Work & Education

Work and disability: top tips for job hunting

As we launch our very own Disability Horizons jobs board, our volunteer Zubee talks about her experience of looking for a job as a disabled person, and gives her tips on how you too can build your skills to help find work.

My name is Zubee and my background is mainly in events co-ordinating and planning. I was on a temporary contract, which ended in May 2012, and I have since applied for numerous positions without success.

ParalympcisMy career has been varied; working in the hospitality industry, at a Hilton Hotel in Heathrow, for a number of charities and the local council. My disability shouldn’t make any difference when I apply for jobs, although sometimes I wonder if it does.

Looking for a job can be a lonely experience. I hired a coach to help develop my confidence and networks (take a look at our article on coaching to overcome barriers for more on this) as I don’t believe writing job applications is enough. I am always asking myself, what can I do differently?

CV writing

It may be obvious, but one of the first steps to getting a job is having a CV that sells you and your skills, and ideally stands out from the crowd. So it’s worth taking a look at some of these useful websites on CV writing:

Volunteer your time

Building your skill base and showing employers that you’re hard working can only be a good thing, no matter what the industry. So one of the best ways of gaining experience, making yourself more appealing to an employer and potentially getting your foot in the door is to volunteer. It’s also ideal if you want to try out a specific industry that you’ve not had experience of.

There are plenty of official work placements, internships, graduate programmes or voluntary posts out there, or you could assist by simply offering your skills and time on a more casual basis.

Once you have completed your volunteering or placement and an employer sees what you’re like, you will have a better chance of getting an opportunity to work for that organisation. You can also get a reference from future job applications from your manager or supervisor who supported through out your volunteering or placement.

Whilst out of work I have volunteered with two organisations: Disability Horizons and Deaf Unity, a charity supporting deaf people in the UK and worldwide.

At Deaf Unity I volunteered as an Educational Development Officer, which gave me invaluable insight into the deaf community that I had no idea about before.

I enjoy volunteering for Disability Horizons and feel that I have gained a lot of valuable skills and experience in commissioning content, writing articles, contacting and building positive relationships with people (including celebrities) and marketing a business using social media. The work the DH team do is fantastic, without them it would not be possible to run such a great magazine that inspires many disabled people with amazing articles and stories.

Both voluntary posts may not be totally aligned with what jobs I have been applying for, but all the skills – communication with others’, particularly those who have difficulty in doing so, writing and marketing – are transferable to almost any job.

Attend a course

Another great way to build your skills while looking for work is to take a course. If you have a specific job in mind, find out what skills they are looking for – there is no harm in ringing up the HR department to ask directly – and see what courses you can take to help improve your employability. The Open University is a good place to start as they offer the option of learning from home.

Remember, skills are often transferable and apply to many industries, so even if it’s not directly relevant, building on what you know in any sense is always good.

As well as choosing to take a course yourself, you may be able to get help though a placement or voluntary post. Whilst at Deaf Unity I worked towards gaining a qualification in British Sign Language at level 1. This gave me a great opportunity to practice my BSL skills on a 1 to 1 basis with the CEO of the organisation. My BSL skills will help me with communicating with deaf clients in the future.

Use resources to gain skills for any job

No matter what job you want to go into, or where you volunteer, speaking to those around you about job hunting and gaining experience will only go to strengthen your understanding of jab applications, so don’t be afraid to ask people for advice on:

  • Writing a supporting statement against the person specification
  • Knowing where and how to look for work, particularly for specific industries
  • How to register for job alerts
  • Having a good CV that would appeal to employers
  • How to communicate with employers
  • How to network and get known by potential employers
  • Using social media as a job hunting too

Self employment

It’s been a long time now that I’ve been out of work, and I feel it’s time to consider self employment as an option. Setting up a business and doing it alone is a scary thought , especially if you don’t know where to start.

It was actually my coach who suggested self employment, giving me the idea of becoming an Events Management Consultant. The first step was to look for a suitable business start up course, which I found at the Prince’s Trust. It has a great Enterprise Programme to help anyone hoping to start up their own business, from help writing a business plan to applying for a loan.

Now that I have completed the course I want to give self-employment a go, but I know it will be a long and hard working process. I have kept my options open and have still been applying for jobs as well as working on the process of starting up my business.

It’s a difficult decision because if I find a full-time job I will no longer be able to continue working on my business idea as I won’t have the time. However, I could do a part time job for 16 hours or less, it’s just a case of trying to find something suitable.

What self employment means for a disabled person

For me, being self employed would mean feeling very proud that I had achieved something for myself. It will give me the flexibility and independence of working on something I had set up through hard work and determination to succeed. But there are always pros and cons that you must consider for yourself:

Pros of self employment

  • Flexibility with your own hours.
  • Independence and freedom to try out new ideas.
  • Increased job satisfaction.
  • Ability to make your own decisions.

Cons of self employment

  • Money worries – you may have to go a few months without having any earnings as you start the business process.
  • Responsibility for the running costs of the business.
  • Lack of free time if you’re working everyday selling your product or service, on top of that doing your own administration as well.
  • None of the benefits that you get from being employed, such as sick pay and paid leave.

The business idea and request for feedback

Feedback is key with any business as it will help to ensure your idea really fulfills the needs of your customers. So I would like to share my business idea with you all so that I can shape it to be the best it possibly can.

I plan to become an Events Management Consultant. It will work as an advisory service using Skype or the phone, for disabled and non–disabled individuals and businesses looking to put on fundraising, entertainment, corporate or networking events.

In addition to that, and this is the very unique element, I will provide advice on accessibility to ensure event holders cater for everyone’s needs. For example, if a deaf person wanted to attend an information day, the organiser may wonder how they would be able to participate. This is the key question I will help people answer.

I have done some research and currently event management companies don’t provide information on making events accessible and I want to be unique from my competitors.

The benefit of my service

  • It will be tailored to the clients needs.
  • I have experience of disability myself.
  • I have background of organising and planning accessible events.

I have setup a Facebook and Twitter page to get your feedback on the idea, which you can access using these details below. I will leave regular updates on the progress and developments of my business start up journey on there as well.

I’d be really grateful if you could leave your feedback based on these questions below:

  • What do you think of my business idea?
  • Have you been to an event before?
  • What was your experience like?
  • What else do you think would help my business idea work for you to get the best possible service?
  • What do you think of my business name as being ZK Event Management Consultancy? I’m open to suggestions.
  • What information would you like to see on my website?
  • Please add any other suggestions or comments that you may have

Times are hard when it comes to finding a job, but there are things you can do, you just need a little determination and imagination. So I hope my tips and advice will help you find work, or at the very least voluntary work that builds your skills or a genius business idea to propel you to success.

Do get in touch with Disability Horizons if you are interested in volunteering – we’ve become a big friendly family who would welcome you in warmly!

Good luck!

By Zubee Kibria

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Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any feedback – our ears are always open! Get in touch by emailing us at, tweeting us at @DHorizons or messaging us on Facebook.

Zubee Kibria

I am a multi-skilled and motivated individual with a passion for inclusion and diversity having worked in the field of disability and equality for many years. I have over 10 years experience in media relations with a proven track record of commissioning articles with high-profile celebrities, bloggers and influencers. Engaging with celebrities is a particular skill I have and I am exceptionally creative at finding angles to interest them.

One Comment

  1. Here are my answers to your article Zubee!

    What do you think of my business idea?

    Answer: I think your business idea sounds fantastic as you will be the best person to think up and help manage events to either make them successful and acccessible to all not just disabled clients.

    Have you been to an event before?
    Answer: Yes I have been to loads of events ranging from the Disability Confident conference which was hosted by Esther McVey to Chickenshed’s ITV studios event which they had a charity fundraising event where they performed in front of the public and celebrities in a star studded way and smaller ones like the Disability Horizons summit which I most enjoyed and had a laugh with video blogging.

    What was your experience like?

    Answer: I loved the large corporate events like the ITV event and the disability conference as they taught me a lot about what they were trying to promote and how and events are my thing where I love presenting at events and would possibly consider event management myself some day.

    What else do you think would help my business idea work for you to get the best possible service?

    Answer: Learning the best out of event management and PR skills.

    What do you think of my business name as being ZK Event Management

    Answer: Great name although better check that you can register that name as other businesses may have it instead.

    I’m open to suggestions. What information would you like to see on my website?

    Answer: How you can set up events, venues , best places and blogs , and where people found the best events, and their experiences of going to them.

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