When it came time for Aaron Minkov to find and keep a job, credentials weren’t an issue: The 33-year-old graduated from Rutgers-Newark with a master’s degree in political science and an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from Middlesex County College.
What he found tough was the personal interaction in the work world. “I have a mostly introverted personality. I have Asperger Syndrome,” Minkov told NJ Jewish News, making a point of sharing his situation so that others might find help as he did. “I know from first-hand experience that finding a job can be very hard work, and it usually does not happen overnight.”
Minkov, who grew up in Springfield and now lives in Verona, went through a series of short-term jobs that didn’t work out. Finally, in 2011, he turned to Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest NJ.
The connection came about through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, a major source of support for JVS. The agency also receives support from the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and from individual and corporate donors.
Minkov got help from the JVS Career Center and its program designed for people on the autism spectrum. As project coordinator Hetal Patel explained, the program tailors its services to the particular client, offering specialized vocational evaluation, with aptitude testing and a career interest “inventory,” as well as counseling, job search assistance, interview training, and coordinated support with employers.
She has served as Minkov’s vocational counselor. “He was always positive and eager to do what he needed to, to make things work out,” she said. There were setbacks and frustrations, but he persisted, applying for job after job. In addition to aid from Patel, Minkov got networking and career guidance from a mentor volunteering with JVS, business consultant Marty Telles.
Two internships got Minkov over the hump, one with NJ Legal Services, and the other with Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP.
“Those internships helped build my credentials and resume and gave me more practical experiences that I could bring up during my job interview,” Minkov said. “Prior to JVS, I didn’t really have a sufficiently good sense as to how to go about getting a job. JVS was able to put me onto a path in which I was able to fill that gap sufficiently, and ultimately to obtain a job that suits my needs.”
The job is with Fein, Such, Kahn & Shepard, PC in Parsippany, where he works as a paralegal, a position Minkov has held now for close to a year. “It is enjoyable to work there,” he said, “as I get to interact with other people who are friendly to me, and it keeps me productive and financially independent.”
Jane Hecht, JVS’s director of marketing and special events, said the agency wants cases like this made known “to encourage other employers to work with us.” The program needs such partnerships with the community, and the success of clients like Minkov, she said, proves it can be mutually beneficial.