because of my disability.’ My second thought was, ‘Oh, they did it because I didn’t have any sales experience,’ which was true. But then, after the Summit and learning everything I learned, I realized I didn’t portray confidence.

“You have to sell yourself. You don’t want to make yourself sound like something you’re not, but you want to make yourself sound like something you are. I failed to do that.”

Students who attended the Summit had the opportunity to network with some big-name employers, among them, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Ernst & Young and Northrop Grumman. The event took place at Research Triangle Park.

Bowles applied for a spot at FULL ACCESS and learned he was going back in March. He was one of only a few students from Tennessee to be accepted and was able to attend through use of the University of Tennessee’s Disability Careers Office van.

Bowles is working toward an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science and Information Technology with a concentration in Networking and Communications Systems. He already has a general Associate of Science degree from Pellissippi State. After graduating in CSIT, he plans to seek employment in his field … taking full advantage of his arsenal of newfound job skills and confidence builders.