Most job seekers look for work that suits their skills and abilities. If you have a disability, finding work is usually no different. You highlight your strengths and hope they match what the employer needs. But you may have extra things to think about.
More employers are learning to look for workers with the skills to do a job, without focusing on an unrelated disability. But some may still be cautious about hiring people with disabilities. You may need to learn how to encourage employers to look past their beliefs and see you as a strength to their business. As many employers are learning, hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense.
Know how to market yourself
You may have similar skills, experience, and accomplishments as other candidates. But you may offer other benefits as well. Ask yourself if the following examples apply to you. You can add them to your resumé and cover letter or mention them in an interview.
- Best practices—When employers hire people with disabilities, they often provide improvements that help everyone. For example, installing automatic doors makes it easier for everyone to enter the building.
- Client and employee relations—You may have the experience and skills to deal with customers and other employees who face challenges in mobility, learning, work style, or communication.
- Good reputation—You may help to establish a more positive public image for an employer who embraces diversity.
- Problem-solving skills—You probably have lots of experience solving problems and rising to challenges.
- Untapped talent—When employers hire people with disabilities, they may solve their own labour problems and develop an advantage over competitors who don’t, particularly during labour shortages.
Knowing your strengths is the first part of finding a job. Like other job seekers, you need to:
- Know the kind of job you want
- Know how to present your accomplishments to an employer
- Keep your resumé and cover letter up to date
Also think about how you’ll respond to different interview questions related to your disability. Have a plan for what you want to say about your disability and when to say it.
Find the right employers
Once you’ve learned how to find work, you’ll want to search for employers who reflect your values and offer jobs that match your skills. Here’s how:
- Research employers you would like to work for, including those suggested by your network. Look for employers with a history of hiring a diverse workforce and people with disabilities.
- Keep a list of organizations that identify themselves as equal opportunity employers. Even if they don’t currently have jobs you may be qualified for, you could ask for an informational interview. This type of interview can expand your network and give you useful details.
- Target employers, such as the federal government, that must follow employment equity laws. Use this list of federally regulated private sector employers, Crown corporations, and federal organizations.
- Contact agencies that provide work search services for job seekers with disabilities.
- Check out WORKink, a site designed to help people with disabilities find work.
When you’re looking for a good job fit, stay open to options. Understand what workplace accommodations might be possible. If you and a potential employer are flexible, you might find an approach that works well for both of you. Examples include:
- Modified or reduced work hours, including part-time work, job-sharing, and other alternatives to traditional employment
- The option to work from home
- Job redesign or job carving, such as trading off tasks with other employees or creating a new position from tasks currently assigned to other positions
If you have the knowledge, skills, and drive, you may be able to create your own business. Visit the Any Career website to learn about employment and self-employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
If your disability is recent or if past attempts to find work have left you feeling negative about your career, you may need to reframe the way you think of yourself. For example, you may say to yourself, “Nobody wants to hire me because I have a disability.” You can reframe that thought and say, “I may have a disability, but I also have many abilities that employers will value.” A career advisor or support person can help you reframe some of your past experiences and beliefs and identify what you’ve learned from them.
Remember—you’ve developed many skills as a result of meeting the challenges of your disability. Think of times when you have used the following:
- Creative problem-solving
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Ability to handle a mistake or a difficult situation
- A sense of humour and a positive attitude
Get the right support
Both the federal and provincial governments offer support for job seekers with disabilities:
- Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES), Government of Alberta
- Employment supports for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, Government of Alberta
- Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, Government of Canada
Finding work starts with knowing your skills and strengths so you can market them. Most employers are open to job seekers who have the skills they need. Targeting employers who already have a diverse workforce can be a win. By creating opportunities, staying positive, and getting the right support, you can find the work that will help you build the future you want.