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Looking for work? Highlight your ability

Job seeking tips for students with a disability

September 6, 2017 — 

More and more organizations today are looking to build a representative and diverse workforce that is both inclusive and barrier-free.  This includes hiring students from diverse backgrounds and levels of ability.  In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that a person has certain democratic rights and prohibits potential employers from discriminating based on a candidate’s physical or intellectual disability.   The Employment Equity Act defines persons with disabilities as “individuals who have a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning impairment and who consider themselves disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment or believe that an employer or potential employer likely would consider them disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment”.

Your role as a candidate when applying for a job is to convince the employer that you meet their needs as an organization – this is where your skills and experience comes in to play.  But you may have some additional ways that could help their business. Perhaps it is a unique set of skills or experience highly sought after in the industry, or a unique perspective and ability to understand the challenges that customers and employees face with respect to mobility, accessibility, learning or work environments.

If you identify as a person with a disability, you may want to consider the following tips to help you determine your career path or land that dream job:

Find the right employer: Job seekers are looking for employers whose values, company culture and vision they identify with.   So doing your research to target employers who advertise a commitment to an equity hiring strategy is a great place to start.  A few examples might be government or crown corporations, or federally regulated businesses or industries.

Seek out support: In Manitoba, there are many agencies that provide a broad variety of services to help determine career and educational goals and reach employment.  For a complete listing, visit AbilityAxis. Organizations such as the Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work offer programming for job seekers as well as funding for employers to support the employment of someone who self-declares as having a disability. Programs such as the Manitoba Diversity Internship Program and Career Gateway programs are two great examples of opportunities designed to support inclusion in the provincial government. Career Edge partners with employers in industry to offer both resources and internship opportunities specially designed for persons with disabilities, or if you have some entrepreneurial spirit, check out Business Abilities for information and resources related to starting your own business from home. 

In addition to provincial and federal student aid opportunities, you may also qualify for the University of Manitoba, Work-Study Program which is a great way to get a job on campus.

Communicate what you need to be successful in the workplace: The ability to effectively communicate any required accommodation needed in the workplace is crucial.  According to the Canadian Human Rights Act, employers have the duty to accommodate your needs in the workplace to the point that it does not cause what is defined as “undue hardship” with respect to costs, health and safety.  Be knowledgeable about the supports that you require. Reasonable accommodation includes any “adaptations that need to be made to the work environment, tools, or processes that enables a person with a disability to successfully meet the requirements of the job.”

To disclose or not to disclose: The decision about whether to and when to disclose your status or limitations to an employer is both complex and personal. First ask yourself whether disclosing your disability will help you to get the job or the accommodations you require to do the work.  If the answer is no, and you are able to do the job without accommodation or risk to others, you may decide to keep it private. If the answer is yes, consider when you may want to disclose – in your cover letter, when you are offered the interview because you need accommodations, at the interview, or when the job is offered to you.  Put yourself in the employer’s shoes and consider how you might best understand the situation. Whether you decide to do so early on or later in the process, focus on your key skills abilities not your limitations.  Use your past experiences to describe the impact of your disability on your work and how you have been successful.

For more information on managing your disability as a student on campus, visit Student Accessibility Services, or for career help check out the resources on the Career Services website or visit us in our office to meet a career consultant.

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