By Ray Harte, Careers Consultant, Kingston University
Applying for your first job after University can be daunting. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in thinking this. If you have a disability or long term health condition you might feel that there are many more obstacles in your path, but you should be confident in the fact that progressive employers are open to you.
1. It’s OK to tell an employer about your disability and ask for what you need
There is a lot of information about employers making reasonable adjustments to support job applicants with a disability or long term health condition. Many disability-confident employers on MyPlus Students’ Club encourage students to be open about disability so that they can support them throughout the application process. Just take a look at these graduates who applied successfully with a disability and are now working well with adjustments.
2. Disability can be a positive ‘plus’
You know your disability better than anyone. You could help an employer to support you by explaining how you manage your disability or long term health condition on a day-to-day basis. By drawing upon your experience of disability, you can demonstrate positive strengths, skills and resilience – competencies that other graduates do not have. Remember, though, that you don’t have to inform an employer of your disability or long term health condition, it’s your choice whether you do or not. However, if an employer asks you directly about your disability, be honest and upfront about your disability in the context of the job.
3. It’s never too late to be open with an employer
The topics you cover in a conversation will depend on whether you have been open about your disability or not during the job application process. If you have been open with an employer during this process you can follow up the information you have given by going in to more detail about the support you need.
If you haven’t been open about your disability before you have started a job that’s still ok but you may need to start from the beginning about your disability and have conversations about what disability you have and how you manage it. This will help the employer understand your situation and put in to place support for you.
Such a conversation is not easy. Also, who would you tell in a workplace about your disability? Perhaps as a start you could inform a staff member in the Human Resources (HR) department. Also, you may want to speak to your line manager about your disability.
4. You don’t have to finance your adjustments
The Access to Work scheme is government funded. An employer might be able to apply for funding on your behalf if you attend an interview, you’re about to start a job, you’re in a paid job or you’re self-employed, or even if you’re starting work experience.
Access to work funds may cover:
- adaptations being made to the equipment you use in the workplace
- special equipment that you might need
- taxi fares to your workplace if you are unable to use public transport
- a support worker or a job coach
- support if you have a mental health condition, you’re absent from work or finding it difficult to work
- disability awareness training for work colleagues
- a communicator to be with you at a job interview
- the cost of moving your equipment if you change your location or job.
Access to Work can cover a lot and it doesn’t have to be paid back. There are limits to the amount of funding you can receive. However, no matter what may be covered by Access to Work it’s important to have conversations with relevant people in the workplace so that the right support and adjustments can be made for you.
Like any conversation between a graduate and an employer during a job interview or when you join a workplace you will talk about your strengths and your skills. If appropriate, you can give examples of how you have overcome any challenges due to a disability or long term health condition, but you don’t have to, of course. Any conversations you have with an employer about your disability is very much a ‘partner approach’ as you can discuss how you can make the best of your skills, strengths and make an impact in the workplace.
You should talk to an employer if your disability or long term health condition would have a significant impact on your ability to do your job.