Disability Solutions' is Changing Minds, Changing Lives. Our organization aims to educate employers on the talent and market value of people with disabilities when it comes to employment. We often hear from potential employer clients that “people with disabilities can’t do our job” or “we don’t hire people with disabilities.” Our response is simple – yes, they can and yes you do.
Jamie has anxiety, which is an invisible disability and not necessarily detectible to others. 70% of all disabilities are invisible. Jamie is a professional with more than twenty years of non-profit, executive experience with a BA in Communication, and a Certified Fund Raising Executive. She even won a Telly award for a children’s program she wrote, produced, and starred in at the age of 21. Unfortunately, late last year she found herself unemployed.
“Stress negatively affects my disability. I have had a hard time with any sort of screaming from an employer. Over the years, I have learned how to deal with difficult people and how to express myself without shrinking away. However, I find it difficult not to run from a heavily over-reactive situation,” said Jamie. “So, trying to find a job, again, was extremely difficult. I knew that I could not continue to hop from one role to another if I wanted security and satisfaction. I worked with a few organizations that developed a personalized solution to my job search. Once I committed to the process of finding long-term executive-level employment, I found the perfect job and in March started a high-level fund-raising job.”
As we all do, people with disabilities focus on what they can do versus what they cannot do. Jamie continues, “I believe my sensitivities have made me an amazing supervisor and teammate. I can see when someone else is struggling and I can help. I am empathetic and a great listener. I am highly skilled at fundraising because I can recognize the needs of others and match those to the right funding opportunities. These are not skills that can be taught.”
Finding the right employer to be successful can be challenging to anyone especially jobseekers with disabilities. In our discovery work with clients, we focus a lot on their culture to create an environment where all employees can comfortable and engaged when recruiting, interviewing, and managing employees with all types of disabilities. More and more candidates are seeking out employers who are diverse and allow them to bring their whole self to work where they can thrive and be successful. Jamie shared her own experiences with us, “My current supervisor is extremely communicative. She provides tons of positive feedback. She is direct and honest with criticism but understanding. She provides guidance in advance of tough situations so that I am prepared to handle what lies ahead.” Jamie’s advice to employers, “Recognize that each person with or without a disability is unique. Ask questions during the interview process such as, ‘What do you need to be successful in this position?’ My current employer asked me this question. I responded with the usual hardware and software answers, but then added a bit more. I said, “I need to find a place where I can be comfortable to be me.” I didn’t want to disclose my disability in the interview, but I wanted them to know that I need to feel accepted as I am, or I would not be happy and productive in that job.”
Jamie’s road to her current career was not easy, but she knows there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “I advise that others with disabilities not get discouraged. Be patient. Listen to the advice of the experts. Initially, I thought I already knew what I needed to do, but I learned very quickly that others know a ton more about job searching than I do. Trust the process and you will reap the benefits of it.”
Jamie is a prime example of how an employer found the right fit for their business needs and that talent happened to have a disability. Approximately twenty-five percent of Americans have some type of disability. You are hiring them and they can do your jobs. Fingers crossed that Jamie decides to bring her story to the screen and pick up that second Telly award.