Originally posted at http://includingallpeople.org.nz/?p=213
The plan has been followed. Skills have been learned. Time spent as a student. The year has come to a close, and this time that means something different; a small holiday, then finding that first job. A CV prepared. The web and newspaper scanned daily for that opportunity that could be the “one”. A question still nags, how should I present the fact that I’m in a wheelchair? Should I be doing so at all? Conscience searched. Decision made. Fact that I’m in a wheelchair placed clearly in personal information. Applications submitted. Start daily travel to Auckland to meet recruiters and employers alike.
I am initially feeling positive about getting lots of interviews. A month goes by, then two. Almost daily travel to Auckland and back is getting to be a drag. Some interviews go well, some I just can’t tell, and others give me the strong feeling I’m just at the interview so they can say they considered me. Friends are getting jobs, moving away, and getting started on the rest of their lives. It has been four months now, I am losing drive and focus and am beginning to have serious doubts.
Fifth month now, and I find out about a position that could be described as my dream job. This is corporate so appearance matters. I ask my Aunt to come with me for this one interview so that she can help me ensure I look my best. By now interviews don’t scare me as they did. I go in full of hope that this is the one. I’m interviewed by a team of three people, two of them I feel like I connect with. One seems focused on the fact that I’m in a wheelchair. The job sounds amazing and I know I want it. The one focused on my wheelchair is also the boss, but I hope like heck two out of three will get me the job.
Two hours later, I hear back from the recruiter, “they thought you would have been good for the job, but … you weren’t dressed well enough”. Hurt doesn’t even begin to describe how that felt. To be honest my heart went out of the job hunt right then. The recruiter also informed me that he had pulled any reference to my wheelchair out of my CV.
I stopped looking or applying for positions and didn’t really know what I was going to do. But, I had one last interview already scheduled for two days after missing out on the dream job. So I go up to Auckland one last time. Ten minutes into the interview it becomes clear that this is not the job for me. The boss seems nice, however, and he takes me on a tour and introduces me to a few people. I leave with a feeling of that’s that, and with a heavy heart.
Two weeks go by and I get that last letter confirming the job has gone to someone else. I don’t know what to do. I can’t face more interviews, I just want to disappear. I resolve to tell my family the next day that I failed.
9am, the next morning, I get a call from the person who conducted my last interview asking if I am interested in a three month trial. They have a position that they hadn’t been able to fill because they were looking for a person with at least two years experience. So they have modified the position and offered it to me. Full of joy and nerves, I accepted and had a week to move to Auckland.
Hi, I’m Clint and the story above is a glimpse into how I started my career over 13 years ago. From that one start, I discovered that yes, I do have skills in I.T, and what’s even better is that I enjoy doing it. If you want getting your first important job to be part of “Your” story, and you are interested in the experience and observations of someone who has been there before then read on.
First and key is, believe in your ability to learn and adapt. No one goes into their first job knowing everything they need to. You don’t need to have all the answers straight away.
If you are struggling with how to present your situation, there is no right or wrong answer. But I strongly urge you to make the decision yourself, before others try and make it for you. I advertised my disability and I am convinced that some interviews were just going through the motions. But ultimately an interview for a job that wasn’t right for me, led to the job that was. These days I try and let my experience speak for me more than anything else.
Also remember an interview isn’t just about them deciding they want you for a job, it’s also a chance for you to consider if you want to work in that place with those people.
While you are job hunting, the hardest part is that you will be judged, and it can be hard to take. But try and take criticism and learn from it. If you honestly feel that your situation has affected their decision, then ask yourself do you really want to be working with them.
Lastly, be ready for the unexpected ridiculous situation. I lost count of how many times I heard from a recruiter “Sorry I just heard our elevator isn’t working today, how about we do your interview in the nearest … (café/bar/coffee shop)”
If you are looking for that first job, I wish you luck, and I know you can do it! If you have already overcome the first job hurdle what struggles did you face? How did you over come them? If you were offering advice as I have, what would it be?
Tell me about your experiences. You have heard my story and now I’d love to hear about your story.