4 tips for job seekers with disabilities

Disability and Employment

Based on Census Bureau data from 2015, there were an estimated 1.6 million working-age Texans with one or more disabilities. In the same year, Austin was home to nearly 72,000 residents living with disabilities or roughly 8 percent of the city’s population. These are significant numbers, and they likely do not include many invisible disabilities as defined by the ADA Amendments Act (2008).

While the situation is improving, many challenges remain for job seekers with chronic medical conditions in the United States. Discrimination in the workplace, lack of accessibility and inaccurate perceptions are all contributing factors to a disability unemployment rate that is more than twice as high as the general population. Moreover, the unemployment rate is not an ideal metric to gauge the economic participation of people with disabilities, as it does not account for many people who would like to work but are not actively seeking employment.

However, more and more employers are realizing the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities. In this day and age, companies need employees who are able to solve problems in unique and creative ways. And candidates with disabilities are often well positioned to think outside the proverbial box.

With more than 27 years of experience putting people with disabilities to work in Austin, we’ve compiled some of our best advice for job seekers with chronic medical conditions.

Consider a public sector job

The Obama administration exceeded their goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities during the past several years. With many states and municipalities following, this act alone has undoubtedly contributed to a falling disability unemployment rate over the same time period.

If you’re unable to get a government job directly, you might consider working with a company that does business with the public sector. At Peak Performers employment agency, we recognize that disabilities have little to no bearing on an individual’s skills and capabilities. Our mission is to find jobs for qualified individuals, especially those with a disability. In fact, at our company, your status as a person with a disability can actually put you at an advantage–when we fill jobs, we give priority to qualified people who have a chronic medical condition.

Expand your network

We’re not the only ones in Austin providing jobs for people with disabilities. We recommend utilizing a variety local and online resources in your job search. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Launch Pad Job Club is a networking, support, and job lead sharing organization that aids and supports job seekers in Austin. Looking for work is hard to do alone. The job club model offers free, weekly meetings to network and learn from local experts and job seekers.
  • Workforce Solutions is our regional workforce development system and a partner of the American Job Center network. With three locations in the Austin area, WFS is a one-stop resource for job search assistance and employment-related services in Travis County.
  • If you are new to the workforce or are recently disabled, you might benefit from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – one of the leading sources of guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

Consider when to disclose

The key question for many disabled job seekers is when (or if) to disclose their medical condition to a potential employer. Depending on your individual circumstances, this decision will be different for everyone. However, it’s important to think ahead and be prepared to address any skepticism from a hiring manager.

For people with highly visible disabilities, it is generally recommended to address any accommodations at the outset, so that expectations are set early in the process. Those with invisible disabilities can often choose whether or not to disclose at all. Many career advice articles suggest that if your disability is not easily noticeable, it’s best not to say anything. Despite legal protection, the sad truth is that workplace discrimination is still a significant reality for people with all types of disabilities.

Know your worth

If and when you do decide to disclose, keep in mind that it’s not necessary to outline your entire medical history. We recommend sharing any accommodations you might need and focusing on how you’re able to contribute to the company. As with any job search process, it’s important to highlight your skills, experience and professional accomplishments. Understanding your worth can go a long way to giving you the confidence to nail the interview. The system might be broken, but you certainly are not.

What to wear to your Austin interview

Tips for Dressing for your Interview

According to the Austin Business Journal, there are an estimated 157.2 people moving to our area every single day. Central Texas has been one of the fastest growing regions of the US for many years. More and more people are drawn to Austin’s growing economy, laid-back atmosphere and mild winter weather. We’re also proud to be ranked 2017’s best place to live by the ubiquitous assessors at US News & World Report. If you’re new to our beautiful city, we feel confident you’ll assimilate quickly.

With so many fresh job seekers from other parts of the country, we thought we’d offer our best recommendations on what to wear to your next job interview in our city. With over 27 years being Austin’s preferred employment agency, we’ve interviewed countless candidates and helped put thousands of people to work at State of Texas government agencies. We’ve seen it all, to say the least.

General Guidelines for Dressing for an Interview

For starters, here are a couple general guidelines to follow for any job interview:

  • Try not to stick out. We recommend dressing to look like you could start working the moment you walk in the door. If you’re interviewing for a construction job, for instance, bring your jeans and work boots. If you’re hoping to work in a courtroom, however, full suited attire might be more appropriate. If you’re still not sure what to wear, you might consider doing some subtle research into what other employees typically wear to work.
  • Wear what makes you feel good. When people look their best, they tend to have more confidence and self-assurance. While your personal image shouldn’t be a significant factor in an interview, it could communicate your attention to detail and give the hiring manager an idea of how you might represent the company to future clients or customers.

Keep in mind that there are only two seasons in Austin – hot and less hot. If you’re flying in for an interview, remember to check the weather report because precipitation and temperature can shift drastically in Central Texas. Another caveat is that most Austinites love air conditioning, especially when it’s 100 degrees outside. While you might find yourself sweating during the walk from your car, you might also be shivering while sitting in the company lobby.

Austin is also a city where it’s highly plausible to see people wearing flip-flops and shorts to a place of worship. Nowhere is this theme more salient than in the tech industry. It’s generally not a good idea to wear very formal attire for software development or information technology related positions.

That being said, most office or professional environments in Austin will go by the general rules of business casual.

For women, this usually means casual skirts, dresses, pants and blouses. Similarly, for men, this typically means a shirt with a collar tucked into dress pants with casual dress shoes. It is also common to see people in sweaters, vests and a combination of other seasonal accessories. Outside of certain formal industries, you’ll rarely find anyone wearing a suit in ATX.

Despite the stereotypes, leave your cowboy boots at home. And if you’re still stressing about what to wear, it’s usually okay to just ask.