As we know, it’s twice as hard to find paid, sustainable work if you are disabled than if you are non-disabled, and even non-disabled people are finding it difficult it this climate! I’m Jane Hatton and I run Evenbreak, a not-for-profit job board which helps disabled people find work. Here are our top tips for finding work.
1. Identify your strengths
If you are trying to sell a car, you need to know the good points (features and benefits) of what you are selling. It’s the same if you are trying to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Think about all the skills, strengths, experience, knowledge, qualities and personality traits you have that would be attractive to an employer.
Try to tailor these to a specific job if you can, highlighting the most appropriate skills for that job first, so they can see that you have put time, effort and thought into your application.
2. Use your disability to show your skills
Being disabled could well be a positive when it comes to the job you’re applying for as you will have learnt extra skills. In order to navigate our way around a world not designed for us, we constantly have to develop skills like problem-solving, overcoming obstacles, creative thinking, innovation, persistence and determination. Or you may use assistive technology that makes you faster and more accurate than your colleagues. These can be attractive qualities to an employer.
3. Figure out how you can use those strengths
Think about how you could use those strengths if you had the right reasonable adjustments. What jobs could you do with your skill set and experience? There may be a number of different types of job you could apply for in different sectors.
4. Gain confidence in abilities
It’s important for you to have confidence in your skills and abilities, because if you don’t, why would a potential employer? There are many ways to increase your confidence – we offer free webinars on Evenbreak, for example.
5. Search far and wide for jobs
Employers advertise their roles in a number of different places – local newspapers, national newspapers, trade journals, Universal Jobmatch (Jobcentre Plus), job boards, magazines, recruitment agencies, job fairs and even the radio. You need to look in all of these places, but especially specific disability media like PosAbility Magazine, and specialist job boards like Evenbreak.
6. Be pro-active
As well as responding to job adverts that you see in any of the mediums above, it’s often worth approaching organisations you would like to work for and sending in a speculative CV. Make sure you then follow-up once a month or so with a quick email or telephone call to see if anything suitable has come up.
7. Use social media
Have a good profile on sites like LinkedIn, showcasing your skills and experience. Many recruiters now are actively out there looking for candidates on the web, rather than advertising their jobs. If you aren’t there, they can’t find you!
8. Emphasise your strengths
When writing CVs or application forms, focus on the strengths you have that mean you could do the job well. They are looking for the best candidate, and you need them to realise that is you. It may not be necessary to mention your impairment on your CV, especially if it doesn’t affect your work performance.
However, if they are looking for someone with a specific impairment (one of our employers is specifically trying to attract candidates on the Autism spectrum) or if they offer guaranteed interviews to disabled people, it may be worth mentioning.
9. Prepare for interviews
Make sure you take lots of examples with you about why you are the best person for the job. Talk about similar roles you’ve done before, even if in a voluntary capacity. If your impairment isn’t visible you may still decide not to mention it, but it will depend on the role and your background. Most importantly, make sure they know you have all the skills and qualities they are seeking for this job.
10. Allay their fears
Access to Work will provide you with a letter to a potential employer, detailing what reasonable adjustments you might need (if any) and explaining how they might pay some or all of the costs. This can reassure employers that you won’t need them to spend lots of money on you.
And a bonus tip – whenever you can, seek feedback if you are unsuccessful. Often they won’t give it, but if they do it can be useful to learn how to do better next time.
Good luck with your job search! It requires persistence and patience in this economic climate, but is well worth it when you finally get that dream job.
Visit Evenbreak’s jobs board to find the perfect job for you.
By Jane Hatton
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We’d love to hear your tips on looking for work and getting a job. Get in touch by messaging us on Facebook, tweeting us @DHorizons, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leaving your comments below.