1. Focus on your strengths and abilities, not your disability.
Potential employers are interested in hearing about what skills and abilities you bring to their organizations.
2. Design a solid résumé.
Ensure you have a well-written, concise résumé that not only highlights your education and work experience, but clearly articulates your abilities and skills as they relate to the kind of job you are seeking. Your résumé should be tweaked or customized to reflect the requirements for each job you apply for. Each job is unique and employers look for applicants who understand their unique requirements.
3. Always include a cover letter.
Every application must be accompanied by a cover letter that summarizes your skills and the reason why you are the best person for the job. Every cover letter should address the unique requirements of the job you are applying for. Customize it for every job application.
4. Research the company.
If you apply for a job, you should learn as much as you can about the company you are applying to, including their products and services, how they market, the competition, where they are located, etc. There is lots of information on-line.
5. Use social media to your advantage.
If used effectively and strategically, social media can be a strong tool for creating a quality brand for yourself, that will allow you to better attract and engage potential employers. Ensure that you have a good LinkedIn™ profile. LinkedIn™ is the business social media platform. Recruiters will look there first to check out your profile. For more tips on using social media well in your job search, see: Creating a social media profile.
6. Learn to network.
Applying for jobs on-line can be both time-consuming and unrewarding. There are often hundreds, sometimes thousands of applicants, making it very difficult for anyone to standout. Résumés are screened by software designed to pick up keywords in the job requirements. The real key to successfully finding a job is to network—friends, family (and their connections), job fairs, etc. Networking should always be about learning more about the work a company does and exploring possible careers, as opposed to directly asking for a job. It is a softer approach and tends to invite further discussion rather than a blatant “no”.
7. Hand out business cards.
You should have a business card that provides your contact information (email address and telephone number). As you network and connect to people, you can leave them your card. This shows you are serious and professional. Inexpensive cards can be ordered online, through retailers such as Staples™, or you can buy the software and print them yourself.
8. Be professional.
Employers want to see candidates who have a professional demeanour and style. It indicates that you take pride in yourself, and will take pride and be attentive in your work. Clean and appropriate-for-the-job attire, punctuality and good etiquette are some indicators. From more advice, see: 10 Tips for Job Hunting Etiquette.
9. Develop your interview skills.
Having good interview skills goes a long way to being successful. You must be able to articulate your strengths and skills. Focus on your ability, not your disability. The key is to help the employer understand how well you can do the job and how you can help them be successful. You should practice responses to commonly-asked interview questions.
It is important that you be able to (or learn how-to) self-advocate. You need to gain confidence in your own abilities. Under no circumstances should you express desperation. Companies hire applicants based on their fit within the organization and their ability to do the job. You should focus on your talents, skills and abilities, not on your disability.
11. Have a plan about disclosure.
The decision to disclose your disability is your personal choice. Regardless, your focus should always be on your ability to do the job, not your disability.
12. Get help.
There are numerous not-for-profit, disability-related organizations that can help you get the job search skills you need to be successful. In addition, there are many for-profit career counsellors who can help you prepare for the job market.
New graduates can seek out organizations such as Career Edge and Magnet that help candidates with disabilities connect with jobs. These organizations work with new graduates and provide the option to disclose a disability. They work with employers that are seeking to hire people with disabilities.