At the beginning of my last year of formal education I faced a similar predicament as most of my peers. I had determined pretty quickly that graduate school was not for me; the only post-graduation conclusion I came to faster was religious life was most certainly not for me. I had one choice left.
I needed a job.
A task I failed in such spectacular fashion that it’s only by the Grace of God that I can tell you that there’s hope (and a happy ending) for everybody.
I made the decision to put off applying for jobs until my final semester, something I don’t recommend as a general rule. I knew I was heading into a world of low paying jobs regardless, so why not live in ignorance for a little longer?
I had every intention of going into the entertainment industry, or arts ministry. Neither of which are areas in which your average college career services office can help you with. I think I set foot in career services twice.
Most arts related departments know that they have to fill in the gap. That’s why they have this thing called “lab” or “practicum.” a time when most of the department gets together and discusses work, what you’ve done, what you’re doing, how to do what you want to do. You also spend a lot of time doing seemingly self-centered things, like discussing head-shots and monologue choices (these things do have an actual purpose).
Fall semester of my senior year I had a full load of drama classes. I was also helping put together my classes answer to the Oscars. I was up to my ears in drama, with a capital D. It’s a drama major’s dream, until you’re actually living it.
Living your life at an eleven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (Spinal Tap, anyone?)
I decided to put off any auditions or arts related jobs for a while, so I focused on long term service applications, until I printed out a couple. I was finishing my passion project and putting together a production. This “job thing” could wait until after graduation.
Yes and no.
I think you should know your limits. If you can’t devote adequate time to something you need to let something go. I like having a full plate but I’m not a fan of getting a bigger plate when the one I have is full.
However, my putting things off until I had more time turned into an unintentional gap year; there’s nothing wrong with a gap year, but when you do nothing productive with it you’ve gone from having a full plate to being stuck in a big hole.
I should have taken the advice given to me. I should’ve taken the help that was offered as well. I should’ve taken advantage of the resources around me while I had them.
I should’ve (at the very least) made a resume!
That disability support services office I had a love/hate relationship with? I shouldn’t have had such an “I can do it myself” attitude (emphasis on attitude) when they inquired about my plans for the future.
I went into the job search process assuming everything would all work out, and eventually it did. But people should learn from my missteps.
I should probably also tell you that I’m not that great at interviewing (I’m even worse with auditions) so I could’ve used the extra practice. Yes, I’m saying I should’ve applied for job I didn’t want/didn’t think I’d get just for the interview experience.
Getting a job (& keeping a job) with a disability should be no different than the non-disabled population. Now that I’ve said that, that doesn’t mean that the process is the same.
There are “extras” to consider during the search & application process:
Can I get there?
-If you don’t drive don’t assume that there are transportation options, even if there are they may not be reliable.
Can I perform the duties asked of me with no (or minimal) accommodations? This Includes “other duties as assigned.”
-The ADA outlines reasonable accommodations but I’m leaning “reasonable is up to interpretation. Therefore, look for jobs that keep accommodations to a minimum, as close to none as possible.
Is the workplace accessible for me?
-My current workplace is not accessible for most people with disabilities. When I used a wheelchair full time post-op I had to rely on my coworkers for a lot. We had to set up a mini office downstairs for me to get any work done some days. There are still days when things aren’t accessible for me, but I make do.
Can I handle the workload?
-If you’re prone to fatigue this is something you have to consider. Can you still do your job after a bad night’s sleep? And all that goes along with it?
Is this a job you see yourself in for the long term or the short term?
-If this is a position you see yourself in for the short term don’t stop looking for the long term. That short term may end up being a long one.
Should I disclose my disability?
–That’s up to you. There are situations where you should or shouldn’t (as in don’t need to). Don’t lie. Most importantly whatever decision you make don’t let it be motivated by fear.
The ADA has done a lot for people with disabilities but there’s still a long way to go. You may feel like you have to work twice as hard to get half as far as a coworker. That may be true but you’ll be making it easier for the next person who comes in the door.
– A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 5, 2013