Transitioning from College to Work

Transitioning from college to work is a process. Students must begin this process early and be able to transfer knowledge of their learning disability (LD) into the world of employment.

Students should consider the following:

  • What do I think the impact of the LD will be on my job performance?
  • How or when should I disclose my LD?
  • Do I know the typical accommodations made in the workforce?
  • What kinds of social demands and interactions will I have?

Students must recognize the disability’s impact on career choices. Knowledge of the disability and how it affects work are critical to getting and keeping a job individuals like and do well in. In addition to clearly understanding the disability, students need to identify goals. They must analyze training and career goals in relation to their disability. What kind of tasks will the job include? What kind of interaction between job tasks and the disability will need to be determined? When answering these questions, the student should assess the work environment, the type and amount of co-worker or peer interaction, specific tasks or essential functions that must be performed, and how performance is evaluated.

The Laws that Govern Employment

Students should become familiar with laws that identify their rights to equal access and non-discrimination. They should understand the aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, which assure equal access and non-discrimination. It is not enough to only know their legal rights. Students must recognize how equal access applies to them individually, within a particular education, employment or community setting, and in relation to the disability. They need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Is it necessary for me to disclose my disability in order to perform more efficiently?
  • To whom do I disclose?
  • How do I disclose?
  • When do I disclose?
  • How do I negotiate accommodations? And with whom?

Being able to describe the potential effect of the disability in relation to the work environment is central to successful employment. Individuals should know what accommodations might be needed (if any) in order to perform the required tasks or essential functions of the job.


  1. Develop a History of Work Experience. Look for opportunities to gain work experience. Some examples include:
    • Campus leadership opportunities (e.g., student government, mentoring programs, organization involvement, etc.)
    • Work-study positions on campus
    • Internships
    • Off-campus jobs (some may be listed in the college career center)
    • Summer jobs
    • Service learning opportunities
    • Volunteer positions with community-based organizations and/or religious affiliations
    • Job opportunities found through family and friends
  2. Understand the Job Culture.
    1. Every company or organization has its own unique culture. The job culture consists of company rules, values, and beliefs, which are widely held but often unspoken.
    2. Observe co-workers, not only how they work, but also how they communicate and interact.
    3. Know what is expected of employees.
  3. Determine Effective Job Accommodations. Match job tasks or essential functions with strengths and weaknesses to identify potential accommodations that will improve job performance. Accommodations that may be used in the workplace include:
    • Audio recorders (smart phone, smart pens, tablets, or other recording devices)
    • Audio materials (for review when needed)
    • Speech-to-text software or app
    • Text-to-speech software or app
    • Printed instructions
    • Demonstration of tasks/assignments (record video with smart phone or tablet for multiple playbacks as needed)
    • Diagrams to explain the process of an assigned task
    • Separate or quiet work space
    • Computer software (e.g., word prediction, grammar-check, templates, etc.)
    • Computer access with dual monitors
    • Color-coding of files, work assignments, etc.
    • Understanding how to use the software on the company’s computer. Take advantage of the Job Accommodations Network to explore workplace accommodations further.
  4. Identify and use a support system. Family, friends and co-workers are vital to successful employment. A support system can be a valuable asset through the entire transition process from college to work.
  5. Devise an Individual Employment approach.Individuals eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation Services (in some states also called Rehabilitation Services Administration, or RSA) can work with counselors to design an individualized plan addressing employment, assessments, and services related to employment. This may also include employment training.
  6. Develop job skills. Many workplaces will offer options for learning how to do the job. Some options to explore include:
    • Coaching/Mentoring
    • Internships
  7. Seek assistance. Here are a few of the many resources that are available: