Copywriter, Digital Asset Manager, Business Analyst
Disabilities can, of course, take many forms. They can be obvious or invisible, certain in their impact or uncertain. While there are obvious differences between disabilities and the impact that they can have, this article isn’t intended to give specific advice for every disability. Instead, it’s intended to raise and discuss certain points that may or may not apply to you or the disabled people you employ, or otherwise work with. It is also for people wondering how to get a job with a disability.
And for the sake of clarity, yes. I’m disabled, too. I’m autistic.
The first, most important step in how to get a job with a disability is understanding yourself and the nature of your disability. If nothing else, it’s going to be incredibly beneficial for you as an individual throughout your life. Even if you’ve gone through the process of diagnosis, and the nature of your disability is clear, you might have noticed subtle differences in the way your disability is expressed versus someone else who lives with the same disability.
Understanding your triggers is going to make it much easier for you to manage yourself, your workload and your own life. So as your search for jobs for people with disabilities, identifying your triggers will help you decide whether the nature of a job is for you or not. Also, it means that, when it’s time for you to communicate when you’ll need any support, you’ll be able to communicate that clearly.
How to get a job with a disability
We’re no different from anyone else in that we still need to consider what roles we’re currently a good match for based on our experience and skills, whether specific or transferrable. There’s no need to limit ourselves. However, it’s more effective to make one targeted application than ten scattergun applications.
If you haven’t prepared a resumé or CV yet, now’s the time to start. You can find lots of templates online, but if you’re working from scratch, here’s some advice:
- Present key information clearly.
- Don’t forget your name, contact details, employment history, headline education, references from previous employers.
- Keep the CV no more than two or three pages long.
- Don’t stylize – Style can be distracting, and you need to focus on connecting your skills to the role.
- Don’t use columns because this can cause issues for HR Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
- Be prepared to get specific.
- Have general resumé or CV template that you can adapt and work from to make it more applicable for specific roles.
- Connect the dots for recruiters so that they don’t even have to imagine how you could be good for this role.
With a resume or CV that captures this information clearly, you then have a coherent picture of how your career has developed and the experience you have.
Career change options
Figuring out how to get a job with a disability can already be challenging enough when you are in your career field, so deciding to make a career change can be nerve-racking. If you’re considering changing careers, then the options can seem overwhelming.
There are companies that specifically present jobs for people with disabilities, but you might need to do more filtering. For example, the autism campaigner, Temple Grandin, once listed out a series of careers that could be good for autistic people. Do campaigners or national associations for your disability have such lists? Those could be a useful starting point. As you read it, try noting anything that sparks your interest. Then, take the list you’ve created and give each profession a ranking- something simple such as 1, 2, or 3 will do.
As you do this, consider to what extent your disability will have the potential to act as a benefit in your field. For example, if your disability supports your analytical capabilities, then that could work to your benefit.
Also, consider to what extent the work can be done remotely. Sometimes a disability can physically make going into to work hard. Even if our disability normally means that we can get into the office, we’re going to have bad days. To do this, you can utilize internet searches, but it would also be beneficial to join profession groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. There you can get a glimpse of people already working in that profession, and ask a few questions.
Can you reframe your existing skills?
You’ll have a range of options before you. Understand which ones interest you the most, and you can begin exploring which requires the least retraining. After all, if you can reframe your existing skills to convince recruiters of their applicability in your new career, then that’ll be a low friction approach.
If retraining will be required, then consider:
- How much will it cost?
- Where will it be?
- How long will it take?
- What’s the competition for education places like?
- What are your employment chances realistically likely going to be afterwards?
- What flexibility does your field offer?
What support is available?
Are there national associations or groups for your disability? If so, they’re likely to have resources such as support for retraining or return-to-the-office training. If the support is going to help you move forward, don’t be too proud to take advantage. Consider every resource because retraining is challenging for anyone.
When you find a great resource, try to go in for an open day. If that’s not possible, try to schedule a call with a representative from the department so you can get a practical understanding of the program, especially if there will be work placement opportunities.
Lastly, if you are interested getting into a training or educational program, get in touch with the school’s disability services to understand the support they can provide. For example, if you have to go back to school, will you get extensions to assignments? Are there any grants or scholarships available? Don’t forget to check out what’s available through the local university, local or national government. Taking off some financial pressure will be a big deal.
You can’t give a guide on how to get a job with a disability without talking about disclosure. Once you start to apply for jobs, you’ll have to consider disclosure in applications and interviews. If your disability is visible or otherwise obvious, then this is easy to resolve. However, it can be more difficult to decide if your disability is invisible.
The best place to start is going to be those resource websites for your disability. They’ll be able to offer guidance on what is or isn’t required under the law. In the absence of such advice, if your disability will require your employer to accommodate you, then it’s sensible to tell them. If the application form asks, it doesn’t make sense to lie about it. If they’re asking, they’re probably willing to make accommodations for you.
As you move through the interview process, make sure you NEVER connect your disability to weakness. You’ve been invited for an interview, so you’ve already made it past the first hurdle. Take that confidence and run with it.
The whole journey
The whole employment process can be stressful. Some days, even the preparation for assessing future career prospects, education or interviews can get on top of you. We all know, though, that we’re going to have bad days. If your energy is at a low ebb, then rather than trying to do something that requires intensive mental process, do something routine instead. Equally, if you’re having a good day, think about how you can best use that energy that day. Maybe tackle more intensive tasks.
We have unique challenges in making these kinds of changes, but the change is still there to be made. Whether we’re disabled or not, we have a journey to go on. It’s just we need to pack a few extra things before we set off.
Companies with jobs for people with disabilities: