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Meet John:  Advice for Those Starting a Career

November 15, 2018 | Leave a Comment

by John Erickson

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hopeful applicant in a job interview with a potential employer


John Erickson, a long-time successful career professional, has also been living with vision loss since childhood. We asked John to share with us how he faced the skepticism of others and rose to meet these challenges. Here’s John’s story and advice to those who are embarking on new careers.

John Erickson Head ShotMy name is John Erickson, and I am a retired investment advisor.  During my 35-year career, I worked for three different companies in the wealth management industry here in Chicago.

I became legally blind at the age of 12. I planned to choose my major in college specifically to help me get a job after graduation. I’d always loved history and initially thought I would choose that as my major, with the intention of becoming a history teacher.

When I shared this plan with my best friend at college freshman year, he said “Are you nuts?! Business is where the jobs and good salaries are.”


Interviews and No Job Offers: Finding a Mentor

After I earned my Finance degree, I interviewed for jobs but received no offers. I sensed I needed some kind of “edge” to set me apart from my sighted classmates. I needed to offset what I thought had to be an inevitable doubt on the part of interviewers. How can a visually impaired person perform as well as a sighted person in the workplace?

So I went and got my MBA and started interviewing all over again. One interviewer confirmed my beliefs when he said “You seem pretty smart, but I don’t know how you would do my job.”  I did not have an answer for him.

However, the interviewer gave me the name of a visually impaired guy who had his own company selling municipal bonds. I contacted this person, and he helped me finally land a job buying bonds.


Landing the Job:  Educating the Interviewer and Promoting Your Abilities

In retrospect, I know today exactly what I should have said to that interviewer.  “Of course you don’t know how I would do your job, you’re not familiar with the vast array of aids and appliances for the visually-impaired, like CCTV’s, talking calculators, talking computers, etc.  I plan to use these same tools to do whatever job I find myself in.”

My strong advice is don’t wait for interviewers to ask you, “How would you do this job?” Or worse, don’t try to hide your visual challenge.  Take the offensive and educate them. Tell them how you’ve accomplished getting through school and overcoming all the hurdles a VIP (visually-impaired person) faces every day. You absolutely have to get past their understandable doubt that you can succeed to be in the running for the job.


John’s Advice: Tips for Succeeding in the Work World

  • Show confidence! I believe you have to show your own belief that you can accomplish a task.
  • Know that managers want solutions to problems, not additional problems to solve! During my career, I had to hire several assistants to work with me. When I asked one prospective applicant what she wanted to get out of the job I was offering, she replied, “I want to do whatever makes your job easier.” I hired her on the spot!
  • Do your best not to make your boss responsible for finding ways to help you do your job. Have those answers for him or her. When you finish one responsibility, look for another to accomplish.
  • Address the “elephant in the room”– your eyesight. Show that you are comfortable with your eyesight. You should consider being visually-impaired as no different than being short. It is what it is. It’s nothing more than one of your physical characteristics, not something you should ever be embarrassed about or need to apologize for.
  • Have a sense of humor. Be able to laugh at yourself. Eyesight accidents are going to happen, and you should be the first one to laugh at it. I found this very, very important.  Most people don’t know how to react to your eyesight because they don’t know how you feel about it. Show them it’s not something they have to avoid speaking about.

I don’t think there is any magical attitude or characteristic someone can try to learn to be a success at work. It’s important, though, to pay attention to your workplace and co-workers and use your own talents that fit in. Work to understand the workplace culture. Show an interest in your co-workers and what they like to do.

John Erickson is the author of What I Saw When I Went Blind.  This autobiography is the story of his journey from childhood through college and career and how he adjusted to and accepted vision loss.  His book is available  on

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