It’s May, and that means millions of new graduates are about to enter the U.S. job market — many for the first time. Searching for a new job can be stressful no matter what. During the coronavirus pandemic, and with high unemployment, it will be even tougher. For those of us with disabilities, it might feel like an impossible mountain to climb.
But although finding a job might be harder than usual 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.
Deciding on an approach ahead of time will help you feel more confident if and when you have this conversation.
3. Consider your strengths and limitations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many workplaces. Some might be more hectic, noisy, or dangerous than usual. Different people will thrive doing different types of work — and in different work environments.
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.
Ask any questions you need to understand what the work environment will be like. And learn what safety measures they’ve put in place for COVID-19, especially if your immune system is compromised.
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.
When 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.
During this strange time, your job search might take a lot longer than it normally 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 everyone right now. But it’s not impossible. If we put our health first, ask for support, and have patience with ourselves and others, it will happen.
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.