Knowledge is Power – Common Myths About Disability
Table of Contents
Part 4 – What Counts as “Experience” on a Resume?
Today’s complicated and competitive labor market relies on technology to do much of the initial screening of job applications. Computer programs “scan” resumes for key words and the use of artificial intelligence is commonplace. According to Glassdoor, “On average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 resumes. Of those candidates, 4 to 6 will get called for an interview, and only one will get the job.” That translates to between 2 and 3 percent of all job applicants receiving a call back.
While this might seem discouraging, there are things job applicants can do to better their chance to be one of the few people to get a call for an interview. The good news is that the internet and online job postings make it easier to know what a company is looking for on a resume or application.
Transferable skills that do not come from employment.
For many people living with disability there can be lengthy breaks in employment. There are other issues that can arise due to living with a disability that a traditional, non-disabled job applicant does not have to address as well.
Adults who encounter disability mid-life, like me, often have significant breaks in their employment from when they encounter disability to when they potentially return to working. It is not uncommon for these employment breaks to last several years. In my case, I experienced disability in early 2014 and was not able to seek out employment until after the end of the COVID pandemic lockdowns in 2021.
These employment breaks, when not addressed, leave a large hole in a resume. What should someone do in instances like this? First, examine what was done over the course of the employment break? In my case, it took over 2 years just to become physically well enough to even consider any return to working. In 2016 my mom was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and I became her caregiver until her passing in early 2018. After taking time to grieve, I enrolled in a vocational rehabilitation program to learn technology and skills that would strengthen the skills necessary to re-enter the workforce. In early 2021 I completed the program and felt ready to seek out employment opportunities.
While not an exhaustive list, it provides experience to pull from and transfer skills to a resume.
Use the EXACT words from a job posting.
Words really do matter when it comes to submitting applications electronically or online. Over 50 percent of companies use some type of Automated Tracking System, or ATS, to organize, sort, and sift through applications. When an ATS is used by a company to sort best matches on a job posting, the systems often match key words or phrases from the job postings against the applications to generate a score. Generally speaking, the applications with the best match scores get reviewed by a human being and potentially called for an interview.
How does a job applicant take these qualifications and translate them onto a resume? First, one should never apply for a job that they are not qualified for. That does not mean that an applicant must match each and every qualification exactly. What it does mean is an applicant must be able to demonstrate competency and the ability to perform the essential functions of the job.
A common example are job postings that require applicants to have a valid driver’s license. When a job requires a certain amount of local driving or there is use of a company vehicle, driving can be considered an essential job function. Requiring applicants possess a valid driver’s license is reasonable only when a job expressly states that a certain amount of travel is required. Otherwise, applicants who can work legally but don’t drive should feel welcome to apply.
For example, a job posting for a customer service representative at a call center might have the following qualification requirements. Let’s go through each qualification using only my time as a caregiver to demonstrate relevant skills.
- Ability to conduct research and reach a logical conclusion based on results – As my moms caregiver, one of the things I did was to look up information on her condition, medications, health and wellness. I also dealt with the health insurance company, doctors offices, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. Research for grants to help cover medical costs, research end of life care, and so much more. The experience is not negated simply because it was done for my mom. It was still work and relevant experience.
- Manage heavy workload with high level of accuracy and production – What could be more important than ensuring the care that my mom received was proper? Managing a calendar of appointments, not just for my mom, but also my own. Ensuring prescriptions are filled and paid for. Review of billing statements and making sure that they are accurate.
- Timely process documents within established productivity standard and prioritizes work within established time frames – Grant applications are very time sensitive. There were also certain time requirements needed for processing certain end of life paperwork. Keeping track of these dates, following up with organizations to ensure documents were received, and tracking responses.
- Adapt to changing circumstances – So much of being a caregiver is adapting to changing circumstances. In the case of my mom, there were times when she was too sick to do something and appointments had to be quickly changed. There is also the added challenge of managing self-care, which is critical for any caregiver.
- Exercise discretion and judgment – As Power-of-Attorney for my mom, I had the duty of exercising proper care and judgement over her finances.
- Works well under pressure – There are few things in life that carry a heavier burden than being the caregiver for a cherished person you love. If that is not working well under pressure, what is?
Employment is not the only place we gain experience.
Remember, working in a job and employment is only one of the many places we gain experience. There are many places where we gain important and relevant experience that can be transferred to our professional lives. Volunteering, being active in your community, serving on a board or a community organization, being a caregiver, and other experiences provide unique opportunities for us to learn and grow our unique set of skills and abilities.
When looking at a job posting and considering whether to apply or not, the first thing to ask is if you are qualified to do the job – not based on some artificial assessment by someone else – but by yourself. Can you do the job with the skills and abilities you have?
If the answer is yes, the next step is to review the requirements and qualifications, match them with your own personal experience, and craft a resume that is in alignment. Remember to use the words in the job posting specifically on your resume – if the job posting says “works well with Microsoft Word and Excel.” Your resume should list “Microsoft Word and Excel,” and not “computer skills” as skills you possess.
Living with disability is its own unique experience and challenge. We live in and navigate a world that is generally not built or designed with us in mind. Our ability to adapt, problem solve, think outside the box, and do all the things necessary on a daily basis is worthy of acknowledging as a skill. Be sure to include it on any application or resume.
Finally, job searches are rarely fun. They take time. Looking for jobs, applying, waiting, interviewing, apply again, interview again…and hopefully in the not-too-distant future, get hired. Something we all can do is give ourselves grace and be kind to ourselves throughout the entire process. At a minimum we owe that to ourselves.
By: Ken Meeker CPC
More In This Series
- Part 1 – Housing
- Part 2 – What is “Reasonable” in Accommodations
- Part 3 – Discrimination & Disability
About The Author
Ken Meeker CPC is the owner of Vitality Career Coaching LLC, a boutique leadership coaching company. His work includes creating inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible opportunities for employment through consulting and training workshops.
He is Inclusive Behaviors Inventory Certified, a Certified ADA Coordinator, graduate of the AFB Blind Leaders Program. Ken is a recognized leader for disability and blind/low vision advocacy as the recipient of the 2023 AFB Llura Gund Leadership Award. Additionally, Ken is enrolled in the 2023 NCDA Leadership Academy. He has been a featured speaker in numerous seminars, summits, a featured guest on multiple podcasts, and is the creator and host of the “Dissing My Ability’ Podcast. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/kenmeekeraz, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://vitalitycareercoaching.com
Connecting With Bold Blind Beauty
Like what you’ve read and want to chat about it? Join us in the Bold Blind Beauty Facebook group.
- The header “Knowledge Is Power Common Myths About Disability” text overlays an image of a lit kerosene lamp on a table with an open book.
- ‘Experience’ is 3-D text on a white background with a magnifying glass over the word.
- The word ‘skills’ is red and vertical. Horizontal black words ‘abilities’ and ‘knowledge’ intersect with ‘skills’.
- ‘Words Have Power’ among related words in a hand drawn word cloud on a chalkboard.
- Group of multi-ethnic people working in a charitable foundation packing humanitarian aid.
- Author photo: A professional waist shot of Ken a white man with arms folded across his chest. He has short dark hair and eyeglasses.