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Job hunting with a disability: tips for success

A women sitting at a bench and smiling

Many people with disabilities can work and have a fulfilling career. However, in some cases, it can be more challenging to find a job if you are disabled. That’s why it’s good to know to know a few trade tricks when looking for employment to better your chances of getting hired.

Landing a job isn’t always easy. And when you have a disability, illness or injury, it can seem even more overwhelming. But, with the proper support, you can build the confidence and knowledge to secure a job that’s right for you.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some tips for job hunting if you have a disability.

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Look after yourself

First and foremost, you need to look after yourself! While that’s easier said than done, it’s essential to make it a priority. There are a few different ingredients in the recipe for looking after yourself, including:

Mental health: Practice mindfulness and gratitude regularly and keep the expectations you have for yourself in check. This will help keep you grounded, transparent and less stressed.

Emotional and social health: Gather a cheer squad of family, friends and other supports to stay connected and keep yourself in the right headspace.

Physical health: Even on the days you don’t feel up to it, try to eat well, drink plenty of water and move your body in a way that’s right for you – it could even be some gentle stretching.

Sleep: Keep up a good routine, including reducing screen time and caffeine intake before bed and taking the time to unwind. These will help switch off at the end of the day.

Ask for support: Our employment consultants are here to help you stay well throughout your job search. In addition, we can connect you with the exemplary medical practitioners, support groups and specialists so that you can feel your best whilst looking for work.

A healthy breakfast of fruit and museli

Do your homework

If there are organisations that you think you might like to work for, then learn a bit more about them before applying. A simple google search or visiting the company’s social media profiles is a great way to do this.

It’s also a chance to check out a company’s reputation as an employer and have a proactive and inclusive approach to welcoming people with disabilities to their workforce. CoAct and our Service Partners work with you to piece together your skills, interests and values, then help you find local jobs and employers that are the best match for you. We know your local community so that we can connect you to the right people.

Nail your cover letter

As time-consuming as it can seem, cover letters should always be tailored for each job application. You’ll want to keep it brief (three paragraphs is ideal). Show your personality and summarise why you’re the best person for the job. If you do decide to disclose your disability (we can help you navigate that whole topic), use real-life examples or your previous work experience to show how you successfully address any challenges. You can also check out some cover letter tips here.

Know your rights

What employers should and shouldn’t ask you

If you’re a person living with a disability, you may be keen to know where you stand with what you can and can’t be asked by potential employers. Questions asked at any stage of the interview process should relate directly to the job and its requirements.

If your disability, illness or injury doesn’t affect your ability to do the job safely, you’re not legally obliged to talk to your employer about it.

Workplace adjustments

It’s a legal requirement for employers to make necessary adjustments to the workplace to accommodate your disability. Chat with your employment consultant if you’d like to understand more about your workplace rights or prepare for navigating any tricky situations.

We’ll also talk to your potential employer throughout the interview stage and ensure they make any reasonable adjustments you need for the job interview.

Bring in the experts

A significant factor in job search success has the right support network. Employment service providers like JobSearch can be a great asset in your search for work. Whether upskilling, training, preparing your resume, boosting your interview skills or connecting you to community services for the tailored support you need, we can help.

Disability Employment Services helps people with a disability, injury or health condition to prepare for, find and keep a job. They know disability, the local job market, and are connected to local employers.

Keep up the confidence.

Finally, as cliche as it sounds, remember to believe in yourself and don’t give up. Job rejections can be a giant confidence killer, but they happen to everyone.

Having your cheer squad there to lean on (including us!) will help boost your confidence through the tough times.

Highlight your skills and abilities

Whether you are developing a job search plan on your own or with assistance from a Disability Employment Services provider, it’s a good idea to focus on your abilities rather than on what you are unable to do. Consider identifying the kind of work you’d like to do, or you would be capable of doing, based on your goals, skills (including transferable skills), training and experience.

Being successful in your new role starts with finding a position that suits your knowledge, expertise and interests so that you can enter a potential employment situation with confidence.

Highlight your strengths on your resume or in an interview to remind employers why you are the right fit for the job and bring the right skills and experience.

Reframe for a positive approach

A positive attitude can have a positive effect on your employment journey and your personal life.

If living with a disability, injury or health condition is new territory for you or if past experiences have left you feeling pessimistic about your career, part of your challenge is to reframe the way you think about yourself. For example, you may say to yourself, “Nobody wants to hire me because I am living with a disability”.

You could rephrase that thought to: “I may be living with disability, but I also have many abilities that employers will value.”

Living with a disability, injury or health condition has developed many employability skills in you, e.g. creative problem-solving or flexibility and adaptability.

Plan for the long-term

Career planning and your employment journey are a lifelong process of continually reassessing your goals and adjusting your plans. This could include looking for work or completing training or further education before that. 

Stay motivated

Setting and achieving short-term goals will help you maintain your confidence and motivation in the long run. Successfully taking small steps, such as being invited to a job interview, preparing your interview outfit or accepting a volunteering or part-time position, is an integral part of your employment journey and achieving your long-term employment goals.

One rejection email doesn’t mean that you will not be able to achieve your employment plan, but you should take it as an encouragement to improve further until the right opportunity comes up.

Whether you’re looking for full or part-time work or exploring opportunities through education, volunteering or self-employment, developing a career plan will help you move towards your potential and stay motivated throughout the journey.

Know which workplace modifications you require

Be transparent with your next potential employer about the workplace modifications you might require for working efficiently. atWork Australia supports clients to do this, liaising directly with employers. This could include a standing desk, screen-reading software, flexible working hours or the opportunity to work remotely. This form of modification or adjustment will help you overcome the impact of your disability, injury or health condition and build a more equitable and inclusive workplace.

For your next employer, it’s straightforward to make workplace adjustments to remove barriers to employment when needed via the Government-funded service JobAccess. In addition, disability Employment Services providers like atWork Australia can help companies access funding for workplace modifications for you at no cost to their business.

Learn from experience

During your employment journey, you might not always hear back about the outcome of an application or proceed to the next stage of a job interview, and that is okay.

It is essential in these situations to keep yourself motivated and don’t get discouraged. It is necessary to keep searching and keep your employment goals in mind. It is also beneficial to ask HR managers or employers about feedback which can give you indications on how to improve in the following interview.

Practice creates masters, and with every resume you write and everything job interview you attend, you will feel more confident.

A Disability Employment Service (DES) provider like atWork Australia will consider your situation, listen to you, help you focus on your needs and strengths and set employment goals that are best suited for you. In addition, you will be provided with tools to unlock your full employment potential. atWork Australia offers their clients a suite of support, ranging from practical help at the start of the employment journey to post-appointment check-ins once the job commences.

The services are tailored to each individual, with a team of employment experts supporting the client throughout the whole employment journey. This could be through activities like running sessions to enhance your confidence, working with you to develop your CV and put your existing skills and attributes down on paper, or mind mapping potential sectors you have an interest in finding out more about, through to negotiating with your employers and ensuring your work remains accessible and inclusive.

DES is a free, practical, friendly and holistic service. To find out more, visit https://www.atworkaustralia.com.au/disability-employment-services/

Two women talking in an office environment
Mother holding her baby boy.

Employment support for people with disability

Regardless of the type of disability, your experience or its impact on your work, there are services available to assist your employment journey. From skilling up and writing CV’s to managing interviews and addressing workplace adjustments, these services are designed to support you to reach your career goals.

They provide training, confidential advice, financial assistance, workplace assessments, technological aids, and the human resources necessary to help you land meaningful work that suits your needs. They also provide reassurance and peace of mind.

Read through the summary of each service below to find out which might be the most appropriate support for you. 

JobAccess

JobAccess is the leading Australian Government initiative that aims to support the employment of people with disabilities.

It is a website and phone service that provides information to job seekers and employees with disabilities and their colleagues, employers, and service providers.

Head to their website for information about searching for a job, workplace adjustments, employer/employee rights and responsibilities, recruitment advice and information on various types of disability. Their free phone service also offers confidential professional advice to all parties.

During your recruitment phase and beyond, JobAccess is a great resource to pass onto employers. It can help them gather the tools necessary to best support you. When using the website, select whether you are a person with a disability or an employer of someone with a disability, and you’ll be directed to the pages relevant to you. 

Website: www.jobaccess.gov.au

Phone: 1800 464 800

Disability Employment Services (DES) and Australian Disability Enterprises

The Australian Government funds two specialist agencies that support people with disabilities to find and maintain work. These are:

  • Disability Employment Services (DES)
  • Australian Disability Enterprises

DES is a network of businesses Australia-wide that support job seekers who have a disability, injury or health condition. They assist individuals at all stages of the employment process, from getting ready for the job search, the job-hunt itself and during working life.

This support comes in the way of industry-specific training, the development of resume and interview skills, interpreting services, workplace modifications, employer and co-worker support, and more. DES is not a recruitment service.

Australian Disability Enterprises, on the other hand, is a pool of over 600 businesses that employ people with moderate to severe disability in a range of industries, including design, screen printing, manufacturing, packaging, landscaping, food services, laundry and more. Australian Disability Enterprises ensures that employees with disabilities are provided with similar – if not the same – employment conditions as those without disabilities.

DES website: www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/programmes-services/disability-employment-services

Australian Disability Enterprises website: https://www.dss.gov.au/disability-and-carers-programs-services-for-people-with-disability/supported-employment

Phone: Centrelink on 13 2717

Recruitability

Recruitability is a scheme that the Australian Government also runs. It is designed to attract people with disabilities to apply for employment in the Australian Public Service (APS) while simultaneously promoting disability awareness and cultural change in APS recruitment teams. The Recruitability scheme allows individuals with disabilities who apply for vacancies the opportunity to automatically progress to the next stage of the recruitment process – providing they meet all eligibility and minimum requirements of the role.

If you want to apply for a position through the Recruitability scheme, you must share that you experience disability, but you’re not obligated to provide further information about your disability.

Website: https://www.apsc.gov.au/working-aps/diversity-and-inclusion/disability

Email: [email protected]

Employment Assistance Fund

The Employment Assistance Fund provides financial support to people with disability and mental health conditions and their employers for employment-related support, services, and modifications. This fund can be used to reimburse the cost of a wide range of activities, including interpreter services, changes to work vehicles and other work environments, disability awareness training, communication devices, specialist services for individuals with specific learning disabilities, and more.

You can use this fund as you prepare for and look for work, as you commence a new job, and throughout your employment.

You can also request a free Workplace Modification Assessment, which involves a qualified assessor visiting your workplace to provide recommendations in consultation with you and your employer regarding modifications or adjustments that could make the workplace more accessible for you.

This assessment is usually mandatory if you want to claim an expense greater than $1000. 

Website: www.jobaccess.gov.au/employment-assistance-fund-eaf

Phone: 1800 464 800

Mobility Allowance

You may also be eligible for Mobility Allowance, which supports people whose disability makes it difficult to use public transport without significant assistance.

This allowance can only be used if you travel between home and your workplace or training facility or look for work.

Website: www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/mobility-allowance

Australian Network on Disability

Another fantastic resource is the Australian Network on Disability (AND). The AND is a member-based organisation that supports employers to include people with disabilities in all organisational aspects by sharing knowledge and resources, running training and facilitating networks. Even though the AND works with employers, they offer a comprehensive website with numerous fact sheets and publications that may interest individuals with disabilities.

The AND also runs the Stepping Into Internship and the Positive Action towards Career Engagement (PACE) program. The Stepping Into Internship program provides skilled university students who experience disability with a paid internship at a leading business. The Internship is a minimum of 152 hours, and the AND can assist with any workplace adjustments you require.

The PACE program is a terrific mentoring program where students and job seekers with disabilities are matched with a professional from a leading Australian business.

In this program, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with your mentor six to eight times in three months, for one or two hours at a time. In these catch-ups, you’ll receive careers advice, networking opportunities and participate in professional and personal development covering areas such as resume development, interview techniques and learning about industries of interest.

You’ll also discuss the impact of your disability on your career and any adjustments you might need. The PACE program aims to build life and workplace confidence and tailored to your specific interests and needs.

Australian Network on Disability: www.and.org.au

Stepping into Internship: www.and.org.au/pages/stepping-into…-programs.html

PACE program: www.and.org.au/pages/apply-for-mentoring.html

Supported Wage System

Lastly, if you’re someone whose disability significantly impacts your work productivity, you and your employer may choose to make use of a Supported Wage System.

This system allows organisations to pay you a wage based on your productivity. To make use of the Supported Wage System, a qualified assessor will take you through an assessment to determine a fair arrangement for both parties.

Website: www.jobaccess.gov.au/supported-wage-system-sws

For tips on navigating applications and interviews when you experience disability, check out our article about a smooth sailing recruitment process.

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