Firstly, let me introduce myself, I’m Emma, I am 20 years old and a second year Business and Human Resource Management student at Anglia Ruskin University. Oh, and I also have underactive adrenal and thyroid glands, most likely autoimmune diseases. In summary, I get tired and frequently have joint pains and struggle to concentrate, but for me, it’s just a part of who I am and something I manage day to day in my life.
That leads me on to what I want to talk about today, dreaming big when you have a disability. I think it’s so easy to think “oh I have a disability so I’ll never be able to achieve what I want to in life” and that’s definitely what I believed when I was first diagnosed. For me, I was told I would never be able to work full time and as an extremely ambitious child, this crushed me and I began to lose hope for my future as I imagine many others would if they received the same news. My ambition and drive completely disappeared and I didn’t want to dream big as I thought I would never be able to achieve my goals.
I believe ambition to be one of the most important things in life, every employee, every manager, and even every friend is constantly bettering themselves based on reflection of previous experiences and their own personal feelings. Dreaming big is especially important whilst at university, reach for the stars and find your passion in life, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s important to find something you love as you’ll probably surprise yourself in how much you can achieve, whilst forgetting the impact your disability has. I have days where I completely forget about my illness because I’m too busy doing things that I love that I don’t have time to think about how tired I am or that my knees are hurting; it’s amazing just how much difference doing something you love can make.
Being Confident in declaring your Disability
After starting at university, I discovered how much passion I had for HR and my entire mentality changed, so many exciting opportunities were being thrown my way and I began thinking that I wasn’t going to let my disability hold me back, and in fact I was going to use it as something to push me further and drive me to achieve my goals. I think this was a real key turning point for me and something that kick started my ambition and drive which used to be such a big part of my character that I had lost through my diagnosis.
It’s so easy to think that a disability is something negative to declare in the workplace, but I think everyone should be proud of what they have achieved despite having a disability. I am now confident in declaring my illness to prospective employers as I want them to think “Wow this candidate has managed to achieve just as much as the other candidates, despite having a disability”. And, from my experience, it works! Employers appreciate your honesty and it shows real courage to be proud of something which is usually shied away from and I really believe its something that will make you stand out against other candidates.
As for me, I’m currently applying for HR internships and placements and I have declared my disability in every single application and interview. It’s pretty daunting going into these and having to explain that I may not be able to work full time, but I really think it shows if that employer is right for you if they are willing to be flexible with your working environment, even as an intern.
Learn to love and be proud of your disability, its part of you and something you should see as a strength to your character.
Think of the skills your disability may have taught you, for example, I have to manage my time to ensure I don’t have too much planned on one day. Time Management is a key skill which employers look for and you can show real skill in this.
Find what you love doing, this is easier said than done, but if you find something you are really passionate about, ambition will closely follow.
And finally, DREAM BIG. You can do it, and no one can tell you that you can’t. If you work hard, there’s no reason you can’t achieve your goals.