By Jim Hasse
In June 2012, Alice graduated with a degree from the Missouri School of Journalism, but she has not been able to get a job since then.
Born with cerebral palsy, she speaks very slowly and with much difficulty in person, on Skype and on her cell phone, but she can keyboard at 35 words a minute. Her excellent writing skills helped her get through college on a state scholarship.
Since graduation, she’s been blogging about her job search experiences: the company research, the resume writing, the long list of no responses, and the lack of interviews. As a “communicator,” Alice believed she had progressed beyond the services available from her state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or the federal government’s Ticket to Work program.
She finally received an e-mail one day from Ed, the owner of a contingent search firm that focuses on placement of people in the communications. Ed saw her blog online and was impressed, and Alice thought it was finally her big break.
But, Ed, as a headhunter, had no experience with placing individuals with a disability in a job. He and Alice are now both frustrated after many attempts at gaining a breakthrough in social media, which he believed held some potential for a jobseeker in Alice’s circumstances.
You Don’t Have to “Go It Alone”
Alice’s story of frustration as a jobseeker with a disability is not unique. I recall my own struggle to get that “first job” and my own attempts to “wing it alone” – largely because, in the 1960s, I was really “alone” with very few resources.
In 1965, there was no Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in my state. There was no Internet. There was no database of service providers for jobseekers with disabilities.
I finally got my first job through a family friend and a relative who worked at a local dairy cooperative. It was an organization poised to grow rapidly during the next three decades due to a massive restructuring of the Midwest dairy industry, and I grew with it career-wise during the next 28 years. I eventually became one the firm’s vice presidents, even though I walked and talked with difficulty due to cerebral palsy.
What You Have “Going for You” Today
If Alice reminds you of your current situation, please heed this advice: Take full advantage of the service providers and advocacy groups resources available on GettingHired.com. It’s where you can get the help you need – within your local area -- to find the job that’s right for you.
GettingHired.com has a national network of more than 1,000 organizations which provide key services for those of us with disabilities who seek employment and those who seek to hire us. You search that network by entering a keyword, your town or zip code and get a description of each service available within your locality for meeting your specific need.
GettingHired.com also provides the contact information for each service and a handy e-mail submission form you can use to contact the provider.
My heads up: This “partnership organization” service is truly valuable. Since the 1960s, there has been a virtual avalanche of federal legislation that relates directly or indirectly to individuals with disabilities and their desire to gain meaningful employment. The trick is to sort out and find which services can be most helpful for you.
GettingHired.com makes it easier to see what services are available in your area.
Just recently, Amira at GettingHired.com helped a young woman who is interested in becoming a paralegal. Amira went through the service provider search process for her to identify the steps (such as finding financial aid and locating the appropriate school) she needed to take to reach her goal.
Search Firm Examples
Another heads up, especially for Alice: There are recruiters now who specialize in matching qualified, workplace-astute job candidates who happen to have a disability with employers who are striving to be inclusive in their employment practices.
- HireDISABILITIES, LLC is a contingent search firm, for example, that focuses on placement of experienced, technically and culturally qualified professionals who happen to have a disability. It covers a wide range of job sectors.
- Big Tent Jobs is another such search firm committed to finding career-enhancing job opportunities for IT professionals in the U.S. It serves those with hidden and visible disabilities.
- benderconsult.com is not only a staffing service but also a company that itself employs individuals who provide consulting services in the information technology field. It can place consultants throughout the U.S.
- HirePotential is also a national consulting firm that works with corporations committed to diversity by assisting them with integrating, accommodating, retaining and employing people with disabilities, mature workers, veterans and individuals from other niche groups.
These are the types of service providers you’ll find within the “Service Provider Search” section of GettingHired.com. I believe these search firms are thriving because hiring managers are more comfortable going into a conversation with a job candidate with a disability, if they are prepared with details about the specific disability involved and what adaptations can be made to make certain jobs accessible.
As one employer told me, “When disability information is too 'nice,' it doesn't help me feel comfortable. I would feel much more at ease talking to someone who has difficulty speaking, if I knew not only how to do it but what not to do."
Being comfortable on both sides of the job-interview table is what counts, and that’s why I believe GettingHired.com’s service provider database is so valuable for those of us who are seeking employment and who happen to have a disability.
Jim Hasse, Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), (www.perfectlyable.com/), a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. Lighthouse International (forum.perfectlyable.com). He’s the founder of www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com, a comprehensive career coaching guide for parents of youngsters with cerebral palsy.