By Ray Harte, Careers Consultant, Kingston University
Finding support networks on campus
As a careers consultant working with university students for many years, I have found that some students find the job search and selection process very daunting. Some students ask questions such as; Where do I look for jobs? How do I write my CV? How do I fill in an online application form? How do I prepare for an interview? Students with or without a disability or long term health condition ask these questions, but some disabled students may be more anxious about the job search than other students.
There are also other things to consider for disabled students. These include whether to be open about a disability during the selection process or whether to ask for adjustments for an interview. This openness also applies to being at university and making the most of your time while there.
Support networks can come in many forms
Many disabled students may not want to share information about their disability with university staff or fellow students as this can be very private. If you do want to be open about a disability, a support network can include many people in a university including fellow students, the student union, student clubs and societies, staff in the university, mentors.
Support network with fellow students
Your student union might have a disability officer, this is someone who is a current student but who wants to do more for students and raises issues relevant to disabled students. A disability officer could run a campaign on campus on a particular topic, and they may also attend regular meetings with other officers in the student union to make sure that disabled students’ concerns are at the forefront of fellow students’ minds.
At Kingston University, there is also an Accessibility Students Network. This network is run for students by students, and meets every few months along with university staff including disability advisers and me!
Student clubs and societies
If you want to meet fellow students with or without a disability or long term health condition you can build up your network of contacts by joining a students’ union society or sports club. That way you can make friends from across your university, enjoy yourself and develop skills that employers are looking for. When you are at university, or even before you start your course, you can often find out about the societies and clubs available by vising a university’s students’ union website. If you don’t see one that fits in with your interests, many universities invite you to start a club or society yourself.
University staff including disability advisers and mental health advisers
Your university should have a team of disability advisers and mental health advisers who can support you while you are studying. These members of the university staff are specialists in giving advice about how best to manage a disability or long term health condition while a student is studying, and can arrange all sorts of support for disabled students. For example helping students to apply for extra time during exams or supporting students to apply for extra funds to support different learning needs.
The disability and mental health team might be able to team you up with a mentor, who can give you extra help and advice to support your learning. A mentor can be a great source of support while you study to make sure you are on track in your studies and are not disadvantaged in any way due to a disability.
All university careers services support students giving advice, guidance and information about progressing from your course into a job or a further study that meets your career aspirations. What this looks like will vary from university to university. Some careers services will run workshops for small groups of students with a specific disability or long term health condition covering different aspects of the job search. Careers services may also have a specific member of staff who meets with disabled students one-to-one to discuss particular aspects of the job search, including being open with employers about a disability during the job selection process.
As you can see that there are many support networks in a university, all of which can make your time studying as productive as possible for you, and of course fun! As I would say to any student, make the most of your time at university and if you need that extra support to enable you to study and make the most of that time make sure to seek it out. You know it makes sense!
Ray Harte is an experienced careers consultant with many years of giving advice, information and guidance to university students from diverse backgrounds and cultures across a wide range subjects. His passion is to see students succeed in their choice of job after university and set out on a long and successful career. In recent years he has developed a particular interest in supporting students with a disability or long term health condition in their job search.