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An Unconventional Career Path

An Unconventional Career Path

By Margot Latici, CLE Denver

Cal at CLE - Standup ComedySometimes the traditional Monday-Friday, 8-5 work week is just not the best option for people. This is particularly the case for CLE students who may be trying to balance school, CLE appointments and transportation issues. This predicament can be further complicated for some students due to physical constraints and mobility issues. Cal Sheridan of CLE Denver is one of those students where a conventional career pathway will not be the best fit. Cal has Cerebral Palsy, so the ease with which others move around and verbally communicate at the workplace is not the same for him. As Cal put it to me quite candidly in our career advising session, “It is not like I am going to have a job working in a grocery store. I don’t even bag my own groceries. If someone were to ask me for help with their groceries I would have to find someone to help me help them!”

It is with that stroke of humor that Cal has approached life and he realized that he has a pension for making people laugh. Over the last few years Cal has become increasingly more involved in the stand-up comedy scene in Denver. What began as a hobby and social community started to take shape into a potential career prospect and when I first started meeting with Cal for career advising this past summer his goal was to develop his professional stand-up comedy portfolio and start making a buck or two off of his ability to make people laugh. I sat down with Cal recently to recap how he chose this unconventional career path and to see how things are going, essentially as an entrepreneur in a really tough career field.

How did you decide you wanted to do stand-up comedy routines? What has attracted you to this lifestyle and community?

Bug TheatreIt has always been in my nature to entertain and stand-up is one of the simplest forms of entertainment. I find that I am good at it. I’ve been doing stand-up professionally for 1 year. Professionally constitutes trying to get paid for it. I was attracted to it partially because I get to be funny, but it is also a good community. Before I didn’t have a social group, but now I do.

*For a little bit of context, Cal has been paid for several small stand-up comedy routines as part of other comedian’s shows and recently organized and hosted his own show at the Bug Theater in Denver. Cal hustled to raise the $300 theater rental fee through and charged $8/ ticket to pay the headliner of the show.

You have worked quickly to form your own comedy company. What do you envision as the future for Suit and Tie Comedy Co.? Do you see your involvement as a performer/host or more as a manager/director for other comedians?

At this point I am not really sure. I am working on personal branding and getting more notoriety for my shtick. I also really enjoy hosting and would like to continue planning shows and have Suit and Tie Comedy be the brand name for all of the shows that I host.

Realistically, what is the market like in the comedy world for earning a living? Do you find most people do their comedy routines on the side, in addition to other types of work? Is this something you could see yourself making a living at?

The life of a comedian can be rough. The comedy scene involves late nights, competition, having to work with a lot of different moving parts, like having an agent or booking a venue. I think a lot of other people do this in addition to something else. However, if you become well known you can make a decent living. I am trying to do comedy professionally. I have been paid for several of my stand-up performances. It is challenging to find enough gigs to pay you when you are just starting out.

Since you are basically an entrepreneur, where do you think it would be most beneficial to have support from CLE?

I’m actually not entirely sure. I don’t know what being an entrepreneur means yet, really, so I am thinking just continuing to plan for shows. In career advising I have been working on staying organized and accountable to my projects. I have been working on developing my social media presence as well as my personal brand. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but it is going to be great.

Suit & TieWhile a future career in comedy is still taking shape, Cal is motivated to explore this unconventional career path and is navigating the ups and downs of creating his own employment opportunities. The CLE Career Department is excited to work with Cal on his projects and to provide a structure and plan for helping him to succeed. While Cal does a lot of his work independently, weekly career advising sessions are a good point to check in on what has been accomplished, what needs to be tackled next and how to make connections in the community. It is an evolution that we are going through together.

Newsletter Articles – October 2015

Reese and mentor at Holiday Inn

It may surprise you to hear what I have found to be the biggest challenge for young adults with disabilities as they move through the transition into the working world. You might guess it is something like struggling with learning new tasks at work, or having difficulty engaging with co-workers or supervisors. Maybe even the process of applying and interviewing seems like an insurmountable task. But, no, I would say that while these things might pose some challenges, they are areas that can typically be addressed and overcome through individualized attention and support.

Dealing with adult problems with a learning difference

This story is about the independent person I am today, who is more comfortable in his own skin, and the struggles I went through to become that person. I’m sure we have all tried to become more independent and we’ve gone through struggles, but in all different ways. The funny thing is that no matter how different our journeys are, at the core, the need and desire are essentially the same.

Disability disclosure in the workplace

Disability disclosure in the workplace is a personal choice to be decided by each individual. At CLE, we give our students the information and understanding to decide for themselves what to do when it comes to disclosure. For some, disclosure means being understood and assisted by their employers and co-workers. For others, disability disclosure might be undesirable; being a part of team without a focus on differences is the kind of work experience that these students are looking for.

We spoke with several of our students in the career program and asked them about their choices in disability disclosure. The answers were as varied as our students and it really does show how much the individual’s perception and personality affect their choice.

Deciding to disclose disability at the workplace

We set off to discover a few things about the beliefs of our students. We are particularly interested in how they view the word disability. In the course of the conversations we had with five students we discussed issues related to disability in the workplace including the nature of a disability, disclosure and accommodation. There was a range and a similarity of views among our students on what disability is.

Nathanial Major at LinkedIn

Over the last five years I have been speaking up for autism on a peer to peer level with an initiative I call Project Speak Up. Each individual on the spectrum is unique. We have a wide range of abilities and interests. I can’t speak for everyone with autism, but I think by sharing my story I can give people some insight into the realities of autism.

In my EnableIn presentation, I emphasized that innovation is just looking at things in a new way. I pointed out that two of the most innovative minds in history, Albert Einstein and Nicolo Tesla had personality traits and communication deficits that could be considered to be on the spectrum. I then asked the question, what if Einstein or Tesla applied to your company? Would their quirky behavior, social awkwardness and difficulty with communication make it challenging for them to even get past the first interview?

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