My job search advice for new job seekers with disabilities

Having a disability can add stress to your job search, but there are ways to make it easier. Here’s some job search advice that can help you build confidence, stay patient, and complete your applications without burning out.

Each year, millions of new graduates enter the U.S. job market — many for the first time. Searching for a new job can be stressful no matter what. For those of us with disabilities, it might feel like an impossible mountain to climb.

Although finding a job might be harder for new job seekers with disabilities, there are some things you can do to make it easier. Here’s some job search advice that I’ve found useful.

1. Ask your family and friends. 

When I was looking for my first job, I asked my father’s employer if he had any open positions. He’s known me since I was little and was happy to offer me a job. 

Consider all your options, and don’t be afraid to ask others for help. If you’re nervous, try writing your request down ahead of time.

2. Plan out whether and how to disclose your disability.

You might be worried about the stress of deciding whether and when to disclose your disability or ask for accommodations. You don’t have to let an employer know about your disability, but you have the option. There are resources out there to help you with these choices

Deciding on an approach ahead of time will help you feel more confident if you decide to have this conversation.

3. Consider your strengths and limitations.

Ask questions to get a better understanding of what the work environment will be like. Workplaces can vary in terms of pace and noise levels. It’s important to find a setting where you can thrive.

For example, I experience sensory overload in loud environments. Working as a server in a loud diner wasn’t ideal. But washing dishes and counting inventory was a good fit for me. 

4. Look for local job search advice.

There are agencies that offer employment support specifically for people with disabilities. There are also guidance counselors, group meetings, workshops, and job fairs. 

Look up what’s available in your area. There’s no obligation to stay at an event that’s not working for you. If nothing else, you might learn something useful. Some of the advice I’m sharing here is from a counselor I met at one of these meetings.

5. Don’t push yourself too hard.

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by a job application, try breaking it down and doing it in parts. I save my applications as I go. That way, if my attention starts slipping, I can come back to them later. 

If the application form lets you save your responses, do so. If there’s no option to save, maybe you can save your work in another file and paste it into the form once you’re done. 

My brother told me never to let my job search go for longer than two hours a day, because it would cause stress and anxiety. Looking for a job for hours on end isn’t healthy. It could also cut down on the amount of time you spend with family and friends. And social relationships can help you maintain good mental health.

6. Don’t doubt yourself.

It’s important to remember that even with our disabilities, we can find work we enjoy. And some people say that their disability has helped them excel. 

Sometimes, a job search might take a lot longer than you wish it would. You might start to doubt your ability to submit good applications or to do well in an interview. 

If you find yourself struggling, remember that finding a job is tough for many people. But it’s not impossible. If we ask for support and have patience with ourselves and others, it will happen. 

Check out 40+ career examples of people who learn and think differently. And download a fact sheet to learn about workplace accommodations.

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Hanna Taluy is a self-made copywriter and creator with ASD and ADHD. She specializes in blog posts and web design. You can find her on LinkedIn.


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