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Finding Purpose in Employment

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Finding Purpose in Employment

For people with substance use disorders, obtaining employment often contributes to long-term success. Setting and achieving goals – including finding a job or obtaining a degree – can help one find purpose. This can also build confidence. Many individuals with substance use disorders are working to improve their self-esteem, and finding a job can be life-changing for them in many ways.

Dr. Tom Priester is our Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, and he’s deeply passionate about helping people find their purpose. This is quite clear from his educational background: he has a Doctorate of Education in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher College, a Master of Science in Higher Education from Buffalo State College, and a Bachelor of Arts in English Education from SUNY Fredonia.

Working Towards Employment Across All Levels of Care

At the moment, Tom is working with most of our programs across our many different levels of care. He’s been with us for almost a year. These days, he’s seeing people he started working with in our Rehabilitation programs achieve goals they first outlined months ago now that they’re in Supportive Living apartments. “I tell people ‘when you’re ready, I’ll be ready, too’,” said Tom.

Dr. Tom Priester, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor
Dr. Tom Priester, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

His approaches change for each type of program and even for each person. Generally, though, he helps people assess their work readiness, create resumes, fill out job applications, prepare for interviews, apply to schools, connect with volunteer opportunities, and more. Tom also has an extensive list of local resources like open houses for universities, job fairs, and other opportunities that he distributes to our residents regularly.

Planning for the Future

“My goal is always to get them onto some kind of pathway that leads to future employment,” Tom said. His collaborative and authentic methods of helping people find their purpose are working. Our residents have found employment in places like veterinary offices, automotive shops, restaurants, retail stores, collections agencies, and more. Residents are always thrilled when they get the news that they’ve been hired. “I hear about it immediately on the phone afterwards,” Tom said. Meanwhile, others are enrolling in GED classes or local universities.

He’s also been able to tackle a few other goals recently. A major employment hurdle for the people in our programs is the fact that they often don’t have copies of things like birth certificates, diplomas, and drivers licenses. He’s now able to help them thanks to some recent funding. Tom’s also able to distribute bus passes to people who need them for a job or school, and he has a very successful partnership running with ACCES-VR.

Tom is also announcing a new webpage this month that will house a wide range of local resources on employment, educational opportunities, and more. It’s called Your Future. The plan is to present it to residents to see how we can make it as helpful as possible for them. This has all been a fantastic professional and personal journey for Tom. “What’s awesome is helping them find their purpose feeds my purpose,” he said. “It’s been great.”

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