5 Steps to finding work while living with a disability

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Searching for work can be time consuming and overwhelming at times. If you’re living with an injury, illness or disability, you might face some additional challenges along the way. In Australia, there are a number of government-funding support services that can help you find work and thrive in the workplace. 

When you’ve got the right supports in place, working can bring life-changing benefits like increased independence, confidence and mental health. Plus, the right job can give you a sense of purpose, help you connect with others and make a difference in your community.

Here are 5 tips for searching for work and getting support to help you reach your employment goals:

1. Start with career planning

Before you start looking for jobs, take time to think about what you want and need when it comes to work. 

Some good questions to ask yourself at the start of your job search include:

  • What are my strengths and skills?
  • What am I interested in and what motivates me?
  • What type of environments do I work best in?
  • How many hours can I work or want to work in a week?
  • What are my challenges when it comes to work – and are there accommodations which could help?
  • Will I need further training or education to get into the job I’m interested in?

It’s a good idea to speak with an employment consultant at the start of the job search process. They can help you think through what jobs would be a good fit for you and may even help you discover opportunities you haven’t considered. 

If you’re living with a disability in Australia and looking for work, you can access career planning services at no cost through programs like Disability Employment Services and Workforce Australia.

2. Prepare for the workplace

Whatever your situation, there may be some things you need to do to prepare for the workplace. Gaining skills and experience can make you a more desirable candidate from an employer’s perspective. Work experience and skills training can also help you feel more confident about starting a new job.

If you’re looking for your first job, gaining some experience in a workplace through work experience or volunteering could make you more employable. It’s also a great way to try out different types of jobs and work environments to see what’s a good fit for you.

If you’re changing careers, you may need to undergo education or training so you’re qualified for your new role. If you’ve been out of work for a while, brushing up on your industry knowledge and skills can help you feel more confident. Volunteering, study and learning new skills are great ways to fill in gaps on your resume.

3. Find and apply for jobs

There are many places to find job opportunities. It’s a good idea to use a range of methods during your job search.

Many people search for work and apply for jobs using online job boards. You can also look on the careers page of particular company websites that you’re interested in working for. Consider approaching local businesses in person with your resume or asking people in your network if they know of any job openings. You can also use social sites such as LinkedIn to make industry connections which may lead to job opportunities.

When applying for jobs, tailor your resume and cover letter for the specific job and employer. Read the job advertisement carefully to find keywords and skills that the employer is looking for. 

When it comes to talking about your disability, you can choose to disclose it if it will affect your ability to perform the core tasks of the job.

Be sure to plan and prepare for any job interviews to set yourself up for success. Practice answering common interview questions with a trusted friend or family member and do some research about the company beforehand. Remember to ask for accommodations for the interview if you need any.

4. Access disability employment support

Searching for work can be challenging for anyone, but if you’re living with a disability, you may encounter some additional challenges along the way. It’s important to ask for help if you need it. You could be eligible for tailored disability employment support at no cost through Disability Employment Services or the NDIS.

Employment service providers can help you prepare for the workplace, build your confidence and find job opportunities that are a good fit for you. They can also help you access additional services you might be eligible for such as housing assistance, mobility assistance or mental health support.

Disability employment programs are also a great place to access temporary and ongoing workplace support if you need it. Providers can help with assessing your workplace, redesigning your job role and accessing workplace modifications to help you succeed at work.

5. Ask for work modifications

Workplace modifications can help you do your job properly and feel more confident in the workplace. Australian employers may be eligible for funding to provide accommodations to help you do your job well through the Employment Assistance Fund. 

Workplace accommodations are unique to your situation. They could include things such as special equipment, physical changes to the work space, working from home or time off for medical appointments. If you need support asking an employer for accommodations, a disability employment services provider can help.

Succeeding on your employment journey

Whether you’re looking for your first job, returning to work after a break or needing support to hold down a job, everyone’s needs and goals with work are different. It’s important to reach out for help along the way when you need it. Find out if you’re eligible for employment services by connecting with a Disability Employment Services provider in your area or requesting a referral through Centrelink.