Play to your strengths when applying for jobs

Written by Alex SquireDate 08 Jun 2016

Trying to find a job as a disabled person is easier said than done. Personally I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left university. Plus I wasn’t sure physically what I would be able to do, because of my disability.

I studied Interdisciplinary Science for my undergraduate degree and Global Environmental Change for my masters at the University of Leicester. So you might think I would go for a science-based job, as I would be reasonably well qualified for some jobs in this sector.

However, many science jobs seem to be physically demanding, such as carrying out experiments in the lab or collecting data in the field. Being a wheelchair user with limited movement in my arms and legs, I would have to direct people to do these things for me. In my experience directing people to do experiments was often frustrating, as they didn’t always do what I wanted them to.

My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”

Stephen Hawking

I like the above quote from Stephen Hawking because it reminds me that even though there are some things that I can’t do because of my disability, there are still things that I can do well. So, I started thinking about things that I could do independently.

One of these things was writing, which I can do on my own. I can’t type using a keyboard, so I have to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which is voice recognition software, to control the computer. I wrote almost all my essays and my dissertation at University by myself. So Dragon gives me a great amount of independence using the computer and writing.

About a year ago I started writing a blog on WordPress about my experiences and general disability issues. Now a year later my blog receives about 150 views a month, mostly from people in the UK but also quite a few from America and other countries.

I have decided I would like to focus on being a freelance writer, and my blog lets me practice my writing style and improve the quality of my writing. I have written articles for Disability Now’s website, which allows me to earn a bit of money too as they pay for every article they publish.

I am always keeping my eye open for possible writing job opportunities. Writing articles for websites would be an ideal job for me, as I could do it independently and work from home. Working from home is easier because I don’t have to travel anywhere, plus Dragon is installed on my home computer which I need to write.

Recently I applied for an internship at a popular blogging website, where I had to send off my CV, a sample of my writing and a paragraph explaining why I would be good for the job.

To my pleasant surprise I got through the first stage of the application process!  So for the second and final stage we had to write an article that would be good enough for publication on their website. Unfortunately I didn’t get the job, but it’s still been a good experience for me. I am happy that I got through the first stage as that shows that my CV and writing is worth something, and it gives me confidence for next time.

5 Tips for writing a CV

  1. Add a “personal profile” at the start of your CV which is a short paragraph (about 200 words) talking about why you would be good for the job, and briefly mention relevant qualifications or experience. This will help you stand out from the crowd.
  2. List your formal qualifications first, starting with the most recent. Then list any key skills that you may have learned from work experience or education that would be useful for the job you are applying for.
  3. Tailor your CV for the particular job you are applying for. Don’t just send the same CV to lots of different jobs. This will help you to highlight your most relevant qualifications and work experience for each specific job.
  4. Limit your CV to 2 or 3 pages at most. Employers have a lot of CVs to go through so want to get the key information they need as quickly as possible from each CV. Help them by not putting in unnecessary information.
  5. Check the requirements for the job you are applying for and tailor your CV to highlight how you meet these requirements with your qualifications or skills.

So overall the point of this post is when looking for a job look for things that you enjoy and can do independently, like writing for example. As Stephen Hawking said, concentrate on things that your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well. There is always something you are good at, you just need to find it.