Great tips for getting work-ready skills and how to get started on finding a job when you have a disability, illness or injury
Finding a job is a stressful and challenging experience for most people, but if you have a disability, illness or injury – it can definitely make it even more difficult. While we can confidently say that today our society is more inclusive than ever, we had quite a way to go in the first place. That means that there is still a lot of confusion and apprehension in the community about how to include disabled, ill or injured people in the workforce without having to make major changes or adjustments to their processes.
Change is hard for most people to contemplate, and fear of the unknown can be a big obstacle to beat. Many people who have an illness, injury or disability don’t require any special accommodations by employers to be able to do a great job in their roles, and those that do are usually ready to do the mental work for their prospective employers; they know what they need, and can help direct their employer to procure it for them.
At ConnectAbility we specialise in helping our clients in all aspects of life, and getting into the workforce is just one of them. We know that the task is just that extra bit harder for those with physical or mental limitations in some areas, but we also know that it’s not about what you can’t do – it’s about what you can do!
Work and life skills development
A big part of becoming ready to look for work is making sure that you have a great starting foundation. This doesn’t just mean you have the right work skills – although those are definitely important! It also means that you should have your personal life in order as well. Human beings are complex creatures, and while we all try to separate our working life from our personal one, it is impossible for them to have no effect on one another.
Developing life skills and personal development
No matter your level of ability or disability, the best way to prepare for getting a job is making sure you have yourself in order. You can’t be successful in the workplace if you’re already struggling on a personal level – eventually something will have to give. ConnectAbility helps all their clients with life skills development and teaches them about daily living tasks to make sure they’re keeping themselves happy and healthy – a happy and healthy person is a person ready for work!
Some of the skills we recommend job seekers focus on include:
- Personal hygiene: showering, grooming, toileting and other personal care
- Nutrition: Grocery shopping, cooking, and learning about healthy meals
- Household maintenance: learning about cleaning tasks, laundry and other home-based chores
- Financial assistance: How to manage bank accounts and creating a budget
- Literacy and numeracy skills: Working on these skills make everything else easier!
- How to communicate with support services, service providers and networks
- Transport: what transport options are available, how to plan your travel and how to access the right transport information
- Presentation: Having the right clothes and shoes for job interviews and intended job roles, being well groomed and clean
- Mental health care: Do things that make you feel happy, content and ready to work. Talk to family, friends or a therapist where needed to make sure you keep yourself in great mental shape – there is never a bad time to take care of your brain!
- Stay active and spend time outdoors: Getting some exercise or even just fresh air out in nature does wonders not just for our brains, but also for our bodies. When we are physically and mentaly healthy, we can take on bigger challenges and enjoy our work far more.
Developing employability skills for the job you want
We said at this beginning of this article that the focus shouldnt be on what you can’t do – it should be all about what you can do. People living without disability, illness or injury still have a whole host of things they aren’t good at! It’s completely normal to have limitations, everybody does.
The first thing you should do when you feel ready to look for work is to sit down and think about what you’re good at and love doing. You should also think about what you definitely DON’T want to do for work! Like all job seekers, we often have to compromise because it’s hard to find the perfect job – sometimes we have to find the joy in a job that we didn’t expect to like. But it’s great to know what your ideal jobs would look like, it helps you decide where to start looking and what skills you might need to acquire first. No matter the type of disability, illness or injury that you might have – there is a job out there for you.
According to a number of articles like this one here, these are the top most valued skills in a job applicant regardless of ability or disability:
- Problem solving
- Team work
- Planning and organising
- Initiative and enterprise
Maybe you’re looking at this list and thinking, “I don’t have all of these skills!”, but guess what? Very few people do! Focus on the ones you think are your strongest assets, and choose a field of work where you can let that shine. You should also look at the ones where you feel you could be better – that’s great, you should always be working to improve yourself and your friends, family, job networks and recruiters and support providers like ConnectAbility can all help you work on these skills.
Challenging misconceptions and being ready to educate
Getting your foot in the door when you are living with a physical or mental limitation caused by disability, illness or injury can be a daunting task for job seekers. It is also important to remember that it can be just as daunting for employers to fathom; many employers have never employed someone with a disability and feel unsure about a number of things. This can feel overwhelming for them, and can sometimes lead to them shutting the option down immediately. They might feel like it’s too tough a topic to navigate, feeling anxious about causing offence or discomfort. Many worry that it would cost more money, or come with too much extra ‘mental load’ – the mental work it takes to consider such different needs to the larger group.
It can be a tough conversation to have from both sides of the table, and while we should expect employers to be inclusive and supportive of those living with disability, illness or injury – we also have to be ready to help them understand how to get there. You don’t know what you don’t know!
When you consider some of the concerns a business might have, you can begin to develop a way to address this. You could do it over the phone, in person or in a really great cover letter with your application. You can get great advice on how to have conversations like this with the people in your support network and from dedicated professionals like those at ConnectAbility and job provider networks. Taking the initiative and addressing those issues first shows maturity, authenticity and openness – and these are all essential communication skills.
Develop a plan for job searching
It is always a great idea to set yourself some goals, and make a rough plan when it comes to job searching. Thing you should consider could include:
- Types of jobs you want, and the common job titles – you can set many job network sites to alert you when your selected job titles are advertised. Select as many as you can, and keep the leads rolling in.
- Keep yourself accountable – How many jobs you’re going to apply for each week, and what sort of approaches you might make (email, phone, in person) can help keep your job search on track. Even if you don’t get any bites for a while, it’s great practice and builds confidence!
- Write a unique cover letter for each job application – showing that you read the job advertisement and writing a personal response is super important
- Get support from employment professionals – use tools like job network providers, recruiters, and support service providers to get the right information
- Network – Make a point of reaching out to your friends, family and other contacts to ask about potential job opportunities. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and in-person meetings are often the best way to get a great job
- Define your value – decide how much you would like to be paid, how many hours you wish to work and at what times, and any other wage benefits you would like. You should write down what you would like ideally, as well as what your minimum pay would look like. You may not get everything you desire, but you should have a basic idea. Professionals and your support network can help you with this, it’s important that you aren’t taken advantage of.
- Set some professional goals – create a rough plan of what you would like to do for a job now, in 2 years, and in 5 years. This helps you decide what work skills you might need to expand on or develop, as well as showing employers that you have the ability to plan for the future. It doesn’t mean that you have to follow that path – we never know when opportunities might arise – but it is great to have a plan in the first place!
- Consider non-monetary benefits – sometimes the things that make a job great aren’t about the money. Maybe you love the people, it’s a convenient distance from your home, or it gives you access to special facilities or learning opportunities that other places might not. This is a personal decision, but many people choose jobs based on emotional reasons, not financial ones – and that is totally okay!
Use the right networks and recruiters
There are a fantastic range of services available for job seekers from all walks of life. These networks and recruiters often get access to jobs well before they are advertised, and have insider knowledge of what those employers are looking for; they can match you to a job that works for both of you. There are also job networks that specialise in helping those with a disability, illness or injury find work and keep their job. They can also help you navigate special funding available for prospective employers, and help facilitate professional conversations.
ConnectAbility often works with their clients to help them connect to job networks or have discussions with their employers. Along with giving you access to currently open jobs and connecting you with employers, job networks and recruiters often help you with skills such as:
- Resume writing
- Cover letter writing
- Defining your strengths and interests
- Preparing for interviews
- Removing obstacles or barriers to work
- The process of job applications
- How to communicate with employers
- Developing a job plan
You should think about your job network provider as school for learning how to do everything job related: how to look for a job, apply for a job, how to have a great job interview, how to negotiate the right conditions, how to resolve issues and disputes, and how to keep upskilling and get great professional development.
Local job networks and recruiters for people with a disability, injury or illness
Some of the known job network and recruiter services in the Greater Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Maitland and Lake Macquarie area include:
- APM Disability Employment Services
- Services Australia
- Castle Personnel Newcastle
- Joblife Employment
- OTEC services
- Disability Advocacy NSW
- The Salvation Army Employment Plus
- Job Centre Australia
- WorkSkil Australia
- Breakthru Wallsend
- Ability Options
While this is not a comprehensive list, it’s a great start to familiarising yourself with the options that are out there from providers that have a solid background in providing these specialised services.
Get great advice from your support providers and personal network
The main thing to take away from this article is that you’re not in this alone. There are tons of people, resources and tools that you can use to support you on this exciting journey – so don’t try to do it all by yourself! Everyone begins the search for work eventually, and it can be a daunting task regardless of who you are and what you battle each day.
The recipe for success is always to do your research, make a plan and use all the best tools you can. It makes sense to include everyone you can in this endeavour – you never know which one is going to connect you to your next job!
At ConnectAbility we have a wealth of experience helping our clients navigate the world of job seeking, and love nothing more than to see them succeed and grow in their lives. If you’re living with disability, injury or illness and you just can’t figure out how to get started – give our team a call today and have a chat with one of our great team members. We can help you figure out what you need from us, or where to go for more information.