Embarking on a job search can be both exhilarating but also nerve-wracking. The possibilities of your career goals are endless, and the most exciting part of the experience is thinking about what you want to do, who you want to be, and where you want to go.
The average age of people entering employment is between 15 to 18 years old. So it makes sense that people with disability also look at their employment opportunities.
The latest National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) quarterly report (page 142) shares that only 21% of NDIS participants surveyed over the age of 25 have a paid job, and that rate is in decline.
If you’re at the beginning of your employment journey or trying to figure out what to do next, then you’ve come to the right place.
We know it can be difficult to put yourself out there to an employer, but, the good news is that more and more companies, like Microsoft, Google, DELL, and SAP, are leading the way forward by pledging to widen their diversity hiring and create a more inclusive environment.
These 7 tips can help make job searching less tedious and make sure you are in the spotlight—not your disability.
It’s important to remember that everybody’s employment journey is unique, and you may need tailored support to find a job that’s right for you.
7 job seeking tips for people with disability
1. Highlight your skills and abilities
Start by focussing on your abilities and the skill set you bring to a role. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I good at?
- What skills and experience do I have?
- What jobs would best suit me?
- Can I get any support or training through a disability service provider?
- What voluntary work or work experience can I do to prepare for employment?
Being successful in a new job starts with finding a position that suits your interests and knowledge so that you can start your role with confidence. Your skills and strengths are what make you unique - this could be your personality, your hobbies, or your work ethic.
If you see your disability as a barrier to employment, try reframing that mindset with, “I may be living with disability but I also have many abilities that employers will value.” Having a disability has already developed many employable skills in you, for example, creative problem solving or flexibility and adaptability.
A Disability Employment Services provider can assist you with identifying your skills and abilities and even help you build your resume and cover letter.
2. Prepare your resume and cover letter
When you have worked through the options and decided what kind of job you would like, you can start applying. You’ll need to prepare two things - a resume (also known as a Curriculum Vitae or CV) and a cover letter. The cover letter you write tells the hiring manager a bit about yourself and why you’re the right person for the role. If you’ve never written a resume before, take a look at Google’s resume builder as a starting point, and adapt from there.
3. Stay positive during your job search
Getting hired for the first job you apply for doesn't happen very often, so prepare yourself that it may take some time. Job seeking and job rejections can be a hit to your confidence but remember to believe in yourself and your skills and abilities.
Don’t give up and make sure you are surrounded by people who cheer you on. Here are some ways to stay positive during this time:
- Find ways to maintain motivation. Remember why you began searching for a job and create a vision board or a list of reasons.
- Allocate a certain time of the day to search for and apply for jobs. This way you won’t lose motivation. It will also help develop your time management skills for when you eventually find work - a great skill to include in your resume.
- Make a gratitude jar. Every day write something (big or small) that you are grateful for and put it in an empty jar. On a day that you don’t have the motivation, just go to your jar and read one of your messages.
- Be kind to yourself and treat rejection as a learning experience for what you can do better next time.
4. Learn from your experiences
This one is pretty important. Every time you submit your application or have an interview is another chance to practice your skills and build up your confidence, and it will bring you one step closer to finding the right job.
You’ve heard the saying “practice makes perfect”, well that’s true. If you practice answering interview questions, you’ll feel more confident when it comes to the real thing.
You should also take the time to ask the hiring manager for feedback after the interview process. Doing this will tell you how to improve in the next interview you attend.
5. Plan for your long-term employment goal
Just like your NDIS goals change, so do your employment goals. Many people choose to volunteer or get unpaid work experience to get a taste of what the job is like. While you aren’t committed to set hours, volunteering might help you get into the routine of working.
If volunteering isn’t right for you, try doing some online courses or register to go to Tafe. If you have an employment coach or a support coordinator, they will be able to support you to find and apply for the course you’re interested in completing.
6. Know where to look for work
Job hunting can be difficult, but there are a number of resources available that will help make it easier.
Job search websites
Disability service providers
There are a number of disability services that support people with disabilities to find the right job. These services help you through the whole employment process, or just the parts you choose, like preparing for an interview, job training opportunities, or further study.
Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE) are a great way to gain employment skills that align with your NDIS goals. You’ll also have access to ongoing coaching and daily support. These employment opportunities are offered to people with disabilities who have NDIS funding for either:
- Core - Assistance with Social, Economic and Community Participation - Supports in Employment, Specialised Supported Employment, or
- Capacity Building - Finding and Keeping a Job - Supports in Employment, Specialised Supported Employment.
Disability Employment Services (DES) provides support to job seekers with disability, injury, or a health condition to:
- get ready to work
- train in specific job skills
- write your resumé
- interview prep
- look for jobs that suit you.
- JobAccess is a Government-funded tool to support people with disability to find and keep a job.
- Recruitability is a scheme run by the Australian Government designed to encourage the employment of people with disability in the Australian Public Service (APS). The program allows applicants the opportunity to automatically progress to the next stage of the recruitment process as long as they meet all eligibility and minimum requirements.
7. Outline your requirements for your work environment
Be transparent with your potential employer about the workplace modifications you might require for working efficiently. These modifications might be having a standing desk, screen-reading software, remote working, or flexible working opportunities.
Not quite ready to work but want to in the future?
If you’ve been looking for your first job for a while, planning to work can feel like a big step. This might be a good time to talk to your Support Coordinator, Local Area Coordinator (LAC) or NDIA Planner about some steps you can take towards your employment goals. Take a look at the support you can receive to find and keep a job.
Meeting new people for the first time and a change in your routine is difficult for a lot of people, and you might be anxious for your first interview, or even your first day. Read our blog on how you can build your confidence.