Like most kids growing up, I changed my mind about my career goals a dozen or more times. When I got to high school I changed it some more, but by the time I graduated I figured out I wanted to work in the business world. I also thought it would provide the most opportunities given my physical limitations. In some aspects, I was right, but I just had no idea how much being a disabled woman would affect my job search. In today’s blog post I’m sharing all the things I wish someone would have told me as a college student starting my job hunt with a disability
What I Wish I Knew During My College Years & Starting My Job Hunt
- Look At Various Career Paths For Your Major & Consider A Minor or two
- Virtual Internships; During The Summers
- Research is your friend; people in the industry may not have the answers to your questions if they involve your disability.
- Network & Talk With Your Professors
Look At Various Paths For Careers With Your Major & Consider A Minor:
When picking a career field or path, remember that there are multiple ways to work in one field. If one area that you are interested in doesn’t work for you because of your disability, now is the time to do your research and learn what options are available to you for that particular field. During that time of research, you may find a combination of two fields that would work well for a possible career, this is where a minor could be useful. A minor can complement your major or be another way to learn more about something you are interested in as well, even if you don’t think it would complement your major.
I believe that living with a disability shouldn’t stop us from going after our dream careers though having a disability may mean that some of them are not feasible. However, if that’s the case you can always pick a different career track in the same field. In my case I studied marketing, thinking I wanted to work in advertising (making commercials is one part of that), but the longer I spent doing research in the field, I realized advertising was not my end goal and that was okay.
I spent a lot of time after I graduated researching combinations of marketing with other fields including the one I minored in and I was honestly having fun with it. I also learned about some interesting job titles, some of which I didn’t know were actual jobs. If there is more than one thing you are passionate about look into jobs that combine the two. For example, if you love sports, but can’t play, look into being a sports agent for that specific sport, a sports reporter, graphic designer, or working for your favorite team in some capacity, there are options. If your strength is math and you love fashion consider being an accountant for a fashion brand or a boutique. My point is though living with a disability can complicate the job search in so many ways, it doesn’t mean you can’t do a job you’re passionate about.
Remember I said your disability doesn’t have to stop you from doing a job you are passionate about, I never said it would be easy getting there, which brings me to my next point: virtual internships.
Virtual Internships During The Summers
Did you know that virtual internships were a thing long before the current health crisis? I didn’t or at least not as early as I would’ve liked. I wish I knew how much of a game-changer internships would be especially a virtual one.
I hate to say it, but as a person with a disability and a woman you are going to have to work hard to stand out in whatever career field you choose. As difficult as it is to think about, many people will assume you can’t perform some aspects of a job, specifically if your disability is physical. For example, I couldn’t get a job in retail like most of my friends because I wasn’t able to do the aspects of the job that required physical work such as cleaning the store or helping with inventory. I learned that many skills you learn in the world of work are transferable skills so there are plenty of ways to get certain skills like customer service, particularly with internships.
My virtual internship was an eye-opening experience and I encourage everyone to apply for internships during the summers of your time in college, this way you’ll have some real experience under your belt and you’ll meet a lot of great people to network with and learn from as well. The other benefit of having internships during your time at school is the opportunity to add courses to your time there that leads you down a career path you were exposed to during your internship or away from it with a change of your major if necessary.
I landed my first virtual internship in the winter after I graduated from college. I loved the experience and I’m grateful that it solidified my love of the marketing industry, but it changed the path I wanted to be on when I was introduced to the world of blogging and social media marketing. You can read more about my internship experience by clicking the link below. I hope after you read that post, you seriously consider applying for internships, even with everything going on in the world right now because it will help you get started on the path for your dream job.
Research Is Your Friend
There are many misconceptions when it comes to people with disabilities. Therefore, if you were to ask industry professionals specifics about a job that may work for you for reasons x,y, and z, sadly they may not have an answer that is all that useful. For this reason, research about the industry, job requirements, and duties is going to fall to you in addition to finding out information that may have to do with your disability like disclosing it getting any accommodations set up once you land a position.
Information about possible careers and paths based on a major exist on a variety of websites, like I said research and google are your friends. As someone who has done the research for career paths in marketing I can tell you that it is time-consuming, tedious, and a little fun. Yes, I know that fun and tedious are antonyms, but I did have fun with the process.
Network & Communicate With Your Professors
Doing the research to find possible career opportunities as well as research your disability is a lot of work especially if you don’t know anyone in the fields you are looking into, however, do not be afraid to ask your professors a question or two about the industry because they know you, your work ethic and may be able to help you land an interview or two for an internship or a job after you graduate. People who know you and the type of person you are can be your biggest advocates when you are trying to get a job. The time you spend in college, whether you do it all online or in a hybrid situation due to the current health crisis, is one of the best opportunities you have to create a networking relationship with someone who can be your advocate and maybe someday you’ll be in a position to pay it forward.
The job market is tough, especially with the current health crisis. Unfortunately, the job hunt with a disability will probably always be tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find opportunities, it may just take more work. There are plenty of things I wish I knew about the world of work when I was a college student, so I’m hoping that if as you are reading this you are making a plan to put some of these steps into action so that you can one day work in a field you love and have your dream career.