Figuring out how to navigate your job search can be challenging. It can be more difficult for students and new grads with disabilities, who can be unsure how to market themselves and leverage available opportunities.
As an Employment Specialist, I liaise with recruiters and human resources professionals to create opportunities for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and provide career and employment guidance for users of these services.
The best advice I provide to job seekers when networking and job searching is to lead with your abilities to focus on what you have to offer employer. I have interviewed three recent graduates, who happen to be PWDs, and who have successfully gained employment aligned with their career goals by focusing on their strengths and leveraging opportunities available to them as well. Each of them shared some great insights and advice for others to consider when job searching. As you’ll see below, having a disability is not a barrier to landing a great role – there are plenty of great resources out there.
Paula is a current Ability Edge (Ability Edge is a paid intern program for new grads with disabilities) intern with Apotex, working as a Jr. Coordinator. When I asked her why she decided to register and apply for positions through the Ability Edge paid internship program, she said: “I felt comfortable disclosing my disability knowing the organization was interested in targeting recent grads with disabilities. I felt the employer would be accommodating.” She added, “I see this internship as a great opportunity to get started and grow my career.”
Paula says she applied for two positions and ended up receiving one phone screening and another job offer. “Don’t be hesitant in applying to postings – if you see an internship you are interested in, I suggest you submit an application. You’ll never get an offer if you don’t apply.”
Saood was like many Canadians and had no work experience after graduating university with an Applied Economics Degree from Carleton University. Saood was faced with the ‘no experience, no work; no work, no experience’ dilemma many recent graduates face. He applied for a six month contract with Scotiabank as a Payroll Officer. I asked him why he applied and accepted the opportunity; he replied “I saw this position as foot-in-the-door opportunity to showcase my skills, abilities and positive attitude to Scotiabank.” His hard work was rewarded and he was offered a six-month contract as a Human Resources Administrator that was later extended.
While on his second contract he shared with me how he leveraged this opportunity, “I utilized every resource offered by Scotiabank including networking and information sessions.” He added “after work I would constantly apply to positions on the internal positing board.” He had a few interviews and was offered a position as a Financial Analyst. This was in-line with his career objective and was exactly the type of role he wanted. His contract experiences combined with his perseverance and strong work ethic lead him to a land his ideal job.
Saood’s advice to other recent graduates: “Be open to any opportunity to get work experience. Don’t give up – you never know which opportunity will advance your career.”
Abdi graduated from Humber College in Hospitality Management, knowing full well that finding work would be a challenge due to his limited work experience. But this didn’t stop his search for his career start.
“I attended every job fair, networking opportunity and information session to build my professional network,” says Abdi.
He finally landed an interview with a large international hotel chain. Unfortunately he wasn’t selected for the position – however, he did manage to leave a lasting positive impression during his interview. He was eventually offered a different position, which he accepted.
Even though he’s found employment, Abdi hasn’t slowed down when it comes to networking. “I am constantly networking and keeping in touch with my contacts and past employers,” he says.
Paula, Abdi and Saood all worked very hard to achieve their career goals. The key messages and takeaways from their experiences are to remain positive, attend every event offering the chance to build your network, keep in touch with connections and past employers and leverage employment opportunity to advance your career. I hope the insights and advice from successful recent grads help you with your job search.