Job seeking skills for graduates with disabilities

photo of Niamh HayesGuest blog from Niamh Hayes, Project Co-ordinator for GET AHEAD, the National Forum of Graduates with Disabilities

You might think there’s no difference in job hunting for graduates with disabilities and you’d be mostly right.  All the usual tips apply, as listed on gradireland.com and elsewhere,  such self- assessment, updating your CV, networking, research and so on. However, based on my experiences with employers and students with disabilities, there are some extra things to consider:

Disclosure: should I tell them, what should I tell them, when should I tell them, who, how, why….? It’s complicated, and it’s unique, and you have to work it out for yourself. But bear in mind, you know your disability better than anyone else and you are the best placed person to explain it and how it affects you. You can shape this any way you want. But do think about it.

Selling yourself: when it comes to a job, what’s important is that you convince someone you can do the job. Don’t go for jobs you can’t do (yes, I’m stating the obvious) and when talking to employers, don’t focus on what you can’t do, or share unnecessary information.

Research: if you’re not sure what a job involves, ask someone. Try to get some experience of jobs you think you’d like to do.

Supports:  there are lots and lots of supports available and most employers are happy to put them in place if it means you’ll be able to do your job better. There are grants available for this and you can see more about these on the  FÁS website.

Your rights: You cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of your disability; employers are obliged to take appropriate measures to enable a person who has a disability to have access to employment and to participate or advance in employment  unless the measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer. You can find further information on the Equality Authority website.

So, yes, there can be extra things people with disabilities have to consider, but it all comes down to the same thing in the end – our unique strengths and weaknesses, where we want to use them, and how we prepare to get there.

On 11 November 2011, GET AHEAD is running Building the Future, a careers event to help students and graduates with disabilities with their job seeking skills.


Future prospects for law graduates

law facultyNeither solicitors nor barristers are immune to the grim realities of Ireland’s recession. The horizon has changed markedly for young solicitors. As recently as 2008 there was almost full employment amongst solicitors across Ireland, but the reality now, according to the Law Society of Ireland, is that there are between 1,000 and 1,300 solicitors who cannot find work in their chosen field, and many of those who have got jobs are restricted to part-time work.

Each year approximately 700 new solicitors qualify, exacerbating this problem. One of the effects of this has been a significant decrease in some rates of pay, as opportunities that law graduates would once have taken for granted have reduced substantially, leaving graduates carrying a significant debt burden if they cannot secure the right job. This is also an issue affecting newly qualified barristers. It used to be a rule of thumb that a barrister would have to wait between five and seven years before they recouped the costs of their education. However many now believe that this time-frame has been considerably extended and it is probably closer to ten years before expenses incurred during studying and devilling are covered.

Law graduates must be positive and proactive in their careers search, researching and engaging with potential law firms, but also looking outside the legal sector if necessary. Many non-legal firms are very keen to recruit law students onto their graduate programmes, as they recognise that the core skills that these students have make them ideal candidates for a wide range of roles across a number of sectors. To find out more about your options with a law degree, explore graduate profiles and to download our newly published sector guide, gradireland Law, visit the Law, legal services and patents section on gradireland.com.


Why you should not be scared of silence in a job interview

the word 'silence' on a blackboardYou’re in a job interview. They ask you a question you hadn’t anticipated. Your mind goes blank. You try to think of something to say. The silence is embarrassing. Finally, you say something, anything, just to fill the void.

It’s a nightmare scenario. But it doesn’t have to be. And here’s why.

1. The silence is probably not as long as it seems.
No-one expects you to jump in and answer a question straight away. That could be the sign of someone who is over-confident, and that’s not something interviewers are keen on. A certain amount of silence is normal.

2. The interviewers expect you to think.
A good interviewee takes time to collect their thoughts and prepare a considered answer. OK, you may feel afterwards that you should have prepared the answer in advance, but that’s not always possible. (And it’s something to put on your list for next time.)

3. They don’t mind you being nervous.
Generally, interviewers are on your side (and if they’re not, do you really want to work for them?). They know you’re likely to be nervous and they will make allowances for this. If they feel you are struggling with an answer, they may even give you some hints about how they want you to answer it.

So what are the tactics you can use when you find yourself in this situation? You’ll have to break the silence at some point, so here are some ways to do it.

  • Ask them to clarify or rephrase the question. This buys you some time.
  • Tell them you need more time. It helps to have a stock phrase prepared, such as ‘That’s an interesting question; can I have a minute to think it through please?
  • Take a drink of water; this will calm you down and help you to think.
  • If you really can’t come up with an answer, be honest: and say so. It’s better than waffling.

Read more interview tips at gradireland.com.


If you leave Ireland, be sure to come back

PassportIreland has a long history of its young people venturing overseas in search of adventure or to seek their fortune – recessions notwithstanding – so the current crop of graduates looking to work abroad are only following in the footsteps of their predecessors.

‘When the opportunity to work overseas presented itself, I took it’, the Chief Technical Officer of a global telecoms company told me recently when talking about his career highlights to date. As a young man fresh out of college he spent time working in the UK, the US and Italy before returning to Ireland where he is currently based, and has been since the mid-90s.

‘Try new things, go to new places’, he advises today’s graduates. ‘Organisations value people with a breadth of experience, both functionally and culturally. If you don’t speak another language now, learn one’.

At around the same time I also spoke to a DCU graduate of 2008 – now marketing manager for an international IT company – about the formative years of her career. She spent part of her graduate training scheme in England. ‘Coming over to the UK to do a rotation in the London office was an unmissable opportunity for me,’ she tells me. She spent six months in London as part of her graduate placement and at the end of it was offered a permanent position there. Ultimately she plans to return to Ireland, but for now she is making the most of the experience she’s gaining.

Flexibility is arguably one of the key assets of the young professional. You are less likely to be constrained by other factors (family, mortgage, a dog!) and can afford to take more risks, or at least go where the work is.

‘For graduates leaving college now, of course it’s difficult’, our CTO says. ‘When I first embarked on my career (in 1989) 70 per cent of my class had emigrated within a month.’ This is a sobering statistic perhaps, but serves to illustrate the point that seeking work abroad is nothing new. He doesn’t advocate that graduates leave Ireland for the sake of it: rather to be open to opportunities. And if that means spending a year or two overseas, then go for it. ‘In my experience, any business will recognise people with energy and goodwill. And if you do leave, do so with a view to coming back.’


If you want an audience, put on a CV clinic

queue

Where there's a CV clinic, there's a queue

In difficult times and in happy times, students everywhere flock to attend workshops and clinics devoted to improving their CVs. In careers services and at careers fairs, queues form when there’s a bit of CV checking going on. Online, on careers sites like gradireland.com, the pages with CV hints and tips receive loads of visitors. And in bookshops, helpful tomes on the perfect CV fly off the shelves.

This is despite the fact that many employers, and all large employers, don’t actually want or need a CV as the relentless move to online application systems gathers pace. So is this obsession with CVs a comfort blanket for anxious students? A mystical belief that if they improve their CV, doors will open?

Well, yes and no. It’s possible to sail through working life without ever needing a CV (lucky you) but there are several important reasons why everybody should have one.

Firstly, the process of compiling a CV is a simple, helpful way to get the facts and achievements of your life down on paper so you can complete application forms more easily and prepare for interviews. Secondly, if you’re applying for smaller, specialist or local organisations, then you will usually need one. Finally, if advertised jobs dry up, you’ll need to undertake a networking or creative job-hunting strategy where you try and meet people who may be able to help you or suggest who else to see.

And one eternal truth to leave you with – a rubbish CV is a complete waste of time and, believe me, it’s very easy to spot. I think it’s time you booked an appointment….