DiverseABILITY Outreach and Social Anxiety at an Albuquerque Job Fair
Jun 19 2023 - 4 minutes read - by Aaron Kelly Anderson
I was a bundle of frayed nerves as my LSG colleagues and I set up our booth at the Diversity Job Fair on May 26th. But, if you were to ask me why, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you for sure. All I knew is that there was an eclectic multitude of programs and organizations like ours in this lecture hall-sized room at the Berna Facio Professional Development Building, and I would need to “sell” us as a viable draw for supported employment services. Our table seemed like it was positioned at the precise center of the room, with the maximum potential for our fellow vendors to survey us like a panopticon. I took about a few seconds to assess the situation and decided I was about to fail catastrophically at whatever I’d be asked to do. Not to mention, I was making some attempts to memorize an elevator pitch for LSG, and while David, one of our job coaches, helped me to rehearse—I couldn’t find my rhythm.
If you don’t know already, and if you haven’t guessed from the chaotic thought process I just recounted, I am quite a socially anxious individual. I have tumultuous experiences with my self-confidence day by day. As far as I could recall, this was the first job fair I had participated in, at least as a vendor. So, I quickly concluded that so much of LSG’s future success depended on my performance at this event; it was, after all, a major part of my responsibility that day to promote us to several business representatives. I reviewed almost every aspect of myself—my posture and my clothing and my verbiage and how I held the brochures in my hand—before I finally began strolling up and down the aisles and cautiously decided who to approach. (Yes, I still felt at this point like I kept twisting myself around.) But, as a reminder, I am incredibly fortunate to have such a supportive team at LSG, and they came through yet again. My colleagues guided me through the information I needed to have prepared, and they reassured me that I would do an excellent job no matter what. It turned out my anxious brain was lying to me—imagine that! Indeed, once I got the chance to meet our fellow vendors and speak to them, I enjoyed the entire experience more and more.
I found myself much more comfortable in these conversations than I had pictured in my head an hour or two earlier. One of the most significant connections we made at the job fair was with the Office of Equity & Inclusion (OEI) of the City of Albuquerque. We got to meet several kind, helpful staff from that department, and they were a prime example of one channel we would certainly want to keep open. There was a bit of miscommunication, however, as I believe they assumed we were jobseekers at first and redirected us to their “Job Finder” bus parked outside. My friend Colin and I chatted for a few minutes with the CABQ Green Team stationed at the bus, before we recognized that they were not actually the individuals we needed to promote our services to. But, again, these team members were still very polite and as helpful as possible in this situation, and it was useful to learn about their initiatives as well.
Colin reconnected with the OEI reps at their booth, and eventually he suggested that I check back in with them. Once I did, I had a lovely conversation with them about their upcoming events and ongoing opportunities. They showed genuine interest in the various elements of our UNTAPPED program that I shared, including some details about the blog! All in all, they were the ideal cap-off for our experience at the job fair, as the event then closed up shortly after that. At that point, well—remember that elevator pitch I mentioned? I had recited some version of it several times over a couple hours, and every time the discussions I had with fellow vendors became more and more organic. What began as one of those scenarios where it felt as if your whole career, not to mention the very wellbeing of your organization, was all balancing on a tightrope—as anxiety always does time and time again—eventually became another successful networking opportunity in the books for LSG and UNTAPPED. We anticipate a lot of fruitful collaborations to come with the organizations we found that day, and I feel more equipped than ever to pitch our groundbreaking services at future job fairs.
Until the next story,
Aaron Kelly Anderson
a.k.a. “A PhD on the Spectrum”
Greetings from Dr. Anderson!
Hello, everybody! I’m so glad you’ve chosen to visit this blog today. My name is Dr. Aaron Kelly Anderson, a.k.a. “A PhD on the Spectrum.” I graduated in 2021 with my doctorate from the Organization, Information & Learning Sciences program (OILS) at the University of New Mexico, specializing in storytelling and organizations. That last detail is particularly vital, as now I find myself in a position where the unique stories of individuals with diverseABILITIES are at the heart of what my colleagues and I do.
Take a look at the video below for an introduction into my diverseABILITY journey on the autism spectrum and where it’s led me today.