Being gainfully employed is akin to finding that elusive needle in the haystack for everyone these days, regardless of disability.
For those of us with disabilities, the added challenge of grasping for a much smaller needle in a much larger haystack is a challenge that often keeps us from knowing how to begin the search.
As every person and every disability is unique, my story and advice may not align exactly with every reader’s puzzle pieces of life, but I hope that my experiences will inspire you to find new ways for the pieces to fall into place.
Here are 6 pieces of advice for locating & applying for your dream job.
Advice #1: Show you care
Any job coach worth the degree hanging on their wall will tell you to have a specific job, goal or skill set in mind when looking for employment. D0n’t say, “I’ll take anything!” this often heard phrase shows ambivalence for what you’ll be doing and downplays the passion and dedication you will have in a job.
Advice #2: Seek Support
Locate and work with vocational rehabilitation, assistance non-profits and/or government agencies in your community that work specifically in assisting people with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities find jobs.
Advice #3: Volunteer
Never underestimate the power of volunteering! As a former Volunteer Coordinator with the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, I know firsthand the types of skills and job experience someone with a developmental, physical or intellectual disability can gain from volunteering.
Volunteering prepares someone for a job in terms of following directions, receiving constructive criticism and working with others. Best of all, volunteering gives someone skills and responsibilities to put on a résumé!
When looking for volunteer opportunities, be sure to look for organizations that will be understanding, patient and may have worked with people who have disabilities before.
Advice #4: Hone your skills
Before you look for volunteer opportunities, try to pinpoint the skills you would like to build on or gain by volunteering. Some examples might be: answering phones, customer service, data entry, organization, or cleaning. Try www.volunteermatch.com to find what’s right for you!
Advice #5: The Interview
Any person with a disability knows the fear of the interview focusing on your limitations and what you can’t do instead of your talents and skills.
Let’s be honest, if your disability is visible in any way—a wheelchair, a stutter, a clear intellectual challenge, it can be a challenge to get an employer to see beyond, to the strengths that you bring to the job: unique strengths that only you can offer.
During the interview make sure to:
- Acknowledge your challenges and try not to hide from them.
- Explain in detail how you can add value to his or her company.
- Explain what qualities you have that others may not have.
- Make sure you explain any limitations you may have and any accommodations you will need.
- Give an example of how your challenges will be beneficial for the company (ex: stronger work ethic, used to challenges, persistent etc.).
Advice #6: Keep Your Head Up!
Yes it may be difficult to secure a job for yourself or a loved one. Never stop trying! Keep your head held high and walk into any interview or opportunity with optimism and the self-esteem that will show the employer that you believe in yourself!
For those parents with children transitioning into work, it is important to show that your loved one has a strong support network and people surrounding them who are dedicated to their success and independence.
Good luck friends!