Believe it or not, qualified workers with disabilities are some of the most sought after new hires in today’s corporate America. Naturally, employers are looking to colleges and universities as a main talent pipeline for people with disabilities. Here are a few tips to help navigate the world of disability as you begin your own career search!
Become a self-advocate:
If you are a student with a disability, likely you’ve had help planning your accommodations or IEP as you went through school. In the professional world, no one will initiate these conversations for you. YOU will need to get the ball rolling. By knowing what tools you need to succeed in the workplace, you can begin to advocate on your own behalf for success! So step back and take a look at what your need to succeed, and to who you should speak with about this in a professional setting. What accommodations will you need, if any to get the job done?
When talking about disability in the workplace, focus on abilities, accomplishments, and achievements. Living with a disability can in fact be good for business! Alan Muir, executive Director of Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities, points out that people with disabilities are fantastic problem solvers. Muir says “Problem-solving, thinking outside the box—or whatever you may want to call the skill—is something people with disabilities have in abundance”. This unique perspective is invaluable for companies competing for the next big innovation in their respective industries
Be informed about your rights and responsibilities under federal, state and local legislation:
No one likes to read through a massive legal document chock full of legal jargon that will make your brain melt, I’ll give you that. Never fear, because there are resources that make all the dry dense stuff a little easier to read for us non legal folk. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a great website that gives the TL:DR on the reams of paper it takes to print legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other resources about determining reasonable workplace accommodations.
Still not sure what this all means for you? JAN has free consultants that can help you answer any questions about disability and employment!
Join a community:
With 11% of enrolled college students and one in five Americans reporting that they have some kind of disability, I can guarantee you are not alone and that others are facing similar experiences. This identity can be used to unite, support, and educate those around you! Not sure where to start? Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities is a national organization that connects students and employers together through its FULL ACCESS: Student Summit, which takes place regionally twice a year.
Looking to connect professionally? Many employers now have Employee Resource Groups for people with disabilities that serve as a space for employees with shared identities or interests to create professional development opportunities, provide peer support, and act as a voice to promote social change in the workplace. Finding out if groups and diversity initiatives like this exist at employers that you are interested in working for is a great way to see what value a company places on disability inclusive diversity.
Bottom line: At first glance talking about a disability in the work place can be complex, intimidating and overwhelming, no doubt about it. At Career Development, we have staff that can help you make sense of how to address your disability as you begin your job search. So come on by, make an appointment with one of Career Advisors today! We are here to help you get hired for your skills and abilities, not just your disability.
Mike Ariale specializes in disability employment, self- advocacy, disclosure and accommodation strategies for the workplace. You can schedule an appointment with him through MyNEU or by calling the front desk at 617-373-2430.
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