Today's guest post is by Network member, Andrew Shortall. He was diagnosed with XLH at age two, and has become a self-taught chef, wine business person and a writer, with aspirations to become a novelist.
The New Year often brings new resolutions, new habits and lifestyle changes. For some of us, that also brings a new job, or the desire to change jobs. But what happens if you’re disabled, or have a “visible physical difference” such as XLH symptoms and short stature? How do you challenge the first impressions formed by the interviewers?
Recent studies have suggested that people with disabilities are more likely to encounter employment discrimination. Experienced candidates with disabilities face 34% less employer interest, possibly due to increased investment risk, according to a report authored by researchers at Rutgers University and Syracuse University.
It’s a sad statistic and a damning condemnation of modern life, but don’t let it discourage you! We can take steps to get past these issues. How do we make ourselves more attractive to potential employers? In my own experience, it isn’t easy but can be done. I’ve always applied for jobs I felt capable of doing. And when called for interview, I portrayed myself as the best candidate, as everyone does.
Naturally, I came up against the first impression issues. But sometimes you do meet a prospective employer who sees your potential first. The last job I worked at was one such example. In the first interview, they quizzed me about my education and work experience and only at the end did they ask about my physical condition.
I did what all of us need to do in these situations. I was honest about my illness and limitations. Since it was an office-based job, I knew my physicality would not be an issue in my job performance. I told them, truthfully, that I didn’t need medical monitoring (at the time) and I wouldn’t need to take time off. During the second interview, they asked some more questions and then brought me on a tour of the building, including the warehouse and the upstairs office where I would be based. Once they were satisfied that I could easily walk to the warehouse and use the stairs to my future office, I was introduced to the staff and told I’d have the decision later that day. Within two hours, I got the call telling me I was to start the following Monday!
Finally, some thoughts and tips if you’re job hunting:
· Be honest, if asked, about your condition
· Be realistic about your physical limitations
· Be sure you can do the jobs you’re applying for
· Be certain you understand the extent of your condition
· Know the company and the job requirements
· Don’t be offended if they offer to make workplace allowances for you!
Good luck in your job search!