Finding a job is a nightmare for anyone. Every minute you are out of work makes it that much harder to get back in to it no matter how experienced, qualified or enthusiastic you are. The challenge is multiplied into the distance when you have a visible disability. I won’t pretend that this is the only reason I am unemployed, though it’s hard to think of other reasons when employers are really eager to meet me until I mention it, but with qualifications, life experience, years of being an employer in my own right and a solid work ethic I can just say it’s their own loss if they ignore me. But getting the interview sorted is not the beginning of the battle.
Since I started looking for work, I have created accounts on dozens of different recruitment and job matching sites – many of which overlap and show the same jobs with slightly different wording, or just send you from one job website to another and another until the end of time. Many of those on offer are very specialised, or very manual. I once applied for a very vaguely titled charity job, went to interview and found out it was door to door cold calling – totally suitable for a wheelie. I wouldn’t have bothered going but they flatly refused to tell me any more about the job beforehand. The rarity of jobs I could actually do led me to consider setting up a website myself that really catered for disabled people looking for work but that just never really happened. Filling in 10-page application forms all day every with exactly the same information was getting ridiculous and I also wondered why companies cannot use a standardised form and just add on their own specific questions. Work isn’t that simple so whatever. Writing an application or a covering letter is always difficult for me when they ask if you have a disability that may affect your work. I considered saying no but my honest streak forces me to say yes and tell them about my needs at work. Once you have done that, submitted it and not got any response at all, it’s hard to think of another reason. A few times when I haven’t been asked the disability question and I’ve rocked up to interview in all my wheeled glory, I’ve invariably been met with insurmountable steps and a foul attitude of ‘you’re going to br a problem. I’m not even talking to you.’ So I reverted to being honest. Even then, it relies on the form being read properly. I have been asked for interviews the following day at 9AM when I have clearly stated I need time to arrange appropriate care and transport. I mention my chair on the phone and the shutters come straight down – they get flustered, don’t know about access, will find out and get back to you but are never heard from again. Seriously? They’ve never noticed if they go up stairs to get to the office?
The interview is a difficult thing for me because it doesn’t always take place where the job will be located so it’s impossible to say what extra support I need. And they *always* ask. I don’t know until I know the job. Maybe I will be fine with some stuff, need special equipment to help me – I can’t say for sure until I’m actually there and facing those challenges. Sometimes though, interviews can be hilarious. I interviewed for a job at a care home. Many of the residents in their care had disabilities yet they still looked at me like I was an alien creature. I got that job although I left after 15 months. If I struggled with a task, rather than talking to me about how they could help me do that, I would have it taken off me and my hours cut. I was not given basic health and safety equipment or support to grow and develop in my role. Effectively I was managed out of the job,, and although the decision to leave was hard, I’m glad I did. I just want to work and not feel as though my disability is a problem for bosses to work around. Bringing the experiences of a wheelie to pass can never be a bad thing.
I have been so desperate for work that I applied for apprenticeships. My level of education got me rejected for all of them. At 32, I shouldn’t even be considering a scheme designed for school leavers but, at the time, it was the only option. And I was only looking at it because nobody else seemed to be considering me as an employable prospect.
After thousands of applications, a handful of interviews, a short-lived job and years of voluntary work, I finally have an interview this week. I expect all the usual problems but I need to be prepared with answers and questions of my own. I want this job. I want to be safe and not asked to do stuff beyond my physical abilities. I want an open, professional relationship where I’m encouraged and supported to learn all the different aspects of a job. Just because a business may have to invest time and money into me doesn’t necessarily mean they are wasting money on me when an able person could do the job with no extra help. Somebody else might leave jobs half finished or not respect their colleagues. Somebody else might be brilliant on paper and then be so unsuited to the role they get fired immediately. Won’t get that with me.