Mel working on her newfound passion for cooking

My tips for your employment journey

24 June 2020

Lots of people are looking for work or worried about their jobs as a result of the economic downturn due to Coronavirus.

I think the downturn will impact people with disability particularly hard. That’s because there is still so much stigma in the world of employment for people with a disability.

I remember going for a job interview a few years ago where the interview panel were concerned that I wouldn’t be able to manage the position. Although they didn’t say it directly, the people on the panel seemed to be worried that my disability would impact my ability to do the job.

Even though I was well qualified, I felt I had to work extra hard to convince the panel I was right for the job.

Getting and keeping a job can be challenging enough, regardless of disability. Here are some things that have helped me on my employment journey.

Address the ‘elephant in the room’

Some interviewers might avoid talking about your disability – your disability can become the ‘elephant in the room’ at a job interview.

In my experience it’s a good idea to address the elephant in the room. This can reduce anxiety for employers and yourself.

In my case, the elephant in the room is that I have obvious support needs, so I make a point of bringing it up at an interview. This lets employers know that this is something that I’m very well aware of and able to manage.

Put your best self forward

In this current climate, where everything is so different to the usual state of things, it is extra useful to think about your skills and how you might present these to an employer.

I try to keep the list of things I need from an employer short, and the list of things I can offer longer. This way having me as part of the team can feel more achievable and a benefit, not a cost.

Think outside the box

What do you enjoy? Have you learnt some new skills during this period of isolation?

Think about jobs where you can use your new skill or interest.

For example, I didn’t realise before the Coronavirus lockdown that I actually have an interest in cooking. I wouldn’t be applying for a job as a chef, but if I was looking for some new employment opportunities, I might consider writing for a food blog.

Go with your strengths

Think about what your strengths are. Think about looking for types of jobs where your skills and strengths are highlighted more than your disability.

In my experience, a good job has been one where I’ve felt like I’ve thrived and made a positive difference to my employer and workmates.

I have found that a genuinely inclusive employer is one that’s willing to look past my disability, but also is willing to make minor accommodations where needed.

Work is so important. We all need a good reason to get out of bed each day. Having a genuinely inclusive employer and a job we enjoy can give us not only financial stability, but also mental well being.

About Melanie

Melanie Schlaeger is a casual Project Officer at Council for Intellectual Disability. She runs More Than Just a Job workshops that help people with intellectual disability find and keep a job they enjoy. To find out more contact us on 1800 424 065.

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