AKA, when I learned that people wanted more information about disability...
I have always been a believer that two heads are better than one, that working in a team is more powerful than on your own and that it is not what you know but who you know that makes a difference. However, coming from a generation that does not have a jazzy name (born 2 years after the cut off for being identified as a “baby boomer”), I am definitely not on the cutting edge of technology; I have always viewed networking as an “in-person/telephone/email” experience, until now.
Recently, I have been helping job developers connecting people with disabilities to jobs. They wanted to know how to find and approach employers. My first suggestion was – “social media!” but I wasn’t using it for networking an knew that in order to coach others, I would need to embrace the tactic. It turns out, that with that suggestion, I found true power and learned that the worlds seems hungry for disability employment inclusion information.
Increase in Network
By putting out a few articles on aspects of disability employment (i.e. resources for those sourcing candidates with disabilities as well as information about the business case for intentionally employing people with disabilities), I have been inundated with requests for connections on LinkedIn. Each time I post another article or link (in response to someone’s inquiry for information), I can see in the analytics that information is going out beyond my “insiders circle (first level connections) and this stimulates a large number of requests for connections. For the past 3 months, I have invested 30 minutes a day to check and respond to requests via LinkedIn and create content which has grown my “network” from 700+ to just surpassing 6500 today (as I was writing this, in fact). The current pace is about 100 per day. And the audience is split pretty much half and half from the “demand side” (companies) and the other from the “supply side” (agencies and other sources for candidates with disabilities).
This week alone, there are 5 large events (some are US-based, but 3 are global) focused on connecting people with disabilities with employment.
During a time when the nation seems obsessed with a solar eclipse and the issues of hate and terrorism; many people are gathering to discuss this solution for the labor shortage. And a larger number are simply checking their social media feeds and despite the distractions, they are looking for more information about this solution.
Requests for more information
Finally, I am now overwhelmed with requests for solidifying the business case for disability inclusion; for help learning how to develop leads for jobs for people with disabilities, and for resources to find those who can truly help a company find the talent they need in an untapped (but very capable) labor source. The tide may not be moving yet related to changes in the employment rate of people with disabilities in the US (at the same rate as the steep growth curve I am experiencing), but I can attest that the appetite for information on the “why” and the “how” is large. In combining the needs of business with more effective ways to demonstrate people with disabilities as a desirable candidate pool, very soon, our reality will be employment rates that do not vary by disability status.
I have to admit that I have been cynical about the momentum of this wave. After 25 years with little traction, I am (happily) surprised by the volume of interest. I am finally hopeful that in my lifetime, the dots will be connected, and I owe it all to the proof I got while networking via social media. #whyemploypwd