By: April Meredith, with special thanks to Marissa Smith-Fletcher & Ebony Cole
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is celebrated every October in the United States. The purpose of NDEAM is to recognize the positive contributions employees with disabilities bring to the American workforce, and to encourage hiring entities to actively recruit and gainfully employ people with disabilities. Each year has a specific theme. The 2019 theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.” Therefore, we’d like to share 10 tips for the job seekers with disabilities out there on how to market yourself to potential employers.
- Remember, as a person with a disability, you bring diversity, a unique perspective, problem-solving skills, and adaptability to change to any employer.
- Highlight your position-specific strengths in a cover letter. This is not the time to be humble. From your resume, pull out your greatest relevant attributes with each job opening and tweak the phraseology to match that of the hiring entity.
- Stop by the potential employer, dressed professionally as if for an interview. Whether turning in an application in person or scoping out the environment before an interview, take a few minutes to visit the prospective workplace and introduce yourself. This may help you stand out amongst other applicants, demonstrate your independence, and encourage them to seriously consider you for hire.
- Smile. No matter how nervous you may feel inside, portray enthusiasm on the outside when attending career fairs, submitting applications, or interviewing. Nobody wants to hire a person who seems grumpy or apprehensive.
- Study frequently asked interview questions. Familiarizing yourself with these questions and your personal responses can go a long way in feeling confident and prepared for any interview.
- Practice by doing mock interviews with someone using frequently asked questions and with position-specific ones. You can get feedback immediately following which will give you a feel on how the process may go with the prospective employer, and further boost your confidence before the big day.
- Get a good night’s rest. Making a positive first impression is very important. Half of the battle is being alert. Sleeping at least 7 hours the night before an interview will do wonders on your attitude, appearance, and aptitude.
- Eat a yummy, filling breakfast. You don’t want to be thinking about salads, burgers, and pizza while someone is asking you questions about yourself. You don’t want to have the hunger on your mind and your stomach growl during an interview. Help yourself stay focused and ready to make a positive impact on the person who may be your future boss.
- Network and pay attention. No matter what type of work you are seeking, the process is a full-time job in and of itself. With everyone you come in contact with, always carry yourself as a capable person. You never know who may be the key to connecting you to your ideal position.
- Approach all potential job opportunities with dignity and respect. You are equally worthy of gainful employment as other qualified candidates with no disabilities. Hiring a person with a disability is not charity. You want to find a position that is a good fit for you just as much as employers wish to hire the person who is best suited for the role.
Empower Tennessee strongly believes in the truth to which the 2019 theme speaks. Although NDEAM is drawing to a close, the spirit of this celebration should be carried out all year long. As part of the Employment Network, we educate local companies and managers on the reasons hiring workers with disabilities is smart business. We also assist job seekers or newly-hired employees through job readiness, advocacy, and benefits counseling. Furthermore, we lead by example – ensuring over half of our staff and board members are individuals with disabilities. We do not just believe in the theme; we live it! We understand first-hand the value added to an organization when people with disabilities are included. People with disabilities are not “the other”; we are “the all”. We are “The Right Talent, Right Now!”