Challenged But Not Disabled

It's tough breaking into the job market when you're physically challenged. However, with planning and persistence you can overcome barriers to your success.

what you can do.

Billy Allen of Minority Search Inc. in Dallas tells students to join organizations that are specific to their chosen profession, such as the National Association of Black Accountants. “This will allow the student to network and receive job announcements from the organization’s newsletters,” he says. “The networking is particularly important because people get to know you and your capabilities, and focus on that instead of your physical disability. This can lead to key internships and referrals down the line.”

Also, attend job fairs. Get to know able-bodied people who work at companies you are interested in. Learn what you can about their employers and use that information to position yourself as a candidate for the jobs they have available. (See “Get a Job — After College,” this issue, for more tips.)

3. Get help with your resume. In 1987, Michael Linyard’s life changed forever.
The victim of a near-fatal shooting, he was left a paraplegic. After three years of medical rehabilitation, Linyard enrolled at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York, and earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration. Like Jenkins, he was greeted over and over with the mantra, “Sorry, but we’re not hiring right now.” While searching through the want ads one day, Linyard, now 33, ran across Just One Break J.O.B.), a New York-based non-profit agency that places qualified disabled applicants in Fortune 500 companies. After restructuring his resume, the agency placed Linyard at a branch of the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand L.L.P. in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he currently works as an accounts payable clerk.

Kathryn Croft, director of operations at J.O.B., offers this advice:

Make sure your resume is well written, on quality paper and free of errors.
Stress your accomplishments. Avoid any reference to your disability or disabled or ethnic organizations to which you belong, unless they are relevant to the position you’re seeking.

Make sure you direct your resume to the right person.
Get their exact job title and spell their name correctly.

Send out a ton of resumes.
A general rule of thumb is that you’ll get 10 interviews for every 100 applications or resumes you send out.
Nancy Forest, acting executive director of Mainstream Inc., a Bethesda, Maryland-based agency that provides career counseling and placement services for people with disabilities in the Baltimore and Dallas areas, adds a firm reminder about disclosure. At no point up until a job offer has been made are you obligated to disclose your disability. “Not in your cover letter, not in your resume, not anywhere,” she states. “As long as you are able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodations, you’re a viable candidate.”

4. Enlist the best search team.
If you have a degree and experience in a certain professional field, and your vocational counselor insists on steering you toward “low-income, no-future” jobs, find another advocate, experts advise.
Al Couthen, president of National Black Deaf Advocates, located in Laurel, Maryland, suggests that you primarily seek out organizations that work on behalf of African Americans with disabilities. If you’re

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