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STEP   1. Using the Institutes (formerly TAFE) Disability Services Officer

The Disability Services Officer is available to coordinate support and assistance that will enable you to participate more effectively and help you achieve your study goals. This includes assisting apprentices and trainees with their off-the-job training. Wherever possible it is important that you contact the Disability Services Officer at your college prior to enrolment so that the necessary support and assistance can be organised before you start your studies.

The Disability Services Officer might assist you in accessing needed supports by:

STEP   2. Talking to your lecturers

You will need to talk with your lecturers to reach a mutual understanding of your individual needs and to clarify each other's responsibilities. If any of the following will make it easier for you to participate in class or gain better results, discuss them with your lecturer as soon as you have enrolled so that assistance can be arranged before you start your first class:

You might also want to let your lecturers know that, other than the above, you wish to be treated the same as your fellow students. You may need to explain to your lecturers that it is important that you are not made to stand out or to look like you are getting special treatment that the other students do not get. This will help you to be welcomed and valued within the group.

STEP   3. Getting to know your fellow students

Make sure you give your fellow students a chance to get to know you. Share your knowledge, skills, interests and personal values that relate to your studies and your social life. Most people are far more interested in becoming friends with people who are fun and friendly and engaging - people with interests, experiences and stories to tell. Hearing about these things from you will entice the others to want to get to know you.

It can also make things easier to anticipate questions that your fellow students might have about your disability. People often don't ask about things that they don't understand, because they do not want to appear ignorant or to offend you.

There is no need to use medical labels or terms. Use every day language to talk briefly about the impact your disability has on your study life. This may include mentioning the support that you will need to participate in classes. That way you will not look like you are getting special treatment.

STEP   4. Taking control of your own studies

The following is a list of strategies that will benefit most students with disability:

STEP   5. Getting work experience

Frustrated job seekers are often heard to complain, 'I can't get a job because I haven't got any experience, and I can't get any experience because I can't get a job!' Sadly, this is increasingly the case - and it doesn't make a lot of difference these days if you are going for an unskilled or skilled position. Even in our own organisation, more and more new graduates and young professionals are approaching us and offering to work for no pay to gain some vital work experience and (secondly) to improve their chances of securing any future vacancy that emerges. Many have been successful on both counts. Employers respond very positively to people who show the determination and initiative to offer to work for nothing and who are able to make a positive contribution.

If you have a disability, work experience (paid or unpaid) gives you and the employer a chance to check each other out. If you like what you see, you have a tremendous opportunity to impress the employer with your motivation, skills and dependability. Your disability will become of less and less consequence as the employer and co-workers get to know you better. The steps to securing suitable work experience are much the same as securing a job, which are described in detail in steps 7 - 13.

Work experience should bear some relationship to the job in which you're interested. This ensures that you can both increase your skills and demonstrate your suitability for employment in your chosen field. You should ask the employer who is offering you work experience the following questions:

During your work experience you should seek regular feedback on your performance in addition to a formal evaluation when you complete the work experience. Some useful questions to ask when seeking feedback are:

Make sure that the end of your work experience you ask the employer if they are willing to be a referee and to write you a reference. Also send a handwritten thank you note to the employer. It shows your motivation, loyalty, dependability and professionalism, as well as keeping your name and profile in front of the employer.

STEP   6. Finding a mentor

We can all look back on our lives and think of people who were older, wiser or more experienced than ourselves, who gave us some valuable advice, helped guide us in the right direction, believed in us, stood up for us somewhere, or opened a door for us. Without their support things might have turned out differently or we might not have achieved what we have. These people are often called mentors (Mentor was the name of the fictional person who was responsible for education of Odysseus' son, Telemachus, while his father was away on his various epic journeys).

Modern-day mentors are to be found everywhere. In post-secondary education mentors assist in teaching, counselling, advising, introducing, networking, sponsoring, advocating, role modelling and encouraging their protégés (or mentees). The relationship between a mentor and a protégé can be more or less formal and structured, depending on needs and circumstances.

As a protégé, a mentor can assist you in any or all of the following ways:

Mentors also say that they gain a lot out of being a mentor. They get to use their own life skills and experiences to assist students with disability. They notice that their own personal skills and self-awareness levels improve. They learn to relate to members of the younger generation on an equal and mutually beneficial basis. They feel they have made an important and meaningful contribution and experience a greater sense of self-worth.

Some disability employment agencies can assist students with disability to find a mentor whose own training and experience most closely matches the career of interest to your student. They can open the doors to their register of current employers of people with disability, as well as facilitate the mentoring relationship by providing knowledge in the personal and professional strategies that will assist students to establish a career in their field of study.

Recently, a disability-specific mentoring program, the ‘Willing and Able’ Mentoring (WAM) program, has been developed for final year students with disability. Most of the mentors are recruited from major corporations and Government agencies.

In the WAM program you are matched with a mentor who is willing to meet with you for a series of approximately eight 1-2 hour meetings (you will have to find your own mentor, but a number of disability employment agencies can help you in this regard).

Some of the topics covered in meetings between mentors and protégés include:

If you would like to find out more about the WAM program, contact ndco@edge.org.au.

STEP   7. Registering with an employment service

The Federal Government funds a network of disability employment agencies throughout Western Australia that exist to assist people with disability to:

It is advisable to register with a disability employment agency before you complete your studies for a variety of reasons:

There are more than 30 disability employment agencies operating in Western Australia. They are located all around Perth and in regional centres such as Broome, Port Hedland, Karratha, Newman, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Esperance, Albany, Bridgetown, Narrogin, Northam, Busselton, Bunbury, Collie and Mandurah. Your local Centrelink office will be able to provide you with information and contact details for disability employment agencies that operate in your area.

STEP   8. Preparing a resume

The purpose of a resume is to entice an employer to meet with you. You should aim to leave an employer thinking that you can meet their needs. It is important that you do not put in too much information - because it gives employers the opportunity to decide that you are unsuitable.

Your resume needs to show how your skills, abilities, personal qualities and interests will meet the employer's needs. You should keep asking yourself 'What does that mean?' to turn your skills and abilities to the employer's benefit and advantage. Benefits are how employing you will save the employer time or money. Advantages are how employing you will make employers feel - it is really important that they feel positive. State the benefits and advantages of employing you clearly up-front on your resume under the heading 'Summary of Skills, Abilities and Personal Qualities'.

For example, let's say that you have passed an occupational health and safety unit as part of your course. This means that you will go about the job safely, won't do anything unsafe to others, won't need any extra training and that the supervisor won't need to be looking over their shoulder. To make this appealing you could state one of the following; 'no extra time or money required for safety training', or 'safety trained - no need to watch over what I am doing'.

A resume needs to be varied for different types of jobs or industries. Only include relevant work history, relevant educational history, relevant work experience and main interests and hobbies. Also include the name and contact details of at least two referees who have seen you use the skills and abilities summarised up-front on your resume (and give them the summary to refer to when called). Write that copies of certificates, awards or references are available at interview. Referees and references should preferably be from the business field, or secondarily, community figures such as course lecturers or clergy. References from the human service field usually have little standing with an employer.

As a rule of thumb, a resume that is being sent to an employer should not be any longer than two pages. One page resumes, usually headed Mini-Profile, can also be very effective at enticing an employer to meet you. Mini-Profiles usually include: three adjectives describing your personality; three work experiences, skills or references; and three hobbies, interests or leisure activities. Employers are far more interested when candidates present a unique personality - with interests, skills and a range of experiences.

STEP   9. Determining suitable jobs

The choices that you make about which jobs to pursue will have an effect on whether you gain a long-term job. You should start by thinking about yourself, rather than about any particular job, regardless of the type or severity of your disability.

The following is a list of factors that you should think about:

When considering jobs that are suitable for you, remember that most people with disability are working without the need for any assistive equipment, adaptations to existing equipment or workplace modifications. In many instances they are able to overcome any difficulties by changing the sequences or work methods that are being used. However some people may be unable to complete a work task competently and safely without assistive equipment or modifications to their workplace. The most common accommodations that need to be made are: non-slip surfaces or grips, magnifying systems, voice recognition systems, one-handed tools, trolleys, adjustable ergonomic work stations, doorway widening, ramped surfaces and jigs or clamps to hold materials.

Disability employment agencies that are funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) have access to the Workplace Modifications Scheme. Under this scheme employers of a person with a disability may be eligible for financial assistance to:

STEP 10. Locating suitable jobs

Research has shown that 80% of people find jobs through networking, and only 20% of people find jobs through applying for advertised positions. Most positions are never advertised. Research has also shown that you can improve your chances of finding work by:

You can get a list of potential employers to network with from:

Make sure that your family and friend network know what type of work you want and ask them if they know anyone or places with work that might relate to your career interests. Remember each of the people that you know has his or her own connections, and so on. More people find work through this network than any other way.

If you know more about the company and its operations, you will be in a much better position to sell yourself to an employer. It is a good idea to ring employers and ask for a five-minute appointment, or as a last resort, ask them your questions over the phone. Participating or volunteering in functions for the business community is also a good way to meet employers to find out some information. A good way to start is to tell them that you are highly motivated to work in their industry, but need help from a specialist in the field to get more information. Always mention it if someone they know has referred you to them.

Focus on finding out about the company or a particular position. The information that you seek should supplement information that you have collected through the company's annual report or web-site. This demonstrates your resourcefulness and initiative to the employer. Typical questions that you might ask include the following:

Remember to always stick to the five-minute agreement. When ending the conversation it is important to thank them for their time and for providing 'such valuable information'. Wait for them to get up and make sure that you send them a thank you note (preferably hand-written) or formal application to keep you in their mind.

STEP 11. Getting an interview

When telephoning an employer, your primary goal should be to get an appointment - not a job. A successful call does not take up much of the employer's time - most appointments are gained within two to three minutes. Try to say as little as possible about yourself so that you do not give them a reason to say 'no' or raise objections.

There is no need to ask the employer if they have time to speak (it gives them another chance to say 'no'). Simply introduce yourself and then tell them something positive about their company to gain their attention and create a positive feeling. For example, 'I understand that you're a Quality Endorsed Company.' Wait for confirmation or just tell them the reason for your call and go straight on to list three of your work experiences, skills or references. For example, 'The reason for the call today is that I am very keen to work for you as a .... I have up-to-date ... skills and have excellent references from ...'.

Next close the conversation by giving them a choice of times to meet. For example, 'I have some free time in the morning next Tuesday and Thursday. Will you be there for around 10 minutes on either of those days?' If they say no (at any point) respond by saying, 'Since I'll be in your area next Tuesday, anyway, I'll drop in my resume for your files. That way when you have a vacancy you will be able to contact me quickly to see if I am still available'. When you drop in your resume simply hand it over 'as promised'. Some employers will ask you in, and if not, phone them 2-3 weeks later to show them that you are still interested and motivated to work for them.

It is also not unusual for an employer to be out when you are trying to reach them. The quality of any message that you leave for them may determine whether or not you get a response back or are put through when you next call. If you are not ready to leave a message, don't. Call back after you have prepared the message that you wish to leave.

STEP 12. Disclosing your disability

It is better to have a short conversation with an employer about your abilities than a long one about your disability. After all, you are seeking the job because of your abilities and it is important that this how you are known! For this reason it is usually more effective to disclose your disability for the first time when you meet with an employer rather than over the phone.

A great web-site to visit if you are not sure whether to disclose your disability or not is www.uws.edu.au/rdlo/disclosure.

There is no need to use medical labels or terms. Remember you are there to get a job, not to advocate for people with your type of disability. Use everyday language to briefly describe the impact that your disability might have on your job. For example, you may say something like, 'It has always been hard for me to walk steadily so I will use a wheelchair to move around your office' or 'I have always taken a little bit longer at first to learn complex tasks, but once I do I am very accurate.'

It also pays to raise any support that you will need to perform your job to the employer's expectations. 'I am registered with a very good employment agency and they will provide any needed support to me at no cost to either of us.'

That is usually about as much as you will need to say. If you are asked any further questions relevant to getting the job done, respond honestly. Irrelevant questions may require a response like, 'That's not an issue to me in doing this job, but I'm happy to talk about such things once we become better acquainted.' If you are having difficulty getting the employer to focus on your abilities, consider offering to do a short work trial. It will take the pressure off both of you to know that it does not hinge on a single interview and there will be an opportunity for either of you to change your mind if things aren't working out.

It is to your benefit to anticipate questions that employers might have. Employers often don't raise important concerns such as how your disability will relate to your job performance, because they don't want to appear ignorant or discriminatory. If the employer does not raise your disability in the workplace, raise it yourself.

Where the employer does raise concerns or objection, try not to take it personally. Use the following process to address each concern:

Listen - encourage them to give you more details about their concern by using active listening statements like 'aha' or 'I see' and pausing to allow them to fully explain themselves.

Clarify - ask at least one question to clearly establish the underlying issue.

Resolve - make sure you direct your response to the underlying issue. If you cannot think of a solution, ask them, 'How do you think we might be able to deal with that?'.

Confirm - check that your response has overcome their concern. If the answer is 'no' or the 'yes' sounds unconvincing, say to the employer 'You seem a little uncertain. What is it that is still troubling you?'

For example, an employer may say that 'It wouldn't be safe'. You may ask, 'What safety factors are there in this job?'. The employer may say that the job involves occasional lifting of heavy boxes. You may be able to offer one of the following solutions: that your particular disability does not preclude lifting heavy objects, that you have been trained in manual handling and know how to handle such weights, or that you could ask a co-worker to swap this task with one of their tasks that takes the same time or effort. Finally you would ask, 'Does that sound suitable to you?' or 'Would that sort of teamwork succeed here?'.

To assist you to prepare responses to employer objections in advance, the most common concerns you will hear include: it wouldn't be safe; my insurance rates will go up; there is nothing light here that a person such as yourself could do; poor attendance is a problem for getting this job done on time; we don't know how to train someone with your disability; the pace here is too quick; I tried it once and it didn't work out; I can't afford the extra training and supervision time; it might project the wrong image to our customers. It will help you to succeed if you practice overcoming these objections using the process above. The myths and misconceptions section of this web-site provides information about what research on employees with disability has actually shown, which will assist you to address and overcome many of the common objections.

STEP 13. Getting the job

First impressions will not get you a job, but they may lose you one! Be neat, clean and dressed to meet the boss, not as you might dress to do the job for which you are applying. Arrive around 15 minutes ahead of the interview time, don't fidget or smoke in the interview, smile as often as possible, maintain eye contact, try not to slouch or lean backwards and make sure that your arms and legs are not crossed. At the start of the interview introduce yourself, offer a handshake with a handshake, or at least a nod and a smile if they are difficult to reach, to everyone present.

Make sure that, when you answer the questions, you keep on reinforcing why you want this exact job and why you want to work for this company. Relate your studies and any previous experience to doing the job. If possible, present samples of your work and offer references and certificates. Do not be upset if they are not looked at in any detail, the important thing is that it is noted that you have them. Always have one or two thoughtful questions about the job or the company ready to ask at the end of the interview. Be careful not to waste the interviewers' time by asking questions, the answers to which, you could have easily found in the company's annual report, web-site or other publications. It is best to avoid asking questions about how much you will be paid before you are offered the job. Instead ask about the conditions of employment, training opportunities, or career development prospects.

The goal is to have a two-way conversation. Remember that you cannot listen yourself out of a job, but you can talk yourself out of one. Do not dominate the interview. End all of your interviews on a positive note by thanking the employer for the 'opportunity to attend an interview'. Whatever the outcome, it is wise to send a thank you note. It underlines your motivation, loyalty, dependability and professionalism - as well as keeping your name and profile in front of the employer.

STEP 14. Negotiating your package

As the saying goes, 'Fail to plan - and plan to fail'. Do not be tempted to rush into negotiating your package before you have made adequate preparations. A prepared negotiator will nearly always win over an unprepared one. It is not uncommon and will not be detrimental to you if you do not negotiate your package until the end of your probationary period, even if that is after three-months.

The key to negotiating a good package is to get to know, in detail, the needs of the person with whom you will be negotiating. You only ever negotiate with another person, not the company. Prepare ahead of the negotiations by asking them about the needs of the business, the business climate and what they value. Think about what makes them make the decisions that they do. You will be more successful if you can demonstrate that what you want meets their needs and limits.

It is equally important to take the time to clarify your own needs and limits. You can do this through a simple LIM analysis:

It is important not to reveal to the other party what your bottom line - or that is all you will get! You determine it only so that you know what is worth fighting for.

Some helpful negotiating questions are:

Remember, no one ever shakes hands on a deal feeling that they got the very best that they could get. Do not be unsettled by these feelings and remember that negotiations never end. You will have an opportunity to renegotiate your package in the future. You will be in a much stronger position to negotiate a better deal once you have demonstrated your worth.

STEP 15. Moving up the ladder

As your work skills and experience increase, it is natural that you will wish to move into new and more challenging jobs. It is helpful to consult an employment agency or mentor to advise you in these choices, help you to map the road ahead, update your job search knowledge and skills, and provide you with any necessary job search and job support along the way.

Always consider whether you can move into a new job with your existing employer or their associated companies (e.g. suppliers). Your strongest chance to advance will usually be with your existing employer. That is why it is always important that you perform competently, reliably and as part of the team.

You should measure any decision to swap jobs or resign against your best alternative. In other words, what you will do if you have not achieved a new and more challenging position by a certain time. For example, it may be more advantageous financially to return to evening studies or undertake some new tasks within your current job, thereby updating and extending your skills.

Knowing your best alternative will make it much easier to decide which opportunities are worth pursuing, and which are not - as well as how much time and effort you are willing to put into moving up the ladder. If your best alternative is significantly better than remaining in your current job, it may pay to let your employer know. They are likely to be more supportive of moving you up the ladder if they genuinely do not wish to lose you.

If a more challenging or higher-level position is not made available to you, do not threaten to leave in the hope that they will reconsider their decision. Even legitimate threats are rarely viewed warmly by management and, by failing to carry out your threat, you will give away your future negotiating power.


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