Oscar: How Focused, Individualized Exploration Led to a Good Job Match at Shake Shack



Oscar Segal is 27 years old and lives in his own apartment in the Bronx, New York. He grew up with the expectation from his parents that he would work and support himself to the greatest extent possible. Through a comprehensive individualized exploration and planning process, sometimes referred to as “Discovery”, Oscar, his parents, and other invested transition staff from his high school created a trajectory to make the expectation for work a reality. They were able to find a reliable job match where his responsibilities and work environment match his interests and preferences. For the last seven years, he has worked for the Shake Shack restaurant chain.

What is Discovery? Discovery is a process where an employment support provider will get to know a job seeker even before planning for the job search. It’s a process of spending time with the person to find out who they are, what their interests and passions are, and their unique contributions. Discovery is enhanced when the person is observed in settings where they are most comfortable, and when family and friends are invited into the process. It typically results in a profile of the individual that can be used as a guide when looking for employment possibilities.

How the Discovery Process Worked for Oscar

While still in high school, transition program staff helped Oscar enroll in Job Path, an employment support provider based in New York City. After spending considerable time with Oscar during the high school years, his transition staff and the job developer used a Discovery process, which lasted for a few months, so that the job developer at Job Path could learn about Oscar and who he is as an individual. They spent time with him in different environments and asked those who knew him well about what works and does not work for him in a job setting. The involvement of transition staff and family was critical to this process because of their deep knowledge of Oscar as an individual. From that Discovery process, the job developer was able to understand his personality, his skills, and what environment he would thrive in.

The job developer then translated Oscar’s skills into job tasks. She drew both on his network, as well as her own personal and professional network to find an interested employer with a need that matched his skills. The job developer previously worked in the restaurant business in New York City and had a large professional network. This connection made it easier for her to introduce Oscar to a job at Shake Shack. She understood the restaurant’s culture, the pace of work, the standard employer hiring expectations, and the frequent unmet needs within the restaurant chain. Working together, Oscar, his family, the transition staff, the job developer, and the Shake Shack manager were able to place Oscar into a position that matched everything they knew about him.

What Happened

Oscar has worked at Shake Shack in Forest Hills, Queens, since 2015. He travels to work independently, riding the subway for an hour with one change of trains. He works sixteen hours a week, four hours per day. Except for cashier and cooking tasks, he does every other task a Shake Shack employee does. He is especially good at greeting people and helping them use the kiosks to place their orders. However, he also does other tasks as needed such as running errands, unloading supplies, and putting together to-go orders for delivery drivers. He is determined to do his job well so at his request, a community worker, spends some time with him at work each day checking on how he’s doing and encouraging him. His job coach also visits him at work once a month to check in with him and his supervisor to see how things are going and whether any adjustments need to be made to his hours, tasks, or other working conditions. As a result of Oscar’s employment, Shake Shack is a smoother, friendlier place to be.

Lessons Learned

  • Recognize the importance of taking the time for individualized exploration and Discovery prior to planning for a job search.
  • The involvement of Oscar’s full network, including his parents and transition staff from high school, were critical to the success of Oscar’s Discovery process, since they knew him so well.
  • Oscar’s team leveraged his large personal network and the professional network of the job developer to make the connection at Shake Shack.
  • Through an understanding of “Who Oscar Is” as an individual, his job developer was able to understand how Oscar could fill a need at Shake Shack.

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