Episode 010: Janine Rowe–Neurodiversity, Career Counseling, and Finding Your Niche Show Notes
- Preparing for presentations
Neurodiverse students and diverse individuals–that really refers to individuals who have some variance in how they learn and think about the world…So what we’re finding is that individuals who are neurodiverse often have a lot of skill sets that are really in demand in the workplace
As an introvert I also have a preference for really getting to know people on a deep level. Rather than knowing a little bit about a lot of people, I can get to know people deeply.
It was very important to me to pick a career where my listening abilities, which is something that just comes naturally to me, that I would be able to use that as a primary skill set that I use every single day, and it’s really a key to being able to do my job well.
(Speaking about presentations) So for me, listening to music through headphones is very important in terms of preparation and I think it serves a couple of purposes for me. One, is so that I can control some of the sensory input that I’m getting, and just drown out what I don’t want. And it helps kind of manage some of my nervous energy, so I like to listen to something that I know very well–something I know by heart. So I also don’t get overstimulated from that as well.
Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode
- Society for Technical Communication
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- National Career Development Association
- National Association for Colleges and Employers
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Ben: Joining us today is Janine Rowe. Janine is a career counselor at the Rochester Institute of Technology where she provides guidance to students on identifying educational career and life plans that suit their interests and goals. Janine is also a counselor, educator and supervisor, author, and advocate for the advancement of neurodiverse individuals in the workplace. She has an M.S. Ed. In counselor education from the College at Brockport, SUNY, and is a certified MBTI practitioner. You can contact Janine at Janine.Rowe@rit.edu. Janine and I are colleagues at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Janine was a contributor to the February 2017 issue of Intercom magazine where she wrote the “Intersection of ASD and Technical Communication,” where she interviewed technical communication practitioners who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Ben: Hi Janine. Welcome to the podcast. Let’s talk about your role as a career counselor at RIT, and I’d like to know more about how you advocate for the advancement of neurodiverse individuals and what that actually means.
Janine:Thank you, Ben, for having me. Happy to be here. My role here at RIT is primarily to meet with students one-on-one and help them explore a lot of facets about themselves that go into making an informed educational choice and career choice. So it really has a lot to do with encouraging self awareness and self exploration and connecting that with information about the world of work. And in doing that, I have found I’m kind of in a niche area. And working with the neurodiverse students and diverse individuals–that really refers to individuals who have some variance in how they learn and think about the world, and primarily that’s our students who are on the autism spectrum, but also includes individuals with dyslexia, learning disabilities, and other related disorders. So what we’re finding is that individuals who are neurodiverse often have a lot of skill sets that are really in demand in the workplace. But unfortunately, what was happening is when they’re going–competing against their peers, they didn’t have as much success as their neuro-typical peers or individuals who are not on the autism spectrum. And so a lot of my work is helping people who are in the position to make hiring decisions and make promotional decisions on behalf of these individuals. They really understand the unique contributions that neurodiverse employees can make in the workplace.
Ben: Now, is that just something that is specific to RIT or is this something we’re starting to see more of across higher education?
Janine: That’s a great question. It certainly was born out of the need to work with the individuals that were already here at RIT who are neurodiverse. And since we’ve been doing that, we get quite a lot of questions from individuals in the community, from employers from all around the world really, who want to know more about neurodiverse hiring. So it’s been very rewarding.
Ben: That’s really interesting. So what is your workplace like? How do you typically spend your day? What do you find challenging as an introvert?
Janine: So I have a pretty large staff team. There’s about 35 of us, but I feel within this team I have the absolute ideal role for an introvert, which is the majority of my time (up to 80 to 90 percent) I am doing one-on-one counseling and able to just meet with students individually. And so that gives me a lot of time to just reflect and work with the students in that one-on-one setting where I don’t have a lot of interruptions, and I don’t have a lot of demands to do multitasking–things like that. So that’s really what I set out to do. I knew that that setting would be a good fit for me. I also teach undeclared students in a class called Career Exploration Seminar that meets once a week. And my office in general, Career Services and Cooperative Education, we put on a lot of events and we’re in general, very externally focused–we conduct a lot of outreach. So I do get involved with those somewhat, but it’s not a primary focus of my role.
Ben: What do you find to be most challenging as an introvert in your office?
Janine: Even though I do have in a lot of ways, an ideal role for an introvert, there are some things that routinely challenge me, and the biggest one I think is when my phone rings, especially if I’m not expecting it. That’s just a–I guess–an occupational hazard. But I do find it challenging to speak up in meetings. I know a lot of us share that trait. Especially if I am speaking up in a meeting and I’m interrupted at some point, which you can imagine that can happen in team meetings–as much as 35 people. Another thing that I find difficult is when I’m being put on the spot to generate my thoughts and ideas extemporaneously and I don’t have time to prepare. So, I really need to seek out time to prepare when I have those meetings so that I don’t feel that pressure.
Ben: So Janine, it sounds like in a lot of ways you’ve picked a perfect environment for you and your temperament type, which was INFJ, which is Counselor, which we haven’t really talked about yet.
Janine: It was very important to me to pick a career where my listening abilities, which is something that just comes so naturally to me, that I would be able to use that as a primary skill set that I use every single day, and it’s really a key to being able to do my job well. And I appreciate that in my role, listening and taking time to respond is considered the ideal response to most of my sessions, and jumping right in with that verbal response, that’s typically kind of discouraged within counseling. So that works out perfectly for me. And as an introvert I also have a preference for really getting to know people on a deep level. Rather than knowing a little bit about a lot of people, I can get to know people deeply. I also have a small team that I work on as a part of the larger team and they know that I’m an introvert, so they are courteous enough to give me lots of space in meetings to express my thoughts.
As an introvert I also have a preference for really getting to know people on a deep level. Rather than knowing a little bit about a lot of people, I can get to know people deeply. @janinemrowe Click To Tweet
Ben: Janine, you’re the first guest that I’ve had who is MBTI certified. Can you talk about that a little bit and what you’ve discovered through that certification maybe about yourself and working with others?
Janine: Absolutely. I think working with the MBTI everyday, administering the test, interpreting results for our students and RIT alumni, and providing consultation to my peers on Myers Briggs temperament types, is a huge benefit as an introvert and just to me personally because of the value that I think that it provides. So within the certification process I certainly learned It did help me to embrace my introversion, because of course, as we know, there is no ideal type. No one preference or one trait is a more highly valued than another, but there are certain environments that allow those preferences to shine. And so that’s really the orientation that I take when I work with students is that it’s not, “okay, here’s your personality type” and here I’m trying to put people into boxes and and predict where they’re going to be the most successful, but helping them to recognize where their natural strengths lie and helping them connect that to the world of work. An example we use all the time is handwriting. You’re right handed or left handed. That’s your preference. You don’t even have to think about it and if I ask you to write for a little bit with your non-dominant hand, that’s going to be really challenging for you. You’re going to want to stop pretty soon after you start that, because you’re going to be fatigued, and you’re going to have to really think about it and you’re going to want to go back to doing what’s most natural and comfortable for you. So that kind of analogy we use all the time with students just to help them have a picture of how learning about personality types can benefit them in their career.
Ben: One thing that I found was interesting looking at the Myers Briggs and for some of the work that I’ve done in some of the articles and in a workshop that I do, I think many people might assume that the 16 different personality types identified are actually broken evenly across the population, but that’s not the case at all. And some personality types or temperament types, it’s a very, very small percentage of the population. Could you talk about that a little bit and then I’m really kind of interested if you see dominant or dominant side, the right is the right word, but more frequent personality or temperament types among our students here at RIT?
Janine: Certainly. You’re absolutely right. This is not an even distribution across all 16 types. I think that is a common misconception and we do see that extrovert ideal playing out (in my opinion) within the types that are most prevalent in the United States. So according to our figures which we use from the accreditation body that actually certifies MBTI practitioners and provides us the test materials, some of the most common types are ESFJ which make up to 13 percent of the population. And interestingly, ISTJ, up to 14 percent of the population. One of the things that I see often playing out with my individual students is how gender can influence how people experience their types in their preferences. So females for example, may feel more socially rewarded for operating in that feeling preference; In males, maybe more towards a logical in some cases. And here at Rochester Institute of Technology, I do work with a lot of engineering students, a lot of computing students. So luckily for me, I do work with many introverts on a daily basis, and some of the types that we work with quite frequently here would be the INTJ and the INTP, especially who tend to–I find them in engineering fields
Ben: And both INTJ and INTP are relatively small slices of the population as a whole.
Janine: Absolutely. I don’t have figures on the entire student population. That would be a very interesting project for us to work on. But just anecdotally, I would say if we’re looking at INTJ and INTP as about four percent of the population each, I would say it seems to be over-represented in those two types.
Ben: Let’s talk about doing presentations. Doing presentations has been an interesting topic that we’ve discussed in the podcast, but also among a lot of my friends in general, about what they find to be helpful in their presentations, what they find to be especially challenging about them. And most of the guests so far have been active presenters, although a few of them would prefer not to get up in front of people at all if they can help it. Do you enjoy presenting? What do you find the benefits to be? What do you find the challenges to be?
Janine: I do enjoy presenting, whether that be in a classroom setting or in my professional home, which I would consider to be the National Career Development Association and the National Association for Colleges and Employers. I Have been fortunate to present primarily around my neurodiversity work in those spaces. I do really enjoy it, but it is exhausting. I have found when I’m attending a convention or a conference, if I’m presenting, I cannot relax at all until that presentation is over because it’s just weighing on my mind. So I’ve come to develop a little bit of a routine to help me with that. And that involves activities–what I’ll do before, even down to what I eat and drink before a presentation and then what I’ll do after.
Ben: Can you expand on that a little bit?
Janine: Yeah, absolutely. So for me, listening to music through headphones is very important in terms of preparation and I think it serves a couple of purposes for me. One, is so that I can control some of the sensory input that I’m getting, and just drown out what I don’t want. And it helps kind of manage some of my nervous energy, so I like to listen to something that I know very well–something I know by heart. So I also don’t get overstimulated from that as well. During the presentation, I will often ideally identify some people that I already know in the audience and I may even ask them if they wouldn’t mind asking me a question, and I may even tell them what type of question I think would be beneficial to ask, and that helps manage because the Q and A is the worst part for me as an introvert, because I can only prepare for it so much.
Janine: And so if I know that I’ve got someone, a friend, who’s going to maybe ask me a question that I already know the answer to, I find that something I can really look forward to. And that helps kind of balance all the energy that I’m expending.
Ben: It’s funny. Alisa Bonsignore. who was a guest on a previous podcast, talked about the same type of issue that she has where she’s rock solid through the prepared material, but then has to deal with Q&A. In the story that she told she had gone to her doctor and he had given her a Holter monitor because it had been some time since her heart rate had been measured, and she wore it when she was presenting. And the night that she was presenting, everything was fine and then she hit the Q&A part, and she said it measured like she was in a sprint the whole time. So the Q&A, so she runs Alisa faces those same issues in terms of the part that is prepared is straightforward, but it’s the unknown that’s coming at us that makes it really confusing. Or really the unknown that’s coming at us that produces anxiety.
Ben: I do have to ask one question though, because someone is going to want to know what is on your track that you listen to before you present…
Janine: I knew you were going to ask me that! [Laughing] It might surprise you. I like a lot of Motown and music from the Sixties and Seventies. And I think the reason why is that’s what I listened to when I grew up, and it has such intense positive associations for me of being in my hometown or being with my family. And it just–I just can’t help but have a happy reaction to listening to that. So I will make sure that I find time in my schedule to get some of that.
Ben: That’s absolutely great! And I would say for the benefit of our listeners that I have been at conferences where Janine presents and she looks totally unflappable. So although there may be anxiety going on, it’s not something that’s apparent on the outside. Now, you had mentioned earlier that you find presenting exhausting and by extension, I’m assuming some of the conference attendance and activities as well. What do you do when you finish presenting, and you finished the Q&A, what do you do?
Janine: A lot of times I’ll try and hide, just to be totally honest! I will definitely need to take a break and recharge. And often as an introvert, that has to be either with a very small group of people I know very well or alone. So that means many times I may sit out in the next session after I’ve presented.
Ben: Yeah, actually I do the same thing once I’ve presented. I typically do sit out the next session, just to kind of–And I guess it is an energy recouping, but it’s also just to maybe settle the nerves down some. Though I’m not super aware of nerves when I’m presenting at this point either, but I do like to be able to wind down, and exactly like you said, I’m fine being around friends who will just let me sit there and wind down, but I not so great with follow-up questions immediately after a presentation, though the follow-up questions can be very good and they are very important. And what I found, especially when I started talking about introversion, there are a lot of follow ups through the remainder of the conference.
Janine: Hmm. That’s an interesting point. That’s what we do as introverts. Right? We process.
Ben: That’s true.
Janine: After the fact.
Ben: Yeah. Oh, that’s good. That’s interesting.
Janine: Hmm. That’s an interesting point.