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Networking Tips for Workers with Disabilities

Networking Tips for Workers with Disabilities

You want a job. You have a good idea of what you would like to do, and you have a resume -- at least in draft form. You also have a disability of some sort, but you're not going to let that get between you and your goal. In many ways, you are in the same position as all those other job seekers out there who are hoping to find their dream job.

To beat out the competition, you need to do something many job seekers frequently overlook. You need to network.

If you have worked or are working in the regular job market, hopefully you already have a lot of contacts you can use in your job search. If you've been out of circulation for a time or are just entering the world of competitive work, you have some obstacles to overcome, but don't get too discouraged. There's a lot you can do.

Your objective is to let people know you are actively searching for a job and you need a planned and targeted networking campaign to do that. Follow these five critical steps:

Step 1: List Potential Prospects

Write down the name of anyone you know or have heard about in the field or close to the field you want to work in. Then make lists of everyone you can think of who will support your efforts to find a job, no matter what work they might do. Your hairdresser knows many people, all of whom talk about their work while being beautified. Your neighbor's father-in-law may be the one who supplies a crucial name.

Step 2: Contact as Many of Those People as Possible

A short conversation, a telephone message saying that you're looking for work and would appreciate a call back if they are aware of anyone looking to fill a position or an email to your contact list could be all it takes. You never know what may be the key.

Step 3: Be Clear About What You Want

You should be able to articulate what you can bring to the job and what you hope to get from it. Having your own clarity makes you more convincing to everyone you talk to. Consider the concerns you have about your disability (if any) and the concerns you think others might have and how you will respond to them. Write out your goals, your strengths and your plans for overcoming obstacles. This gives you more conviction when talking to others.

Step 4: Do Some Informational Interviewing

Find one or more companies you think might offer the type of work you hope to do and that seem to have a culture you would feel comfortable in. If you don't know of any when you begin your search, you can mention that you're looking for such a place when you talk to your contact list. Contact the receptionist or someone who knows the organization and ask who would be the best person to talk to for the position you're interested in.

Informational interviews are important for several reasons. Yes, you'll find out a lot about different companies and potential jobs, but you'll also learn how to present yourself and your skills during an actual job interview. Think of informational interviews as rehearsals for interviews that count. And remember that with each informational interview, you've just made another important networking contact.

Step 5: Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

Have the courage to ask people to introduce you to someone who might be instrumental in getting you in the door for an interview. Those in a position to hire are happy to hear from people they know and respect about prospects.

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