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Breaking Barriers: The Toya Robinson Story

Toya Robinson has a lot to celebrate.  Many of us have hurdles and obstacles in life but for Toya, she has had to overcome more than most.  Toya is a Customer Service Representative with Synchrony Financial in Kettering, OH who just completed her one-year work anniversary.  Toya also suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS).  She is a young woman who has survived multiple major surgeries, which have forced her to rely on a walker for mobility and have caused her substantial vision issues.  That cocktail of maladies at a young age is enough to damper the spirits of many but Toya is a cup half-full person.

Attitude is Everything

I first met Toya in September 2016 during Disability Solutions’ soft skills/interview preparation class hosted for our client, Synchrony Financial.  In this class, our team works with talented individuals with disabilities referred from local community organizations on their interviewing skills to give them the brush up and knowledge they need before applying.  We also help guide candidates through the application and interview process.  Toya found us through the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), which is the local Vocational Rehabilitation branch in Dayton, OH.

At all of our classes, we work hard to get to know our attendees well so we can truly help them and during the time I spent with Toya, I learned about her long and arduous journey, including some of her darkest days.  Toya clearly knew pain but despite this, I was struck at how well Toya maintained a remarkably high level of happiness, positivity and zest for life.  Throughout the two-day session, Toya was the biggest supporter of everyone in the room, cheering other attendees on and personally encouraging them as we worked on interview skills.  For someone who at a young age had already lived through so much, her spirit was truly inspiring.

Navigating the Minefield

I always ask each candidate what areas of the employment process he or she typically struggles with. Is it the application itself?  Do they struggle landing the first interview?  Is the phone or on-site interview an obstacle?  Toya described her own challenges with seeking employment:

“A lot of employers would see my resume and see that I had the experience they were looking for. But would see the gaps in my employment history and would look over me  When I did FINALLY get an interview they would see that I had a disability (MS)  and I would never hear from them again, even temp agencies wouldn’t hire me.”

Toya was a book judged by the cover not the contents, a story many in the disability community are familiar with.  That lack of success can unfortunately permeate into a lack of confidence.  This is where Disability Solutions has been able to help.  In working with candidates and helping them identify their own unique skills, we restore their confidence to a place where they can be hired and immediately make a difference.  For Toya Robinson, attending the training class gave her the extra boost she needed.

“After all the rejections, the Disability Solutions interview prep class gave me confidence never to give up.”

With her new found confidence and enhanced interview skills, shortly after the interview prep class, Toya was able to secure a position with Synchrony Financial as a Customer Service Representative in October 2016.  It has proven to be a great fit as she has received multiple high marks on her performance, even winning a monthly performance award for her position that she proudly now displays at her desk.  After just completing her one-year anniversary at Synchrony Financial, I asked Toya how her life has changed since she started work:

“This position has given me opportunities that were not at my disposal before: with opportunities for advancement if that is what I choose to do,  in addition to getting an education also if I want to go that route.”

On her goals for the future:

“I make good money and want to make more money! (As she smiles and laughs) I was most happy with the amazing benefits, meeting new friends, and the opportunities Synchrony offered. I would like to pursue finishing my degree in Business Administration.”

Toya also has some words of wisdom for other individuals with disabilities, who are struggling with interviews and still seeking employment:

“Don’t ever take “no” for an answer and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.  If they do, strive to prove them wrong every step of the way.”

Actually, that is great advice for everyone.

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