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19 years with Work Opportunities

Direct Support Professional

Aaron Stone, 44 from Androscoggin County, has been working for 19 years with Work Opportunities Unlimited and has held a number of positions to include Career Resource Specialist, Direct Support Professional, Employment Specialist, and Career Planner. He is currently in the role of Team Leader.

What has your career path looked like? What different jobs have you held or trainings have you taken to get to where you are today? What has been most essential to your success?

I provided home supports as a DSP-MHRT-CRMA for seven years in Portland before I came to Work Opportunities Unlimited.  I learned about Work Opportunities Unlimited when they offered jobs to some of my clients, and that’s when I thought about working for them as I’d be helping a lot more people—not just in their home, but also, out in the community. I think the most important qualities that have led to my success are being passionate about helping people as well as my drive to help my community.  Every time I start a new day at work, I have the community’s best interest in mind.   Other essential qualities are being kind, honest, and patient.  Those traits have helped me be successful in this job.  That, and the love of giving people the tools they need to be as independent and successful as possible. 

Can you provide a specific example where you might have had a big impact on a client?

I’ve helped thousands of individuals over the past 20 years, but a few have stood out for me.  I helped an individual move into a shared home, then got to know her, and took her out into the community to do some career exploration and make some connections with local employers.  Sometimes, you’ll find the best opportunities in your own backyard. One of the local businesses was not far from her home, which was great because she doesn’t drive. We did a work-based activity with that business and it went very well. She showed up on time in the proper attire and displayed a positive attitude and they liked her a lot.  After we completed this  career-planning service, she transitioned into vocational rehabilitation and got a job with that business based on the opportunities I was able to develop for her.  Well, a few months later, all of the pieces came together, and she was selected by the manager as their Employee of the Month. I was floating on a cloud that whole day. 

What advice would you give people who want to enter your line of work for the first time or older people who have experience in other areas but are looking for a new opportunity?

Sometimes people wonder if they have enough experience or if they are too late in their careers to switch to this field and I always say “it’s never too late.” If you want to have a massive impact on someone who lives right in your community, you should give some strong consideration to working in this field. 

What kind of person is the right fit for your line of work, both in personality and character traits?

I think the basic traits are:

  • A drive to help others 
  • A belief that all people can work
  • Being organized 
  • Someone who is not afraid to meet new people 
  • Having patience
  • A willingness to learn and try new things 

This is a very fun and rewarding job; we are actively helping people and changing their lives for the better. 

If there were one thing that you could change about your job, what would that be?

We run on referrals; case managers will reach out to us when they have an individual who is interested in career exploration/career planning, but we need to get the message out to more case managers and other stakeholders that Maine has a really strong focus on employment, and work is something everyone should have some goals around. But, we are just not seeing the number of career planning referrals we should be –

I’d like to change that if I could. 

What do you want them to know about the rewards of your line of work?

Each day when my work ends and I head for home, I know that I have changed someone’s life for the better and the community where they live as well.  Sometimes it is in a major way, or sometimes it’s just one small little thing that helped them move forward towards their goal. 

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