All job seekers are trying to find work that’s a good fit for their skills and abilities. As a person with a disability, you may face the additional challenge of convincing potential employers to focus on your abilities. Due to misconceptions, some employers may be reluctant to hire people with disabilities.
Your challenge is to encourage potential employers to look beyond their assumptions and see you as an asset to their business. As many employers soon discover, hiring a person with a disability is good for business.
Make your business case
Prepare a business case that tells an employer why hiring you makes good business sense. Stating the business case for hiring people with disabilities can help you market your skills to employers.
Your skills, experience and accomplishments are most important, but you may bring some additional advantages to an employer. Consider which of the following potential advantages apply in your case and which you are comfortable adding to your resumé or mentioning in an interview.
- Competitive advantage. You may add diversity to a group of employees. A diverse mix of employees is more likely to understand and meet the needs of a wide range of customers.
- Problem-solving skills. You probably have lots of experience solving challenging problems on a regular basis.
- Enhanced public image. As an employee with a disability, you may help to establish a more positive public image for an employer.
- Untapped talent pool. Alberta employers compete for employees, particularly during times of labour shortages. Employers can help to solve their labour problems by hiring skilled individuals with disabilities.
- Universal access. Hiring people with disabilities promotes universal access, which benefits everyone. For example, automatic doors installed for employees with disabilities make it easier for other people to enter the premises.
- Client and employee relations. You may have a special understanding and expertise in dealing with customers and other employees who face challenges in mobility, learning, work style or communication.
Preparing your marketing materials
Knowing your strengths is the first part of finding a job. Like other job seekers, you will also need to:
- know the kind of job you want
- know how to market your skills, accomplishments and experiences to an employer
- have updated your resumé and cover letter
- have a pro-active script ready for talking with employers.
Finding the right employer
Job seekers want to find employers that reflect their values and jobs that match their skills and experience. First, make sure you know how to find work opportunities. Then consider these additional suggestions:
- Research employers you would like to work for, employers recommended by people in your network, and employers with a track record for hiring a diverse workforce and people with disabilities.
- Target employers who must comply with employment equity legislation, including the federal government. 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.
- Review job postings on a regular basis. The Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website provides links to many job banks. WORKink maintains job postings of interest to people with disabilities.
Search online for organizations that identify themselves as equal opportunity employers. They may be worth targeting for further research, even if they are not currently advertising positions you are qualified for.
When you’re looking for a good job fit, stay open to the many different work opportunities available. If you and a potential employer are flexible, you may be able to agree on an approach that works well for both of you. Examples include:
- modified or reduced work hours, including part-time work and job-sharing
- job redesign or job carving, such as trading off tasks with other employees or creating a new position by redistributing tasks from other positions.
If you have the required knowledge, skills and drive, you may be able to create your own business, visit the Business Abilities website to learn about self-employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Getting the right support
Both the federal and provincial governments offer support programs for job seekers with disabilities:
- Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES), Government of Alberta
- People with Disabilities, Service Canada.
Finding work opportunities starts with knowing your skills and strengths so you can market them effectively. Most employers are receptive to job seekers who have the skills they need. Targeting employers who have experience with a diverse workforce can be an effective marketing approach. Employers who have already hired job seekers with disabilities are often open to doing so again.