Overcoming job search hurdles with a disability

disability

“I have cerebral palsy and walk with crutches as well as sometimes using a power wheelchair.  I’m on Newstart.  I’ve been interviewed for 14 different positions over the last year, including several state government positions.  I am unable to type at speed without using dictation software.  Employing me will need adjustments and they can always find someone who can do the job without adjustments.  The fact that I am 47 years old does not help.  I’m looking for customer service/administration.  Is there any way to get my resume in front of people who WANT to employ people with disabilities (in government or elsewhere)?  I’ve had part time work in customer service/admin for the last three years.  I taught ESL for seven years before my disability forced me to stop.  I also worked as a chaplain for several years before that.  Please don’t suggest contacting a Disability Employment Provider.  They lack the appropriate skills and resources to help.  They just chat to me and mark my name off to ensure their funding continues”.

This is a tough situation to be in and the statistics simply confirm that you are not alone in this battle.  Take these facts from the US Department of Labor:

  • Unemployment rates are higher for persons with a disability for those with no disability among all education attainment groups.
  • 32% of workers with a disability were employed part-time, compared with 18% of those with no disability
  • Workers with a disability were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability.

Statistics are similar in Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and Europe. The Australian Network on Disabilities, published these facts from various government Departments and from Graduate Careers Australia

  • People aged between 15 and 64 years with disability have both lower participation (53%) and higher unemployment rates (9.4%) than people without disability (83% and 4.9% respectively).
  • Australia’s employment rate for people with disability (47.75% in 2012) is on par with developed countries like Canada (49% in 2011), United Kingdom (48.9% in 2012), Luxembourg (48% in 2011), New Zealand (45% in 2013), Denmark (43.90% in 2013), Norway (43% in 2013).
  • The countries reporting the highest employment rates of people with disability are Switzerland (69% in 2011), Austria (67% in 2011), Sweden (62% in 2008), France (53% in 2012), Germany (52% in 2009).
  • Graduates with disability take longer to gain full-time employment than other graduates

So, we clearly have a societal problem and this is your reality. So my advice to you, is that I don’t have a PERFECT and magical solution for you, because until people change their attitudes and organisations take a proactive approach to this problem, nothing much is going to change.

HOWEVER, having said that, I do have some suggestions that can hopefully make a difference.  

MAKE YOUR PERSONAL MARKETING DOCUMENTATION SIZZLE

The first question you need to ask is ‘Can I do the job’?  If the answer is yes and your disability doesn’t affect job performance, then don’t mention it in your résumé or LinkedIn profile.

The purpose of a résumé is to screen candidates out, so don’t give employers and recruiters the opportunity to discriminate against you.  If you do disclose a disability, it is highly unlikely that you will secure interview invitations and besides the law is on your side, as you don’t have to say anything on your résumé.

Even if you have a visible disability like you do (e.g. noticeable impairments to speech, hearing, sight, or mobility), don’t feel pressured to raise your disability on the résumé, or before interview.

The only time you should reveal a disability on your résumé is if you know that it would increase your chances of getting the job.  For example you are applying for a program within government, designed specifically to recruit people with disabilities, or the disability is related to the position (e.g. a disability advocate, that will be working directly with clients that have a disability).

Now that you understand that you should not reveal your disability, you need to make sure your résumé rocks. You have to SCREAM value, so that before they even meet you, they are excited about what you have to offer. A beautifully crafted resume that is focussed on employer needs will get your reader’s attention, create desire, generate interest, and will position you above your competition, even against those who may be more qualified than you.

If you decide to use a professional resume writer, I’ve outlined how to pick the best one in my article: How to select the best resume writer.

If your budget is too tight, I’ve outlined some perfect resources, along with my favour books and links to the best resumes in the world in my article Resources so you can create your own knock out resume.  

Most people, write lousy resumes or curriculum vitae documentation, so this is your chance to really step up to demonstrate your value and to SHINE.

ADDRESS ALL EMPLOYER CONCERNS AT INTERVIEW

You hit the nail on the head, when you stated: employing me will need adjustments and they can always find someone who can do the job without adjustments”.

Your job is to make sure you alleviate ALL employers’ fears about your disability.

  • Will you end up costing them more?
  • Can you do the same or superior job compared to able-bodied people?
  • Will you take lots of sick days off?
  • Will you do tasks slower than others?

Go through a list of things you think this employer might be concerned about. When at interview, instead of waiting to be asked questions in relation to your disability, use the interview to address EACH and EVERY anticipated concern an employer might have about your disability, whether real or imaginary and address it directly in a calm, very positive and professional manner. Don’t be confrontational, defensive or unsure of yourself.

You not only have to demonstrate your real VALUE to an organisation, you have to make it clear that your disability is not an impediment with the right tools, as you have the skills, knowledge and right temperament and attitude to do a fabulous job and exceed their expectations.

The fact you have been interviewed, means you do have the right skills set. You need to hone your skills at interview and make sure all employers’ fears about you and your disability is alleviated, AND that you have successfully sold yourself (critical).

UNDERTAKE SOME DETAILED RESEARCH TO IDENTIFY THE RIGHT ORGANISATIONS TO TARGET

I would focus less on advertised jobs and go directly to decision makers within an organisation that are publically open to employing people with a disability.

I don’t have a list on hand, but while on The Australian Network on Disabilities, site, I noticed quite a comprehensive list of organisations including Westpac, IBM, Sparke Helmore Lawyers, McDonalds, Kmart, PwC, declaring their support for inclusion of people with a disability in all aspects of their business.

You can go further than this and research more generally with advanced Google tools to find out what companies are open to employing people with a disability. Then when you have this list of companies, you need to find out the names of those who can actually hire you and then write an introduction letter addressed to that person, so you get your resume in front of the right decision maker (and HR is not necessarily the right decision-maker, they are often just the gatekeeper).

This process is time consuming, but can be very effective. For more detail on how to use this tactic, go to my free report:  Online Job Boards, What no one tells you and the #1 Job Search Strategy

OPT OUT ALTOGETHER & BECOME SELF-EMPLOYED

New immigrants, minorities and women (in particular of color) often opt for self-employment, as opportunities are often not available to them. Many women view corporations today as being fundamentally flawed and limited in their value structures, so have started their own enterprise. New immigrants often have no choice but to start a small business, (as no one is giving them work).

As a person with a disability, you could perhaps explore entrepreneurship and small business as a way out of your dilemma. You might not see this as a solution, but people across the globe have started micro online businesses for only a few hundred dollars of initial capital, that have over several years flourished. As a women entrepreneur, I started out with a capital outlay of just $500 (which built a basic website).

This option puts you in control of your destiny. Since changes in the corporate culture are so slow, individuals need to push beyond the frontiers of what is possible. If you are online, you don’t need an office and so long as you are servicing the needs of your clients, your disability becomes irrelevant.

CONCLUSION

This was a tough one to give a definitive solution to, as there is no easy A – Z answer and guide. You will need to have resilience and guts, explore options and above all don’t give up. Good luck!

Leave a Reply