This piece was originally commissioned by Debut Insights: see the original post here!
Let’s be honest, the education system wasn’t built with disabled people in mind. That said, every year countless disabled students graduate and embark on successful careers in the industry of their choice. Nearing the completion of your studies and thinking about work can feel overwhelming. So, here are some tips to help get you started.
Make a list of reasonable adjustments
It’s tempting to go bulldozing headfirst into job applications. But before you do, take some time to really think ahead about what you need in order to thrive. Sit down with a pen and paper and a cup of tea, and think about your daily routine. Are there specific things you do or need that should be accommodated in the workplace too? Reasonable adjustments of this kind are agreed-upon commitments between an employer and employee. They are made to ensure that the environment and role is as accessible to a disabled worker as it is to a non-disabled worker.
Often people have aids and adjustments so well implemented in their lives that it can be easy to forget them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make a point of listing them in advance before communicating them to potential employers. Things to think about can include transport to and from work, specialist equipment for daily tasks, adjusting hours and working patterns to suit any health needs, and training and support for those you work with.
Think about your skills and talents in advance
Similarly, finding work relevant to your interests and skills is just as important as finding opportunities suitable for your health. There’s no need to compromise one for the other. Use your past experiences to familiarise yourself with your experience and personal development. It may be helpful to make a note of these skills too, for easy reference once you’re making applications.
For some extra assistance with this, the National Careers Service offer a free and accessible online ‘Skills Health Check’ to help you identify your talents and potential areas of interest. It may also be worth completing the aptitude tests on the Debut app: gaining insight into your strengths in areas such as verbal reasoning and concentration could make for a stronger portfolio.
Look for disability confident employers
Now that you’re ready to begin job hunting, identifying organisations with the Disability Confident logo displayed on their site could be beneficial. The accreditation indicates that these employers have undergone specialist training in removing barriers to work. It also demonstrates a deeper understanding of the issues that disabled employees may face.
There are three levels of the scheme. An award at any level indicates an increased understanding and ability to accommodate employees with disabilities or long-term conditions. Not having this accreditation isn’t an excuse for other organisations not to be accessible, and it shouldn’t dictate your decisions. But knowing that somewhere is prepared to ensure that your needs are met could give you that all important peace of mind.
Talk to a learning advisor
As well as providing the most hectic years of your life, one of the goals of university should be to ensure students are ready to enter the world of work. Therefore, it’s only right that you make use of your university’s own support services.
You may have had a disability learning advisor throughout your studies. They will have knowledge in pointing others towards accessible employment, so booking in some time to chat could be worthwhile. It could just as beneficial to talk to other academics you’ve met, including supervisors or module leaders. If you have a specific area of interest, make yourself known to the staff associated with it. Making contacts and knowing somebody who can put in a good word for you could be the difference between securing an interview and missing out altogether.
Consider specialist resources/ programmes
It can be frustrating working your way through job listings without spotting opportunities suitable for you. That’s why it’s worth using specialist resources throughout your job hunting too.
Platforms such as EmployAbility and EvenBreak aim to connect disabled jobseekers with suitable opportunities with reputable employers. Or, if you want to learn more about the recruitment process and how you can maximise your chances of being successful, the disability charity Scope offer a Support to Work programme: providing specialist online mentoring over the course of 12 weeks.
Utilise networking: be it physical or online
The traditional concept of networking events implies individuals standing around in a vast, empty room, jovially making remarks about the weather whilst covertly trying to market themselves as a valuable employee. And as beneficial as it can be to attend events in person, we’re at a point in time where online networking can be just as fruitful and accessible to many jobseekers.
Having an online presence can give rise to more opportunities than you could imagine. Be it as a blogger or social media guru, or simply by maintaining a strong LinkedIn profile. We live in a time where your Instagram profile can evolve from being photos of your cat to a showcase of your skills for future employers: be sure to use that to your advantage!
Gone are the days when people incorrectly assume that disabled workers are automatically less competent in the workplace. Having a disability shouldn’t mean you should have to compromise in any walk of life, particularly in your aspirations.
Work hard, keep gaining experience, ensure you have the adjustments and support you’re entitled to, and show people all that you have to offer. Your career starts here: what would you like to achieve?
If you liked this post, you may also be interested in my guide to finding accessible work with a chronic illness!