Finding work when living with a disability

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It’s never too soon or too late to apply for your dream job. This guide will help you impress recruiters and be your best self. (Source: Shutterstock)

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.

Resources for accessing work

There are a number of resources and options that can support you to find appropriate work, such as:

  • Getting help through service providers, including assistance preparing for interviews or training opportunities
  • Using Government-funded initiatives to get support or work, such as JobAccess
  • Engaging with services that can support you to find work, like Disability Employment Services (DES)
  • Getting involved in internships, like the Stepping Into program
  • Looking for a mentor to help you grow, like through the Positive Action towards Career Engagement (PACE) program

Using supportive and skill building resources to make you more confident and ready for work can get you that step closer to finding a job.

Notably, 2022 Australian of the Year winner Dylan Alcott has launched The Field to help the 52 percent of working–age Australians living with disabilities find employment.


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.

In fact, the world is changing and shared insight and accessibility for people with a disability is now a priority for some companies, with one of the ‘big four’ consulting groups, PWC Australia, collaborating with Get Skilled Access to promote inclusivity.

Each day that you spend looking for work is another day closer to finding it!

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.

Article originally published 20/10/2022 by author Emily Erickson

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