I’ve stumbled across many challenges in the modern business world when searching for a job that is a good fit and utilizes my qualifications while considering my disability. In a competitive job market, education seems to be one of the immediate factors in determining the odds of consideration. With lots of applicants and the increasing workload on employees, time is of essence when considering applicants.
Aside from education, I believe a proper resume and self-presentation bears considerable persuasion on prospective employers. Resume standards are changing constantly, I have found most recently in aiding a few in their job search that the format and structure of a resume must suit the audience. As a result, we created two resumes for my each candidate. One reflecting traditional and the other reflecting modern formatting.
And let’s be honest, folks, discrimination exists still in many parts of this country. Yes, the ADA has fought hard for equal treatment when we have a disability. But yes, there are still a million ways that companies can and do work around this. I have done interviews where I was rejected only to be told later that it was because “you will make our employer’s health insurance costs increase” or “it’s just too great a liability to employ some people.” I’ve been written up for not following the proper business code of holding the handrail on stairs (which caused me quite a headache fighting this and proving I cannot use crutches and handrails at the same time, and oh yeah, why isn’t there an elevator in that building?), and written up for being scared of falling in the snow and therefore asking to leave work early. But there are things that you can do when being hired that will at least prevent some of the discrimination up front.
You control the interview process and it is always wise to submit resumes online when possible and seek for video-conference interviews to “save time” for everyone. Phone interviews work as well, but the main point here is taking the bull by the horns and insisting that your resume and qualifications be judged on just those things, not your disability. Moving on from this, I have other practical skills to share as well!
Self-identifying skills and qualifications is difficult for most people. Understanding and using the correct terminology, skill descriptions, keywords, and trends of the company or market for which you are applying is no longer an option but a necessity. If there is a specific company that you wish to apply for, research them. Pay particular attention to the values, mission, and vision statements of the company. There are keywords in these statements that will help you tailor your resume and interview process. Business size, history, age, culture, and marketing are other areas to research. Again, consider the audience when creating your resume to show you have the skills and pay attention to details. Hiring managers recognize when a candidate has researched and reflected that in their resume, and often this is valued to demonstrate commitment and work ethic.
In the interview stage the question is not, “will I receive a job offer?” (in most cases), but “will employment here enrich my life and the company’s objectives?” Enter an interview prepared with questions of your own, you are also interviewing the company! Other things that help in interviews: professionalism and disposition go a long way and real life experience is valuable. In a recent case-in-point of assisting the job search of others, the hiring manager told the candidate that they now seek out experience more than education in that particular field work after a few near-disasters where educated employees had none of the experience that was critical to safety. So be confident and highlight your experience!
I recommend seeking a friend or associate that knows a bit about the business world but not necessarily your field of expertise to consult with. A reliable person like this can go over your resume, ask you questions, and improve your list of hard and soft skills in a presentable way. If this person does not know the specifics of your expertise, the questions that they ask will highlight skills that are second-nature to you but not others. This is a way to gain valuable insight and evaluation before submitting your resume and with it the first impression.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is the ability to remain flexible and willing to do what it takes. “Get your foot in the door,” so to speak, by considering a minor position from which you can display your skills and transition to the job you want the most later. My Grandfather came to the States from Puerto Rico at a time when racism ruled and no one wanted to hire him. My mom remembers him walking from shop door to shop door in the rain, doing whatever jobs people would give him for an hour or a day, determined to make his way and feed his family without assistance. Because of the look in my mom’s as she would remember this, I will always remember my Grandfather’s words, “There IS a job… but you have to get up out the chair and go try.”