By Kim Offet-Gartner
Canadians with disabilities and older adults are all too familiar with the challenges of finding and keeping employment and the need for resiliency in the face of adversity. So, in the interest of helping Abilities readers navigate the current job market, our editors chatted with Kim Offet-Gartner and Dawn Schell from the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. Here’s what they had to share with us:
Q Are there are still jobs out there? Can you give us an idea of where you see opportunities for diverse candidates?
A Absolutely, there are jobs available—certain sectors of the economy are not only still functioning, but some are actually thriving. Healthcare, grocery stores, fabric and craft stores, bike shops, programmers, animators, computer repairs, sales, or trainers are just a few occupations that have been in high demand and have needed additional workforce.
Also, any industry that has a strong online presence has done well during the pandemic and many have needed to expand their workforce to meet the higher demand. The ability and necessity to work safely and remotely has made many of these jobs ideal for some diverse candidates. This is especially true for those with mobility- related disabilities. Not having to take time to travel and navigate inaccessible workspaces has been a plus for those with mobility challenges. The same can be said for those who have other challenges that otherwise impaired their ability to be successful in a job. If allowed to remain in their homes and use the equipment and/or technology they already possess, it might increase their chances of getting or retaining a job.
Q Is this the time to get more training, go back to school or upgrade skills?
A Although there are jobs to be had, if you can manage it, this is an ideal time to enroll in additional training. (Or request funding for it from an existing employer). Almost all training programs have moved online, which facilitates greater flexibility for students of all ages. This is also a very good time to work with a career practitioner for some practical advice and to ensure your transferrable skills are highlighted on your resume.
Q Can you share a few interview tips with us?
A An interview is a form of marketing! You are the best person to promote who you are and what you can do! Keeping these small but important things in mind when preparing for an interview is wise:
• Always dress for success. This does not mean that you need to be in fancy or expensive clothing, but it does mean wearing clean, crisp, and respectful clothing. Being well groomed and dressed nicely is the first thing an employer sees in person and online.
• Be polite! The old adage “you will attract more flies with honey than with vinegar” is so true. How they speak to others, and of themselves, speaks volumes, even when they’re disappointed or let down.
• Speak with confidence about yourself. Focus on what you offer that others may not, without speaking ill of them. Focusing on your strengths with style and clarity allows the employer to feel confident too. Providing examples to illustrate the skill or ability being asked about demonstrates that you understood the question and can add value to the business with your talents.
• Do your homework! Get to know about the company, what they stand for, what they do, where they are located and what products/services they offer. Are they business-to-business or consumer focused? Think about how your disability-related experience and knowledge might be an additional asset to them.
• Always try to have one or two questions prepared in advance to ask when you are invited to enquire about the position. This is often the only part of the interview that is not scripted or controlled by the interviewer. If there is something you were really hoping the interviewer would have asked and didn’t, this is the time to raise the point(s). Remember, above all else be polite, be succinct, and be prepared!
• Lastly, always thank the person for their time and the opportunity to be considered for the position. Ask when you are likely to know the outcome. When the interview is over, plan on sending a thank you email. Remember that not everyone even gets the chance for an interview. Your follow up might be the very thing that makes you stand out for the employer or breaks a tie between applicants.
Q How do jobseekers get help and remain resilient—after all, these aren’t easy times?
A The definition of resilience is “the ready ability to adjust to change.” COVID-19 has forced everyone to adjust in so many ways. Individuals who can adapt and accept new realities are the ones who usually come out on top.
Those who live with a disability know this better than most. Learning to work around barriers, adjust their behaviours; feelings and emotions in order to embrace new possibilities are the true characteristics of a resilient person. Any job seeker who can remain positive and embrace new ways of thinking and new opportunities will always be in high demand!
Kim Offet-Gartner is the President-Elect and Dawn Schell is Career Counsellor and Chapter President of the Canadian Counselling