Steve Bone is a Careers Consultant at Leeds University, he supports students applying for graduate opportunities and advises his careers colleagues on inclusivity. In this blog, he highlights observations of the additional challenges faced by students with disabilities and shares advice on how to overcome these. This blogpost was originally published on Myplus Students Club.
Remember, you have something extra!
When supporting students with a variety of disabilities (both physical and unseen), what strikes me is that a positive approach to the application process is key. Successful applicants reflect on their ABILITIES and articulate these positively, alongside disabilities that the employer can make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for in the workplace.
Getting through to the application stage is a challenge; have I understated this? For prospective undergraduates who are unaware of their dyslexia, it is even tougher! So when I heard that an undergraduate, unaware of his dyslexia, had managed a successful application for an internship, I wanted to know how.
I met him and learnt that this was achieved through putting in additional hours, resilience, heightened verbal communication skills and problem solving; just the type of skills and attributes graduate employers seek. On discovering he had a disability he made the decision to tell the employer and will now have support during his summer internship.
Start by choosing the right employer
Research thoroughly and you’ll find progressive employers whom you can be open about your disabilities with. Not only are you protected against discrimination by the Equality Act 2010, employers are looking to recruit individuals with diverse skills and experiences, so be sure to provide examples of the abilities you have developed through managing disability.
You should get to know the application process so that any adjustments or support that you require at interview can be requested in advance. Prior to starting, you may also wish to discuss what adjustments are needed at work and how you can seek support from your future colleagues.
How helpful the employer is can be determined by the following:
- ‘Disability confident’ symbol (on disability friendly employers’ job adverts)
- Does the job advert affirm they are an equal opportunities employer?
- Is there an equal opportunities policy on their website?
- Do they offer application forms in different formats?
Choosing the right employer is vital if you are going to be valued for your ability and have a successful career with support when you need it. Consider the employer’s attitude to employing disabled people. Do they make adjustments so candidates can compete equally?
Ask the right questions
Speaking to people who work for an employer (especially recent graduates) will help you to judge how disabled employees are valued and included. This can be conducted as an informal conversation about diversity, exploring their view on the benefits of a more diverse workforce. Asking broader inclusivity questions (e.g. about gender and ethnicity) will help you to understand the organisational culture and their commitment to inclusivity.
Meet people by attending events
Employer presentations on campus, recruitment fairs and alumni networks (‘The Leeds Network’ at Leeds University) present opportunities to have these conversations. If their customers are diverse, the organisations themselves will be more serious about diversity. Ask to speak to the person responsible for diversity, especially if the contact details are not on their website.
Going beyond diversity, think about whether the employer is right for you, your values, personality and the way in which you work best. Small to medium sized organisations may provide more flexibility in terms of workload as compared with larger corporates, you just need to explore your options and find out what works best for you!
Part two of the ‘Tackling the Application Process & Being Open about Disabilities’ series will be published on Monday 24th April. If you need any additional guidance/support, don’t hesitate to book an appointment.