Embrace Your Strengths
Having a disability gives you a unique perspective which can often be an advantage in the workplace. Think about the specific skills or talents your disability gives you. Here are some ideas, based on a presentation given by Lime Connect:
- Metacognition – Unlike many people, you know how you learn and in what environments you function best. This is incredibly useful in the working well because you will be able to articulate what you need to be the most productive.
- Ability to think out of the box. Your disability probably forces you to see the world through a unique lens giving you a different perspective and often a more creative thought process than your peers.
- Coping with ambiguous situations. Navigating through the world with your disability might mean that every day consists of coping with unexpected or unsure situations. This is a huge asset in the working world which can often be unpredictable or lack structure.
Deciding to disclose a disability is often a difficult decision. If your disability requires an accommodation, we encourage you to disclose it during a job interview or when you receive a job offer. Here are some tips for doing so effectively, based largely on a presentation given by Lime Connect:
- Assume the employer is naive, not malicious. Often times any fears an employer has about a disability will be alleviated if they can understand a little more about it and how you can cope with it on the job so that you will be a productive member of their team.
- Explain your disability in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way. It can help if you can provide metaphor to help your interviewer or employer see things from your perspective. For example, “with dyslexia, reading for me is like looking at a bowl of alphabet soup.”
- Highlight your talents and accomplishments. For instance, “As someone with ADHD I am comfortable working long hours because I am high energy and I’m particularly good at dealing with stress and I thrive in high pressure environments, especially during moments of crisis.”
- Use humor, if you can, to explain it.
- Use “tactful pauses” to allow the audience to digest sensitive information. This can be a lot to absorb and your potential employer will often do better if given a chance to process the information.
- Provide informational brochures or other material to help explain your circumstance. It is quite possible or even likely that your employer may not know much about your disability and may appreciate additional information so that he or she can better understand how to maximize your talents and accommodate your working needs.
- Practice makes perfect. These can be uncomfortable or awkward situations so it is a good idea to practice how you plan to disclose with a family member, friend, or career counselor first.
- Express appreciation when offered an accommodation. Even if you decline the accommodation, it is important to thank your employer or potential employer to show that you appreciate their consideration.
One way to convince an employer that you will be an asset to the organization is to show how you might compensate for any disability. Here are some common coping strategies, particularly if your disability results in a need for more time to complete projects, based on a presentation given by Lime Connect. The coping strategies derive from a survey study (Madaus, J. W., Zhao, J. Ruban, L. Employment satisfaction of university graduates with learning disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 29(6), 323-332) conducted upon students with learning disabilities who were asked what strategies they use.
- Arrive early
- Stay late
- Prioritize your goals so that you have clear tasks to accomplish each day
- Time management