Job-hunting tips for people with disability
Posted October 13, 2011, by Andrea Riddell
Finding your dream job can be a difficult task, and nailing the job interview can be even harder. This process is more daunting still for those with a disability. Misconceptions and a lack of awareness can mean you’re not even perceived as a viable candidate for the job.
When you’re looking for a new job, being aware of your rights and keeping a positive attitude will help you to find the ideal position. It pays to be persistent, as working can allow you to utilise your skills and talents, gain financial independence, meet new people, and importantly, help you gain confidence and self-esteem.
Know your capabilities
Understanding exactly how your disability affects you will help you to know exactly what kind of support and adjustments you require. Knowing what you need and want out of an employer will help you to be realistic about your abilities.
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Write a list of all the possible tasks and positions that will fit your unique abilities. Think about your ideal working hours, work environment and colleagues. Understanding your disability will help you identify what kind of workplace you would be best suited to.
Know your rights
As a person with a disability you have no legal obligation to inform your employer about your disability unless it affects your ability to do the job safely. It is considered discrimination for employers not to hire you on the grounds that you have a disability. However, if your disability stops you from performing tasks that are inherent to the position, then you may be deemed unsuitable for the role.
An employer is obliged to undertake any necessary adjustments to the workplace and workplace practices in order to accommodate your disability. This could be anything from rearranging the layout of your workstation to changing your starting and finishing times.
Understand the position and the company
Research the company and their vision. You want an employer who is an advocate for workplace diversity and ‘disability confident’. Try to ascertain whether the employer has a workplace disability policy. Find out exactly what the essential tasks of the position are. Find out about its location. Finding out these facts will help you gauge how you will fit into the company. You will be able to determine whether you will be able to fill the role without any interference from your disability.
Researching any potential employer is an important step in the job-hunting process for anyone with or without disability. Knowing how you can specifically benefit the business will definitely impress any prospective employer.
There are many organisations dedicated to matching people with disability to a suitable employer.
Organisations such as The Australian Network on Disability (AND) and Disability WORKS Australia (DWA) provide helpful information and help employers recruit people with disability.
The Federal Government Job Access site (www.jobaccess.gov.au) has a wealth of information as well as free help services.
Utilise any of the support services that are available to you. Many organisations will help to match you with a job that is suitable and an employer who is compassionate.
Exude a positive attitude
Radiating a positive attitude during the job-hunting process will help employers see that your disability is not a disadvantage to your work ability and ethic. In fact, you can use your experience of living with disability to demonstrate your resourcefulness, positivity and strength of character.
As the Australian Network on Disability says, ‘be confident in your ability as you represent a significant talent pool from which employers draw their potential employees. The best employers want to have a workforce which is diverse and which reflects the diverse communities in which they operate.’
Don’t give up
If you’re returning to the workplace after a long hiatus, consider studying a new course to update your skills and regain your confidence. Many universities offer distance education courses, which allow you to study in the comfort of your own home.
If you’re finding it hard to gain employment, look around for work experience or volunteer positions. These can give you valuable hands-on experience and allow you to network with employers.
Finding a job is difficult even for people without disability. Even though each rejection may feel like a personal blow, it’s important to keep your head and your spirits up.