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Career Corner
Job Seeking With a Disability
Monday, January 16, 2012

Unemployment is non-discriminatory, but the same can't always be said about employers despite employment regulations. Discrimination is nearly impossible to prove, but is an offense that can be made clear as day.
People with physical and mental disabilities face much tougher challenges than the average job seeker because they have even more to prove to the employer. Aside from just keeping up with the competition, they need to get the interviewer or recruiter get past the fact that they have an added disadvantage.

Being in this type of position can make the person feel that they face these challenges alone, but they aren't. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. has 26.5 million workers age 16 and over that have disabilities. These job seekers make up a significant portion of the workforce, yet their unique job-search experiences are often overlooked.

The Major Hurdles
In every job search, the seeker has the task of proving their skills and talents to employers and those with disabilities
have to step their games up to sway the employer. The main misconception among employers is that make them apprehensive about hiring people with disabilities is that the person will be incompetent. While this is a concern when hiring any employee, it's especially prevalent when interviewing individuals with physical disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act legally protects job seekers from being discriminated againsted for real or perceived disabilities, but that doesn't stop it from happening. Job seekers may hinder their own job searches without even knowing it by giving out more information than needed right off the bat.

A job seeker could be raising their own red flags by putting too much emphasis on their disability or inadequately providing reasons for being absent because of it. This shifts the focus of the job search on disability rather than ability.

Job seekers should not be discouraged from talking about it openly as it can change the potential employer's behavior when suprised by the fact. Mentioning it before the interview can make things more comfortable between the candidate and the interviewer.

There are different appraoches that job applicants can take when discussing their disabilities, from humor to simply being up front about it. Whatever is best for the applicant is better as long as it doesn't put the the interviewer in an awkward position.

In order for there to be true equality between employers and disabled job seekers is that there needs to be a change in the attitude about candidates with disabilities. Employers should not be concerned with whether the candidate's disability will interfere with the person's performance. They need to overcome their preconceived notions of workers with disabilities as it can take away from their professional objectivity. It's their job to be educated on both the disabilty and the nature of working with someone with a disability.

Disabled individuals also have resources that can help them better their odds among the competition. A recommended course of action is to seek assistance from a job placement or supported employment porgram that can help them navigate the world of work. These agencies can also help job seekers find employers and provide the employer with the educational resources they wouldn't have otherwise.

The agency staff spends time explaining that the individual may need additonal training to learn the job duties, which is also taken care of by the agency staff. They are fairly successful in advocating to the employer to give the individual an opportunity.

Making Equal Employment Opportunities Equal
The main change, however, lies more with the job seeker. When job seekers with disabilities give in to negative messages telling them that they aren't good enough, they won't be able to get past it. Self-esteem and confidence plays a big role in the candidate's ability to market him or herself.

Confident job seekers, disabled or not, reassure employers that they have a strong contender and make them feel more comfortable in offering them a job. Also, those job seekers won't be as hesitant to apply to positions that they feel they are qualified for. In the end, the goal is to have workplaces where employers aren't hesitant to hire someone because of disability.

The workplace is continuously diversifing itself and along with those changes are the assumptions that some employers have about individuals with disabilities.
Employers rule out candidates based on a variety of factors from typos to not being up to dress standards.

Job seekers with disabilities should not feel that they are out of any employer's league otherwise employers will start to get that message. Instead, acting like the job is suited for you will cast away doubts that the employer has. Successfully landing a job has to do with planning, preparation, confidence, and sharing strengths and achievements with employers.
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