Landing a good job is tough under the best of conditions, but when you struggle daily with a disability, it can seem like climbing Mount Everest backwards and blindfolded. Questions abound and answers are few. Should you talk about your disability during an interview? Pretend it doesn’t exist? While there are no perfect strategies for finding a job when you’re disabled, the following tips should put you in the best position possible.
Full Disclosure? Maybe…
In many instances, a disability is physical in nature and obvious to all. But others are less noticeable to the casual observer. The big question is what is the best time to reveal you have a disability, if at all? Unless the disability prevents you from performing tasks essential to the job you seek, there is no law that says you have to talk about it. The problem arises down the road, after you’ve been hired, when an employer becomes aware of it. Your lack of candor during the interview could cause resentment upon discovery.
In the event of an obvious physical disability, such as one involving a wheelchair, you will probably be better off to deal with it early in the interview and provide specific details to any accommodations that will be needed and how you plan to accomplish the particular tasks of the job.
Federal Government Positions
If you have a verified disability and aren’t pursuing federal jobs, you should be. In recent years the government has made a concerted effort to hire the disabled, preferring to move them from the Social Security disability rolls to the payroll. In many cases, having a disability moves you to the front of the applicant line. When you consider that government jobs can be found in almost any city and in any state, it makes sense to explore your options. A good place to start your quest is USAJobs.gov. There is an entire section devoted to helping individuals with a disability find gainful employment with dozens of government agencies who are actively trying to fill quotas. If you’re a disabled veteran, the odds are even better.
Regardless of whether you’re a newcomer to the disability “scene” or have been dealing with it your entire life, there’s a good chance your local VR (vocational rehabilitation) office might have something for you. What is VR? Here’s the short version. It’s a state-administered program that pays for training to help those who are unemployed and facing particular challenges brought on by a disability return to the world of work. While the requirements for income and disability vary from state to state, the general idea is to create an individualized program that includes a combination of education, job training, and skill development that help the disabled prepare for and find a career.
Don’t Overlook Telecommuting
The popularity of working from home is a trend that helps the disabled. These days, it’s not unusual to apply, interview, and get hired without ever physically being in the same room as your employer. A Gallup poll shows that 37 percent of workers have telecommuted at some point in their working lives. It’s no longer just a weird little thing that some people do but, rather, has become a legitimate part of the global economy. But how to go about landing one of these plum positions?
Almost every major employment search engine allows you to screen jobs by whether or not they include telecommuting. Some employers want local candidates that can come into the home office a few days a week but others don’t care if you work while swigging rum on a deserted South Pacific island. While particular skill sets are always in demand, some jobs - such as writer or virtual assistant - were made for the internet. Begin with popular job boards like Monster or Indeed, or just type “telecommuting jobs” into Google and start sifting through the results.
Keep in mind that EVERYONE wants this type of work, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to find success. It’s a numbers game. The more applications you submit, the closer you are to getting hired.
The Bottom Line
The bad news is, of course, that you have a disability, and that makes it harder to find a job. Sorry, that’s just the reality in today’s world. The good news is that there are more resources and avenues for help to the disabled than ever before. If you want to work, get out there and use them.
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