Keeping up Your Technology Skills May Make a Difference in Your Employment Outlook

With advancing technology, the playing field in the work force is leveling for people with disabilities. Computer, i Phone and other adaptive skills make it possible for you to work, where you may not have had opportunities before, sharpen and maintain your technology skills. Doing this may mean the difference between whether you get and keep a job.

Are you looking for a job? Find ways to use your newly learned i Phone or computer skills. Even if you’re not working, determine ways to maintain these skills. You might consider helping with social media publicity for your local community advocacy organization. Or, volunteer at an agency that appeals to your interests and career goals.  At that agency, ask management what help is needed, perhaps data entry or researching funding opportunities. In this way, you will be able to regularly utilize your technology skills and keep them sharp for when that anticipated job comes along.

Offer to keep your organization’s Facebook page current. No one was keeping the Facebook page of the Metro PDX Chapter, orginated in 2010, up-to-date. The president of the chapter asked whether a member would take on this job.update Now that  a member has volunteered to do ,  chapter events may receive greater publicity as well as greater participation.

Create your own Twitter or Facebook accounts. Stay in touch with family and friends while using your computer and i Phone skills. This will help you keep abreast of current events, a must for making conversation in the work world. You may also be in the right place at the right time to follow-up on a job lead someone mentions in a news feed.

Create an account on Linked In. At a job fair recently, I learned that recruiters really do follow Linked In activity. One of the recruiters even mentioned that this was how she got her job. Her employer recruited her through her Linked In profile.

Get involved in an innovative program to demonstrate your work ethic and creativity. In 2014, Cory did. He took Startup Weekends by storm by demonstrating how to make them universally accessible. Through technology, and training his nondisabled peers about the endless possibilities of innovation, Portland’s Startup Weekend was totally accessible. Consequently, several diverse individuals showcased their innovative products and services to an enthusiastic group.

Being aware of concepts, ideas and innovations, Cory and Darian were able to share news-breaking information about GPS and visual images in smart canes that are on the horizon. Smart Canes that locate peers in crowds may further improve the abilities of workers who are blind to mingle and network in social and work environments. Despite what some people may think, this is an essential part of work success.

In summary, technology skills are essential in today’s work place. Develop, maintain and build on your technology skills. This may prove to be your ace in the hole when it comes to getting or keeping a job.

Job Hunting is a Job That Must Pay Off

People who have disabilities want and need to work just as much as our nondisabled peers. However, finding and keeping a job often feels like an uphill battle for those of us with disabilities. This is not a “poor us” statement. It is practically a fact. Although many of us get tired of always having to work harder, educate employers when we just want to be ourselves and get tired of rejection, we must keep on keeping on. That is how we help level the playing field for ourselves, our peers and those who come after us. We are educated and qualified, and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to protect us, we still fight difficult odds to obtain employment. What can we do about this?

In my opinion, we start by not playing the “poor me” card. Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of days when I do just that. We think positively and build on our strengths rather than focusing on our limitations. What we do is take steps to shore up our qualifications by closing gaps in our skill sets and knowledge bases. We take technology training and continuing education classes to stay up-to-date in our fields. We look for ways to network so that we can say we know people “in the know”, we carefully document our work histories and practice our interviewing skills so we are able to speak articulately about our experiences complete with proof statements about our abilities. I don’t mean to preach or patronize. I am just saying, if we want to be seen as equally qualified and able, we need to comport ourselves as if we are. I am not saying we don’t do this. I am not saying that it doesn’t feel practically impossible. I feel these feelings on a regular basis, just as I am sure you do. What I am saying is that we have to be our authentic selves forward and do what we can, so at the end of the day we can say we did our best. We must consider our end goals. After all, this is no more than our nondisabled peers do.

I have read and heard that if you are looking for a job, you must make this your full-time work. I have also heard that most people send out at least 100 resumes before they even score an interview. This seems kind of like saying “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.” This seems like nothing short of the truth. If you are a person with a disability, this seems extremely daunting. People with disabilities not only work very hard to get jobs, we constantly compete with job seekers without disabilities in a saturated market. No matter what, I say persevere, and don’t give up. But, how do we do this without losing spirit?

I read an article once that claimed that job searching is a full-time job. This may be even more true for us than for our nondisabled peers. But the essential concepts are no different. If getting a job is our ultimate goal, we must take this sentiment to heart.

I have found some job search strategies to be especially helpful. First, if I want to get a job, I must get up at a regular time every day, dress for work and set goals for the day and week that I commit to accomplishing. I have learned that, although I see the big picture, the end goal of working, I must break the process down into manageable steps. By doing this, I do not overwhelm myself, I am more likely to succeed with smaller goals, and I get a job that is the best fit for the company and for me.

Working at a volunteer job is another excellent way to obtain employment. On a volunteer job, you are able to learn procedures, get familiar with the people; the dress code and the office culture, and the management and staff get to know you. they are under no pressure to hire you, so everyone is free to be themselves. In this way, you are in an excellent and natural environment to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and work ethic. When an actual job opening becomes available, you are in an excellent position to apply. By this time, you are comfortable with the people, and they with you. It’s practically a shoe-in. Just be yourself. You’ll get the job. It has worked for me.

Attend job fairs and job clubs. Even if you don’t get a job on one of those days, consistently attend anyway. I attended a job club at the Oregon Commission for the Blind. I showed up every time, on time, and dressed for the kind of job for which I wanted to interview. I took notes and offered feedback and suggestions to my peers. Throughout my job search, I consistently came across job leads that applied to my peers and I passed them onto them. A few months later, the Job Club Leader called me. She informed me that she was working on a grant to increase employment outcomes for people who were blind. They were hiring an assistant for her; she was so impressed with me that she wanted to offer me that job.

In another instance, I volunteered at my local independent living center. I found out about a need they had and I found a way to meet it. They were starting a library of donated books in alternative formats. I had recently learned Microsoft Access. So I developed a computerized catalog of available books and a system for checking them in and out. I had taken a communication class at the center and gotten to know the staff. I learned that one employee needed a volunteer coordinator assistant. I offered to help, and when she decided to move onto other duties, I offered to handle the job on my own. Soon, a counselor went on medical leave. The center needed to hire a temporary counselor. I learned about this at lunch and took my resume in the next day and was hired. When the employee on medical leave decided to resign, I was hired on permanently.

In Portland, Oregon, where I live, there is a program called Incight. They recruit disability-friendly employers and bring them together for their own versions of job fairs. These take the form of activities such as critiquing and making suggestions for resumes, intros to companies in actual job fair settings, and my favorite, “Live Resume”. With Live Resume, participants have an interview with a coach to talk about skills,, interests and resumes. This allows Incight to hand-pick strong candidates for employment. When you are selected, you are encouraged to develop a three-minute introduction of yourself, covering skills, experience, interests and noteworthy personal information. Then you come to the actual event where you deliver your speech and then go around and meet individually with the employers that interest you. You don’t walk out with a job, but employers get to know you and will recognize you in the future when your job applications come across your desk. Another benefit of participating in Incight events is that the Incight staff are able to refer and advocate for you.

So, be creative. Be persistent. Be positive. Hang in there. You’ll be glad you did.