I don’t think that I could have said it better myself. In my next posting I will break this down a little and provide New York State resources as well as more national resources, but as an overview of ADA protection I’ll direct you to the link below:
Welcome back to Fistful of Hired! Ithaca’s weather started taking a turn toward Winter, but that doesn’t mean the job market is looking dour. We ‘re still plugging along, getting folks jobs, and here’s hoping you’ll be next! I think that this post will be one of the more useful for everyone in this series. It will be especially helpful for people with disabilities who may have a little more trouble than others finding a job, but everyone is bound to enter a vocational rough patch in their life and this is all about over coming how others perceive that.
Resumes and cover letters hold the same basic purposes in your job search no matter who you are. Their looks may change slightly though, depending on certain protected status’. It is important to remember that you do not have to put everything you’ve done on a resume or cover letter. You should include up to 15 years of work history (preferably without any gaps of more than 6 months), and include any experience, skills, or education that is relevant to the job that you’re applying for, whether that experience was paid or not.
I haven’t talked in depth about the three major reasons to change one’s resume: you, the potential employer, and the potential job. These three factors become a round-robin of considerations you must process. How are you matched well for the employer, and how do you sell yourself best to them? What is this particular employer looking for in this particular opening and how can you show you are capable of fulfilling their needs (and that you have done your homework)? Lastly, do you address the match between your skills, education, and experience with what is asked for by the job posting (will you make it through the initial cuts)? All three of these questions are applicable to everyone, but some of them require more consideration give your particular situation.
Last week I talked about making sure that you could and would want to do a particular job. This is taking it a step further in that you could easily envision yourself in a position, but the reason you want to hold that position could still be left unanswered. Matching yourself with the job description is answering whether you could and would want to hold the position. Matching yourself to the employer goes miles toward answering the why behind your application. Employers want to know that you are not just applying to every customer service job that pops up on Monster.com. They want to know that some other business offering $2.50 more an hour isn’t going to give you reason to quit.
The possibilities for why you would want to take a specific job are endless. Maybe you want to support the local industry (and stay local yourself), maybe you appreciate the employer’s corporate responsibility with regard to the environment, or maybe this employer is particularly understanding of job seekers with particular demographic considerations. Whatever the case may be, it is important to be more than just an application, it is important to be human.
For individuals with disabilities, it may be particularly difficult to come up with a strong work history. There may be gaps when you had to take a break from work, or you may not have too many years of work history to begin with. One solution that works for everyone is to volunteer. By volunteering you can add “employers” under a “Relevant Experience” section, slightly different from your “Work History” because it may not be exactly paid-for experiences, those experiences do not necessarily have to have dates, or if they do, they do not need to emphasize them. A “Relevant Experience” section is meant to highlight the combination of skills that you will bring to the job you are applying for and where you acquired those skills. With this mind set you are able to showcase all of your talent without making your short or the gaps in your work history obvious.
Another option is to highlight, either in your resume or cover letter, what you did with your time while you were not working. In some cases you were taking care of a home, or an elder. Even if you are not working and couldn’t take care of someone, you may have been furthering your education or providing some consulting for a friend, or volunteering part-time. Don’t think that your activities are insignificant or that they aren’t “good enough” for your future employer. It is always better to be doing something, even if it is something small, than to say that you have done nothing at all.
Sometimes, you may have needed a personal break. During a break in your work history, there was nothing that furthered your career, but I am sure that you did not do anything. Let your future employer know, through a follow-up call or briefly in your cover letter that you needed a break, but that you are more than ready to go back to work and how excited you are for the opportunity they are providing. No need for a huge story, simply put your explanation should take up a sentence, perhaps two. Your cover letter is meant to be the human introduction to your resume; it is the part of your application where you can explain special circumstances or extenuating situations. Don’t let an employer’s assumption about a work history gap determine whether or not you get a chance to explain yourself.
I hope that this covers most of the main points of the application. Next week we’ll get into trickier stuff: disclosure, reasonable accommodation, and undue hardship. If you have a question, please let me know, but until next week, I’ll see you in the Cloud!
As I’m sure many of you know the market for jobs out there is tough. It’s even tougher if you have a disability; if there is a chance that you can face discrimination in any way. Even though there are challenges, there will never be a silver bullet to overcome every obstacle in the way. There are some things that cannot be helped and in some parts of our lives that we have to let go of the belief that we have control over. That doesn’t mean that you should lose hope, quite the opposite, the belief that we cannot control everything in our lives means that we have a charge to work harder in the areas that we do have control. We must do everything possible to form the best opportunities for ourselves as we navigate the paths we travel.
Each person has the chance to travel their path, and fight for where they want to be. Everyone is able to contribute to others in some way. Many times a different perspective or approach reveals a better way of doing things. That is exactly what Walgreens (http://www.dol.gov/odep/categories/workforce/readyable/readyable.pdf) found when they undertook an initiative to hire more people with disabilities and create two distribution centers which were wholly universally accessible (meaning people without and with disabilities could access work in and utilize every part of the facilities). At each distribution center, Walgreens attempted to create a workforce of which 30% had a disability. While Walgreens and their partner organizations provided reasonable accommodation, they held all of their workers, whether they happened to have a disability or not, to the same standards. When Walgreens compared those universally accessible distribution centers with other similar distribution centers, they found that the centers were 20% more efficient and that their employees with disabilities cost approximately $500 less per case in safety claims and had lower absenteeism that employees without disabilities.
If one has the ability to work and perform above expectations, getting a job offer should not be an issue, but finding an appropriate match for individual skills, interests, and tolerances without causing “undue hardship” on the potential employer may be an issue. I will discuss both “undue hardship” and “reasonable accommodation” in a later post, but for now I want to talk about easy ways to pick a job/career that’s right for you.
Of the things to take into account as a person with a disability is whether or not you are able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. In other words, can you do what the employer is asking for if you had some equipment, assistance, or minor changes to the work place? If you are able to perform the job, the next question is will you enjoy the position? In addition to your personal satisfaction, there may be environmental or social concerns that need to be taken into account.
Http://www.do2learn.com/JobTIPS/index.html is excellent for outlining questions and concerns to take into account when narrowing one’s job goals. In its “Determining Interests” section the website breaks down basic concerns into four areas: Social Skills, Interests, Environmental Demands, and Job Descriptions. Do2learn provides printable forms for both the job seeker and a second person who may be able to provide a different perspective of the job seeker’s abilities and interests. At the bottom of the post I have listed a couple other useful websites which will help you assess what you can and want to do in order to better refine your job search, training goals, and networking. Jobzone and Careerzone provide job descriptions along with personality and work interest tests which may help you narrow the jobs you are looking for. Onestops Info has a couple of assessments and articles that you may find helpful and AbilityLinks has some questions that everyone should answer before they consider applying for a job.
Next week I will get into the job searching process for individuals with disabilities, including resumes, cover letters, job search techniques, interviewing, and knowing your rights and responsibilities with regard to employment.
I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and posting even more often! Let me know if you have any topics that you would like me to discuss and I will get back to them ASAP. Until then, see you in the cloud.
Hello and welcome back! I’m back from my vacation, and it is everything I could have hoped for, lots of fishing, great food, and some of the best company as well as making some new friends. But alas, all good things come to an end and its back to the other good things I fill my time with: old friends, late nights, and helping job seekers! Sadly, you won’t get to hear about my evenings or my friends (much), but I do have a brand new post for you job seekers out there.
This week I’ll start by asking the question, “Are you getting better or older?” In my research for this post I came across many websites designed for older workers that claimed, “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better” but just like wine, people can age into something great or turn to vinegar. I think that the phrase isn’t so much a statement as a question. If you don’t want to turn to vinegar, you had better keep up to date and improving your skills to ensure that you age well. Make sure that as the years pass you maintain a healthy knowledge of current trends in your industry as well as the new technology that is coming out. No one is asking you to be an expert at everything, but you should have a good understanding of what skills and proficiencies are necessary in your field (especially if you didn’t use the latest and greatest in your last position) and be using the new programs, websites, and devices that young professionals are. You are never too old, unless you deem it.
Those are very general and useful recommendations, but even by staying current, you still may face discrimination. Much of it will be stereotypes that are not true or not true of you and much of it will go unsaid or unaddressed. It is your job to get good at sensing the motive behind the questions and portraying yourself in a way that truly doesn’t fit the mold the interviewer may have for you. Before you ever get into the interview though make sure that every point on your resume and cover letter fits the job description and that you do not have dates of any kind from more than 15 years ago. Your work history should show that you have dependability and that the companies that you have worked for wanted to keep you around. You may want to include an “Work Experience” section in addition to your “Work History” section so that you can pull skills and accomplishments from jobs that you had over 15 years ago without giving the dates (“Work History” gives dates). Another way to go about this is to create your resume in a way that highlights skills as much as your Work History. In either case, you want to showcase your recent and directly applicable skills and accomplishments. Make sure that your recent learning and energy are apparent.
Once you have tailored your application materials, you want to make sure that you have answers to questions like: “Aren’t you overqualified?”, “How old are you?”, “What is your experience with social media/new technology?”, and “Why are you applying for this position?” While some of these questions seem innocent, they may be an attempt to get at some deeper concern that the interviewer has. If possible, try to vanquish as many fears as you can right up front by not talking about your age, but instead mentioning your energy (that you row every morning or hike on the weekends) and your ability to learn (you started a blog, you were part of or led a webinar). When asked one of these questions, be sure to have a response prepared that will deal with the question and also any underlying concerns that may be present as well.
I’m sorry to say that you cannot eliminate your chances of being discriminated against completely, but it is possible to reduce them through preparation and research. Make sure that the companies that you are applying to are older worker friendly. A list of such businesses can be found at www.aarp.org. Similarly to your preparation and research, your attitude can reduce the amount and degree of discrimination you face. You can and should expect success doing this will bring about a couple of benefits that may never be obvious: 1) Being positive will increase your chances of getting hired (https://fistfulofhired.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/interview-statements-and-their-answers-pt-2/) and 2) Being positive will change how you are looked at and what people want to be around you. You should want to attract other positive people and by doing so you will expose yourself to more opportunities in the future.
It took me sometime this week to weed through the references I wanted to present because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t include any which promoted a “can’t-change-the-status-quo” attitude. I think that change is possible and is something that we should be working toward. I realize that situations will never be ideal, but it is always better to work for changes in the things that you can do rather than what you can’t. I hope I these sources promote what you can change to improve your work search.
Before I sign-off, I want to give a special thanks to Jacqui B. for always being a resource to me no matter what my question might be and for providing the second set of resources used in this post. Jacqui, your hard work, experience, and knowledge is always appreciated.
Next week I want to start a series on employment strategies for job seekers with disabilities, but until then, I’ll see you in the cloud!
Sincerely your jobsmith,