Job hunting tips: Finding work when living with a disability

Job hunting tips: Finding work when living with a disability

Getting a job means gaining a sense of independence and purpose that you may not have experienced before.

Key points

  • Identifying your skills and interests will help you to know what kind of job you are looking for and what type of company you’d like to work for

  • There are a number of resources to help people with disability look and prepare for work

  • Knowing and understanding your rights before you start looking for work is important so you can make sure you are treated fairly

Job hunting can be difficult, time consuming and overwhelming and you may be unsure where to start, so we’ve put together some tips to help you with the process of finding and starting a new job. 

Finding the right kind of job for you

The first step when looking for a job is identifying what your skills and interests are and what potential career opportunities are available to you.

Take the time to be clear on your interests, strengths, what kind of company you’d like to work for, and what you want from a job. For example, do you want to work in a family-run business or a large, international company? Are you interested in office work or would you prefer something outdoors like landscaping? 

Write those things down and talk them through with someone close to you to help you narrow down your options.

Some questions you may want to ask yourself while beginning the job hunting process include: 

  • What am I good at, and what am I interested in doing?

  • What skills and experience do I have? 

  • What jobs would best suit me?

  • Do I require extra training to get a job in the field I am interested in?

  • Can I get any support or training through a disability service provider specialising in employment for people with disability?

  • What voluntary work or work experience can I undertake to prepare me for employment?

Make sure you’ve considered not only what kind of job you want but also what you want from that job. 

Things you may want to consider include the type and size of a company, what training or career opportunities there are, what the company culture is, and whether their values align with yours. 

You may also need to consider how easy it is for you to get to a workplace. For example, if you have limited mobility, will you need to have an easy way to get to the location if it is across town. 

Before applying for a job, it’s worth considering if you’ll be able to perform the duties of the role even if workplace adjustments are made. For example, if the job requires you to lift objects, will you be able to do this? Will you need adjustments? Once the adjustments are made, will you then be able to do the role or not?  

These considerations can help you determine if a position or company is the right one for you so that you don’t end up in a job that you aren’t happy with.

Employment resources - where to look for work

Job hunting can be difficult at the best of times, but there are a number of resources to help make it easier. 

Job search websites

Once you know what types of jobs are out there for you, you can start searching for the perfect fit by using online platforms like SEEKCareerOne and Indeed, going straight to a company’s careers page, or searching job listings in local newspapers and job boards.

Service providers

There are a number of different specialist services that are available to people living with disability or mental health conditions in Australia, to help find the right job for you. These service providers are able to help you either with the whole employment process or with certain parts, like helping you prepare for an interview or find training opportunities. 

JobAccess: JobAccess is a Government-funded initiative that aims to support the employment of people with disability. It provides information to job seekers and employees as well as employers and service providers.

You can visit their website or contact them by phone on 1800 464 800.

Disability Employment Services (DES): DES is a network of businesses Australia-wide which provide support to job seekers who have a disability, injury or health condition. 

If you’re looking for work, a DES provider can help you:

  • get ready to work

  • train in specific job skills

  • write your resumé

  • train in interview skills

  • look for jobs that suit you

There are two parts to Disability Employment Services:

  • Disability Management Services - helping job seekers with disability, injury or health conditions, find a job. They can also provide occasional support in the workplace

  • Employment Support Services - helping job seekers with permanent disability to find a job if they need regular, ongoing support in the workplace

Find out more about DES by visiting their website, or search for the nearest DES provider near you here.

For more information about DES, or help finding and connecting with a DES, visit the Job Access webpage or talk to your local Centrelink representative.

Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE): ADE is a group of over 600 organisations in Australia that provide supported employment opportunities to people with moderate to severe disabilities, usually intellectual disabilities. They offer opportunities in a number of different areas including design, packaging, landscaping, manufacturing and hospitality.

Find out more about ADE here.

Recruitability: Recruitability is a scheme that is also run by the Australian Government. It is designed to attract people with disability to apply for employment in the Australian Public Service (APS) while also promoting disability awareness and cultural change in APS recruitment teams. 

The program allows people with disability who apply for vacancies the opportunity to automatically progress to the next stage of the recruitment process as long as they meet all eligibility and minimum requirements.

Find out more by visiting the Australian Public Service Commission website.

Australian Network on Disability (AND): The AND is a member based organisation that supports employers to include people with disability in their workplace. It does this by sharing resources and running training programs. Although the AND mainly works with employers, it also runs the Stepping Into Internship and the Positive Action towards Career Engagement (PACE) programs.

The Stepping Into Internship program provides skilled university students who experience disability with a paid internship at a leading business. The internship is a minimum of 152 hours.

The PACE program is a mentoring program where students and job seekers with disability are matched with a professional from an Australian business. The program lets you meet with your mentor six to eight times in three months, for one or two hours at a time.

Find out more by visiting the Australian Network on Disability, the Stepping Into Internship or the PACE program

Know your rights in the workplace

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992, put together by the Australian Human Rights Commission, makes it against the law to discriminate against someone if they have a disability throughout all stages of the employment process, from advertising and recruitment to training, as well as terminations. 

Knowing and understanding your rights before you start looking for work is important so you can make sure you are treated fairly throughout the recruitment process. 

For example, you may find it useful to understand your rights around sharing information about your disability with potential employers or requesting modifications to your workplace.

Ready to start applying? Prepare your documents

When you have worked through the options and decided what kind of job you would like, you can start applying for jobs.

Have your resumé (also known as a Curriculum Vitae or CV) ready to go so you can apply for jobs when you see them. Having cover letter templates saved can also make the job application process quicker and less overwhelming.

Read our tips for putting together an impressive resumé and cover letter to help you stand out and get hired.

How to stay positive while job hunting

Getting hired for the first job you apply for doesn't happen very often so prepare yourself that it may take some time before you find your dream job.

Job hunting, especially job rejections, can be a hit to your confidence but remember to believe in yourself and your abilities. 

Every job application you write or interview you have is another chance to practice your job hunting skills and will bring you one step closer to finding a job.

Don’t give up and make sure you are surrounded by people who can cheer you on - either your family or your friends. 

Here are some ways to stay positive while job hunting:

  • Find ways to motivate you, such as creating a vision board or list of reasons why you want to find your ideal job

  • Keep a routine that allocates a certain time to job hunting. For example, you may want to allocate the mornings for sending job applications and leave the afternoons free for your other activities. This way you won’t burn out or lose motivation. It will also help develop your time management skills for when you eventually find work

  • Focus on what you can control, for example how many job applications you send and doing research before an interview

  • Writing a list of things you’re grateful for, big and small, to lift you up

  • Be kind to yourself and treat rejection as a learning experience for what you can do better next time

Not quite ready to work but want to in the future?

If you have been out of the workforce for a while or are looking for your first job, planning to work can feel like a big step. If you are receiving funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), your Local Area Coordinator (LAC), Plan Manager or Support Coordinator can help you think about some steps towards working. 

For example, you might use a part of your NDIS funding to do some work experience or volunteer work to find out what you enjoy and what skills you have.

Employment service providers like those listed above can also help you access and complete skills training and provide personal and skills training support to get you job ready at your own pace.

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