I am a job seeker with learning and mental health disabilities who is looking for work in administration. I’m having a very hard time getting another job in my field. I am comfortable disclosing as well. Can you advise me on how to get a job?
Signed: Able and Willing (AW)
Disabilities advocate, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectabilityUSA offers some excellent advice in her Huffington Post article 10 Tips to Enable People with Disabilities to Get Jobs. To address your question, I have revised her piece in accordance with my own experiences as a job developer/job coach with people with disabilities and barriers over the past 11 years:
1. Do not look for work alone.
Connect with a supported employment program or service. There are lots around the city. JVS Toronto offers such programs. You can also start with meeting an employment counsellor at an Employment Ontario Centre who will know the best community resources for you to help you get and keep a job.
If you live in Ontario and are eligible to receive supports from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), consider asking about their Employment Supports which could link you up to a suitable program in your area.
2. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Be ready to ask your employment counsellor/job developer/job coach to help you prepare for paid employment in an integrated work environment. Your goal should be the opportunities for full time work in an integrated workplace where the pay is at least the minimum wage.
3. Be proud and loud in telling people you want to work.
Laszlo Mizrahi suggests that this is no time to be shy. She adds that most job seekers with disabilities “sit quietly on couches, with 10 million people [US stats] living in a cycle of dependency that undermines opportunity and hope.”
While you look for work, and even when you are hired, I recommend that you volunteer in your field. It’s important to keep active and busy, and avoid being isolated. And it doesn’t hurt to get another reference. Sometimes, volunteering leads to paid employment!
Ask members of your faith or other communities to help you find opportunities to make a difference and to build skills and experiences that will help you build your resume as well as keep it current.
5. Know your own disability.
Know the issues that impact you and all people with disabilities. Know what accommodations you require, and be able to describe your your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself. Don’t dwell in that “pity pot.”
Use today’s technology to help you. For example, explains the blogger, a non-verbal person on the Autism spectrum can speak clearly through assisted technologies. The breakthroughs due to science, education, medicine and rehab are transformative. Individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities have demonstrated unique and profitable ways to contribute to the workplace.
6. Never give up.
You have plenty of skills, experience and accomplishments your work history. You should feel proud. And you need to understand that the labour market is complex. Keep building your professional network using social media, attending events in your field and be busy as possible.