Top five tips when searching for a job while living with disability

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Searching for a job while living with disability

Our top five tips!

Searching for a new job? This can be a challenging task for anyone, so it’s important that you feel prepared and confident throughout what can be a long and challenging process. Novita regularly prepares young people and school leavers on their employment journey with our specialised programs including Step Up and Transition to Work. Many of our clients have gone on to pursue their chosen careers due to the skills and community they have gained through these programs!   

This article provides some useful tips and advice from our programs to overcome some common challenges and help you feel confident in your search. 

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, common barriers people living with disability may experience when searching for a job include: 

  • Discriminatory attitudes and behaviours during recruitment, and in the workplace, from employers and others 
  • Lack of available of jobs 
  • Lack of assistance in finding, securing and maintaining employment 
  • Difficulty in accessing skills training and education  
  • Difficulty in negotiating reasonable adjustments and accommodation in the workplace  
  • Lack of accessible transport, technology in the workplace and workplace 

Though some of these barriers are daunting, it is important to remain persistent and persevere in your job search. Employment can offer stability, structure, independence and be a rewarding experience for many people living with disability.  

Identify your key strengths and goals

One of the first steps when searching for a job is identifying your strengths and goals. A good question to ask yourself is what you want to do and why? Another good question is considering your skills and experience and what you can offer a potential employer.  

Lilly, who was a recent participant in Novita’s Transition To Work Program, found a passion for prosthetics and orthotics and worked towards her goal of being a technical assistant at NovitaTech through work experience and exploring her interests through pop culture.  

‘I realised in high school that I really liked prosthetics,’ Lilly says. 

‘My interest was sparked by pop culture – video games, movies and TV shows. I saw them and thought they were really cool.’ 

Some helpful ways to identify your strengths and passions for a job is talking them through with someone or writing them down to assess the pros and cons. To build up your experience in these areas, you could also consider doing some voluntary work to explore what the job will be like before you apply. 

Quick tip: If you need help refining your exact strengths and goals and how they could align to potential employment, you could consider contacting Disability Employment Services, a government funded initiative to support people living with disability to find suitable and accessible employment.

Assess and identify your needs at work

One of the most important questions to ask yourself during a job search is what do I need to feel comfortable? Employers are legally required to make any adjustments to meet the needs of employees living with disability.  

Examples of accessibility in the workplace may include: 

  • Disabled parking 
  • Technology and assistive devices to aid with physical and neurological requirements (e.g., wheelchair lamps and sensory lights) 
  • Flexible work arrangements 
  • Accessible toilets and bathrooms 
  • Digital accessibility (screens, website navigation and Easy English guides) 

An accessible workplace ensures that employees living with disability can participate to their full potential. Novita client, Emily, who has completed a qualification to pursue her dream as a support worker, says that employers should be aware of accessibility and inclusiveness in the workplace so that employees can thrive. 

‘Yes, I might have to do some parts of the job differently, or I might have to have some support in place, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do the job,’ Emily says.  

Quick tip: If you feel comfortable, ask whether an employer has an accessibility plan in place during your interview or recruitment process. For more tips on how to communicate this, check out this article. 

Make sure your resume and cover letter are up to date

Your resume and cover letter help showcase your skills on paper to potential employees. Your resume will list relevant skills, experience and education history, while your cover letter will respond to the requirements on a job listing.   

For your resume, you should 

  • Include your most relevant and up to date employment history (including work experience and volunteering) 
  • List your education and relevant qualifications (e.g., degrees and certifications) 

For your cover letter, you should 

  • Tailor it to each employer  
  • Respond to the selection criteria listed on the job ad 
  • Provide a short overview of your professional experience and skills 

Download our cover letter and resume template now >> (.docx 54kb)

Quick tip: Young people searching for work can access the School Leavers Employment Supports (SLES) through their NDIS plan. The SLES supports NDIS participants who are Year 12 leavers to transition from school to a job through work experience and development of important skills, including how to write a proper resume and cover letter. For more information on the SLES, click here.

Be prepared for your job interview

Congratulations, you got a job interview! This is the time to look and feel your best when speaking to a panel of potential employers.  

Before you attend the interview, make sure you: 

  • Research the company and understand what they are trying to achieve  
  • Make a list of any relevant questions you have for the employer 
  • Make a list of questions about accessibility (if you would like to discuss them with the employer) 

During the interview, make sure you: 

  • Arrive at least 10-15 minutes early so you can feel prepared and calm before the interview 
  • Dress for success – make sure you look professional and wear appropriate attire (e.g., no shorts, T–shirts or thongs!) 
  • Ask questions – this shows you are interested and engaged with the role 

After the interview, make sure you: 

  • Say thank you to the interview panel 
  • Pat yourself on the back (it is such a scary experience to sit in an interview and you did it!) 
  • Follow up with the hiring panel if you have any questions 

Quick tip: Questions you may be asked. Job Access states that potential employers can only ask questions regarding living with disability if it relates to your job. Some of these include:  

  • If you need any special work arrangements 
  • What your accessibility needs are  
  • If you need flexible work arrangements  

Inappropriate questions include:  

  • If you take a lot of medication 
  • Are you sick a lot 
  • Can you cope with the role 
  • If your disability makes you angry 
  • If you’ve ever lost a job because of your disability  

Know your rights

Remember, you are a valuable asset to any potential workplace! It is illegal for any potential employers to discriminate against you because you live with disability. As you already know from the Assess and identify your needs at work section, you do not need to disclose any information about living with disability if you feel uncomfortable.  

Discrimination may include: 

  • Refusing to employ someone because of their disability, even though it has no impact on how they do their job 
  • Limiting access to training and opportunities for employees living with disability  
  • Firing an employee because they live with disability  
  • Causing an employee to retire because they live with disability  

Quick tip: If you feel like you have been discriminated from employment because you live with disability, you can (with support from a parent, friend or carer) lodge a complaint through the Australian Rights Commission or the Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity 

These top five tips for work are designed to help you feel confident, prepared and safe on your employment journey.

Here are the top things to remember:

  • People living with disability deserve and are capable of employment just like anyone else 
  • Everyone has a unique set of skills and strengths they can bring to a job 
  • Communication is key: disclosing your disability is entirely your choice  
  • Preparation and research are key! 
  • You have support if you need it 

Want to learn more? 

Our Transition to Work and Step Up programs are available for young people up to 24. Through these programs, you will learn important skills about how to gain employment through work experience and learning a core set of skills which can be applied to a wide range of different jobs and industries. NDIS funding is available.