This is a side-step post from a series of 4 blogs focusing on helping people with disabilities get a job.
Last week, I wrote a blog about figuring out what’s important when looking for a job that included my top ten list of “ways that people with disabilities can select a job or career goal”. However, I confused some people who assumed that I expected those steps to be taken through services that are provided solely to people with disabilities and (typically) are non-profit and government-funded. In the US, we generically call that system vocational rehabilitation (VR). However, I actually did not have that in mind at all. I’m aware that only about 20% of the people in the US with disabilities get services from VR, so I was actually directing my voice toward people with disabilities who aren’t in that system (and their parents, if parents are concerned about this kind of thing).
However, I think it’s important to also cover the tips I have for people who elect (and are eligible) to get assistance in the job search from these types of entities.
So, I still stand behind those 10 steps, but have a couple extra if you want to consider using these system, here are my 4 tips to help ensure you’re getting the best opportunity possible.
1. Know your options – in the US, you have the right to select who provides your services up to a point – Unfortunately, the states control most of the funds and without funds, you rarely get services. If you are lucky enough to have resources, use them to get the best help you can.
If you do not have resources like that, maximize what you are entitled to (which can vary from state to state, county to county). Can you get assistance in defining your job goal from other agencies like: developmental disabilities, public schools, community colleges, veterans’ services or mental health services? Are there research universities in your area that have projects focused on employment services for people with disabilities? (University Center for Excellence in Disabilities), have you checked into Centers for Independent Living?
NO? well, use google (or whatever search engine you prefer) and get educated as to what is available and what you are eligible to access. The more the merrier in pooling resources and expertise!!!
I realize this can be an overwhelming amount of information and you may need help sifting through it, but I encourage you to keep asking the question “what else can help me move forward?”
2. Ask questions, understand the system, the process, what your role is and what you can expect from them. There is a fine line between being pesky because you are never satisfied and being persistence because you deserve the best opportunities in exchange for your best effort to be successful.
3. Gain an ally. Last week, I was called out for using the term mentor because apparently that requires training. So, let’s use the terms: friend, guide, ally, and parent. But actually, I just mean, someone who can help, someone who has your best interest at heart, and probably has more experience than you and therefore can provide solid advice and potentially help as you enter your actual job search.
4. Don’t listen to anyone who says you cannot work or that disability means you can’t work. Everyone (except those in comas) can work. The trick is to figure out what your gifts, talents and interests are, cross match that with what is available and then add value.
Also, don’t listen to anyone who says you deserve a job because you have a disability. No one deserves a job, you have to earn it (it is why they call it work). However, working for a job does not preclude you from enjoying what you do, working with people who treat you with respect and making money!
There are a lot of people with disabilities in the world. We all look different and have different talents and ambitions. The minority get employment services from governmental funded services (at least, in the US, it is the minority, I have not researched the global statistics, so if you are from outside of the US, please check what is available for you). This is for many reasons – ignorance of what is out there, lack of meeting a prescribed eligibility requirement, desire to do it without that system, unfortunate previous experiences, whatever – you do not need to use those services. If you want to use them, please do. If you need the resources they offer because you cannot afford them yourself, please do. But then please be invested and involved in the services and ensure that you are getting the services that will help you move forward in your jobs and careers.
If you don’t use those services (for whatever reason), try out the 10 tips I offered. If they don’t work for you, and you find something else that does, please share with others. We all have value and we all need to help each other change the drastically low rate of employment for people with disabilities. We need to stop blaming businesses and individuals and take responsibility for demonstrating the value we offer. Until 20 years ago in the US, most people thought that people with disabilities were lesser and therefore didn’t deserve equality. I don’t know if we deserve it. But I think we need to show our value through the work that we do and our participation in the economy.
As always, if you disagree with me, or want to comment, please do.
If you are unsure what a person with a disability can do? Take my “Disability Quiz” online https://www.debrussellinc.com/quiz
Unsure of what value people with disabilities (as a group) can offer to businesses? Feel free to download my new eBook: Disability Inclusion: A Summary of the Direct and Indirect Benefits)