By Mary Blake
Although the economy is starting to bounce back, searching for a job is still not easy, especially if you have a disability or any barrier to employment. But there are things that you can do to improve your chances of getting a job.
Here are a few tips to help you in your job search:
Get help – We all need a helping hand from time to time and luckily there are many resources, both public and private, that can be of assistance. Here are a few local resources.
- Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) (www.dors.state.md.us/dors)
- Unemployment Office (DLLR) (dllr.state.md.us/)
- Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED) (oedworks.com/)
- Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) (mdod.maryland.gov/)
- American Job Centers (dllr.state.md.us/county/)
Some resources are specific to a type of disability such as:
- Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA)
- Behavioral Health Administration (BHA)
- Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- National Federation of the Blind
There are also many not-for-profit organizations that can assist you in your search:
- Jewish Community Services’ Career Center (jcsbaltimore.org)
- Maryland Works, Inc. (mdworks.com)
- The IMAGE Center for People with Disabilities (imagemd.org)
- Association of Persons in Supported Employment (apse.org)
Have a plan – Everyone needs a plan to have a successful job search so make sure you know what resources you have available to you. It is almost impossible to do a job search today without a computer and internet access. If you don’t have one at home, visit the library or ask a friend. The JCS Career Center has a resource room with several computers with internet access, fax, printer and many other resources both in Park Heights and Owings Mills. Other questions you need to ask yourself are: Do you have reliable transportation to work? Is childcare set up? These all need to be considered when planning a job search so you will know where to look for work and what times you can work.
Define your search – You may have many different interests and abilities but you need to focus on a primary target. What skills and abilities do you have that are needed in today’s marketplace? You may need to do some research to see what jobs and companies might be a good fit. The O*Net site: onetonline.org or The Maryland Workforce Exchange can provide this type of information.
If you are unsure about your skills then you may want to do a career assessment. The Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) provides this service so you can contact your local office dors.state.md.us/dors to set up an appointment. This will help point out your interests, strengths and skills and indicate some career fields that could use your skills. If you want to enhance your skills, DORS can help with that, too. Train Baltimore also has many resources for training and apprenticeships.
Be prepared – You must prepare and organize before starting your job search. Is your resume up to date? Do you have a log where you can track all the places you contact and apply for jobs? This could be in a notebook or on a spreadsheet. Have you practiced interviewing and answering some of the tough questions employers ask? Many persons with a disability struggle with whether to disclose their disability to potential employers. Even though there are laws to protect against discrimination such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many still worry that employers will not want to hire them. JCS Career Coaches that can help you prepare for and practice answering interview questions.
Know yourself – We discussed knowing your strengths and skills and being prepared to talk about them, but what about areas you need assistance in due to your disability? If you need special accommodations to do part of a job because of your disability, then you need to know what type of help works best for you. You will need to be prepared to talk about your ability to do the “essential functions” of the job. If you aren’t sure what is considered an equal playing field when selecting the best person to fill a position, or what constitutes a “reasonable accommodation,” the ADA website, ada.gov, has a lot of good information and resources on this topic.
A clear plan and organized search can make a big difference in targeting the best employers and jobs for you. There are jobs available and many employers are hiring for multiple positions, so it is important not to give up. Your disability does not have to be a barrier. You just need to know how to emphasize your talents and skills and your ability to do the job. Learn to sell yourself and tell employers how you would be a benefit to them. If you stay motivated in your job search and market your strengths, your hard work will pay off.
Mary Blake, Associate Senior Manager Supported Employment, JCS Career Center
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about the JCS Career Center click here or call 410-466-9200.