As hiring freezes expand and layoffs continue, jobs for people with disabilities are scarce. If you’re on the hunt for work, there are a number of things you can do to increase your chance of landing a job.
1. Network, Network Network
One of the biggest misconceptions of jobseekers is that the job process starts by perusing the classifieds. It doesn’t. Over 80 percent of vacancies are filled without advertising, which means that many employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities fly under the radar. So, how do you penetrate the hidden job market? Talk to friends, family members and co-workers and inquire if they know of anyone who works in your desired industry.
2. Schedule an Informational Interview
If you locate a company you’d like to work for, ask if you can schedule an informational interview with an employee or manager. Use this opportunity as a learning exercise to find out about the company and its operating philosophy, structure and strategy. If you’re able to speak with a current employee, ask them what they like about the job and what they don’t like. If you speak with a manager, inquire about their current needs. If there’s an open position you’re interested in, ask to submit a cover letter and resume to the hiring manager. However, be careful not to be too pushy. “Job seeking is like dating,” said Goodwill Job Connections Coordinator Anne Guthrie. “You can’t build a relationship by giving them everything at once.”
3. Focus On Your Strengths, Not Your Disability
Never think in terms of what “disability jobs” you’re qualified for. In many circumstances, your disability is either barely relevant or not relevant at all. Start the conversation by emphasizing the skills that you have and only mention your disability if it will significantly inhibit you or if they are actively looking to increase their employees with disabilities.
Never disclose your disability until it’s necessary to do so. Unfortunately, many employers may hesitate to move along in the hiring process if you inform them early on that you have a disability. However, once they see that you have the skills and experience to be a competent and successful employee, they will feel more comfortable hiring you and making accommodations. Lastly, if you do disclose your disability, remind employers that by hiring you they may receive a tax credit from the Federal Work Opportunity Credit.
4. Cast a Wide Net. Be Flexible to Multiple Industries
A common mistake many job applicants make during the search process is sticking to a few industries. Many skills–such as customer service, equipment operation, organizational techniques and more–are transferable across industries. By casting a wider net, people with disabilities have a much better chance of finding employment.
5. Show Your Passion
Most job counselors agree that the most important ingredient to finding a job is passion and dedication. Be prompt and courteous with potential employers, make sure to send follow up letters and thank you notes and also appear enthusiastic. One strategy for breaking into an industry is to find a way to do some volunteer work. This will show potential employers that you’re a passionate worker who’s truly invested in their industry.
Yes, today’s job market may not be the friendliest to employment for people with disabilities. However, if you are active, determined and enthusiastic, your disability shouldn’t stand in the way of scoring a great job.