Making use of electronic message boards, e-mail inquiry services, electronic conferencing, Intranets, e-mail mailing lists and business chat facilities all can eliminate distance and transportation barriers while dramatically expanding your network of professional contacts. In addition, the other participants meet you and your mind before they meet your disability. Physical characteristics are irrelevant in cyberspace; it is your contribution that people will remember.
A lot of people already use the more common online interactive features, but very few have taken advantage of business chat, even though it usually requires no extra software or hardware. Consider this:
– Have you ever wished that you could ask for advice or assistance from someone who works in your field but lives in another city, province or even country?
– Are there colleagues with whom you need to consult, whom you can’t afford to call because they are too far away?
– Have you needed to brainstorm solutions, when there was no one around to talk to?
– Are there people whom you met at a conference who might be able to help you with your job search?
– Do you or one of the people you want to talk to have to use Bell Relay, although you would prefer to talk in real time privately?
– Is there a support group that can’t find meeting space or that has members who are not able to attend in person?
– Are you looking for an opportunity to practise interview questions?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time for you to think about logging onto one of the chat rooms on the Internet that are available for business and employment-related discussions.
Luckily, there is now a site that offers several business chat rooms and is very easy to use. All you need is the regular browser software with which you access the World Wide Web.
The WORKink Virtual Employment Resource Centre, a Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) innovation that is generously sponsored by Human Resources Development Canada and was developed in partnership with the Centre for Education and Training, is breaking new ground by offering business chat rooms. These are available to make it easier for you to reach other people as part of your search for meaningful work or professional development.
At the WORKink Virtual Employment Resource Centre, an employment counsellor is available online. There are a variety of discussion topics scheduled on the chat calendar, from how to face your interview fears to disclosure. But if you aren’t able to visit during these times, or if you want to have a private room for a team meeting or a support group, you also can use the chat rooms for employment-related communication, 24 hours a day.
Interested? Go to http://www.workink.com. (You will find employment and disability articles and links, even online job banks and resume banks.) From the Index, select the Chat INK section.
You will need to register a user name and decide on a password, but that takes less than a minute. Although you may choose a nickname if you wish to remain anonymous, in a business chat room you may want to be able to take credit for your contributions. Elsewhere on the Internet, it still is advisable to be cautious about using your real name in chat rooms.
When you do want to communicate directly with someone, we recommend using e-mail. If you don’t have your own e-mail address, the New User section of WORKink will help you get one free.
You may want to log in for the first time during one of the scheduled chat sessions, so that the WORKink staff can guide you through your first chat. After you load the chat feature, you will see your screen split into windows. In the upper window is a welcome notice, a list of chat areas available, and the exit arrow.
In the lower window are the four sections of the chat box, showing the entry room and the WORKink Lounge. The dialogue box will tell you which room you are in, and, if there is a conversation occurring, it will show what is being said and who is speaking. Below that is a cell where you type your message. When you hit enter, your message will instantly be seen on all the computers of all the other participants.
Two more boxes on your screen list the user names of those who are logged into this room, and the show a list of commands. Some versions will show “emotions” and short forms if they have a drop down menu of commands.
So now you are able to chat. As business chat features are still a new concept, you may be the only one present the first time you enter. If so, send an e-mail to a friend or colleague and suggest that you both meet here at a specific time and try it out together. If you have a group that wants to meet, just send an e-mail to the staff at WORKink, and we will help you set up a private room.
The chat rooms can also be used for guest speakers if there is a large number of people who would be interested in listening to an expert on a certain subject. Up to 100 people can log on and ask questions in real time. If you have suggestions for speakers or wish to offer your services as a speaker, use the comments box in the WORKink Index.
If you don’t have Internet access, most community colleges, libraries and employment resource centres as well as many non-profit community agencies have Internet access available to the public.
Netscape Navigator 3.0 or Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02 or more recent versions of either web browser are recommended. Internet Explorer requires that the security setting be set to medium for the chat feature to work properly. Although the business chat rooms are graphical, there will soon be IRC access to the business chat rooms for individuals who use IRC software, or who access the Internet using a terminal, shell or telnet connection. We will also publish transcripts when we have guest speakers. We will be adding software to allow speech access as soon as it is developed.
(For more information, contact Keltie Creed by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the WorkINK website, http://www.workink.com.)
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