Guest post: Diary of a job hunter with cerebral palsy: job applications
Hi, I'm Jess and I 'm writing a series of blogs about my search for work after university. It would be great to chat to anyone who’s in the same boat, who might want to talk tactics and tips!
Number of degrees: 3 (excellent), number of job applications: 64 (v.g), days since university: 309, coffees: 927 (must cut down), times I’ve taken current situation out on partner: 100+ (poor)
I realised when I left school that, unknown to my six-year-old self, I’d never be a ballet dancer. I loved mathematics and figured it would give me good career options on a level playing field. So, I specialized in medical modelling and found academia a cosy setting for me to be. Writing papers, I could be anyone, with or without disability.
Now I'm looking for work that stays true to my ambitions of medical science, but stepping away from academia. With three maths degrees under my belt, I'm back home job hunting. Easy right? Wrong! Let me tell you a bit about job hunting with cerebral palsy...
Firstly, I hadn't realised how much recruiters LOVE calling - despite my CV explaining email is easier because of my unclear speech. There’s frequently a box with an ‘*’ by phone number on forms, so even if I remove it from my documents, I am still not safe from well-meaning calls. I kid you not, I was asked to speak English once!
A phone call starts with "hello". Then battle commences. I say "hello" back, followed by my name, after which they say a second "hello", a third and then either, "I can’t hear you" or "It’s a bad signal". When trying to explain, I am reminded of the comedian Francesca Martinez, who has cerebral palsy herself, when she talks of the irony of how difficult it is to say "cerebral palsy" with a speech impediment.
Sometimes people hang up, and I confess I do too. Whether in person or on the phone, I think I know in 10 seconds if they are the type of person who will ‘warm’ to my voice.
Each morning I load Skype, so my partner can talk to me as we simultaneously look through our job alerts. You quickly realise which alerts are relevant and offer you jobs you are more likely to apply for, and those who interpret "Medical Modelling in London" as "Registered Nurse in Manchester". I apply for jobs whose criteria I meet, make a record, set a reminder to follow up if I’ve not heard in two weeks and wait.
Reading long blocks of text has always been hard for me. I put it down to either losing my place because of my head movement or I’m lazy. Let’s say it’s the former. Because of this I use a screen reader to read long job adverts or emails. I use a female voice of course or I’d end up nagging it to stop mumbling, like I do with my other half.
I find it makes such a difference, just to get a clear picture of what’s required in general and parts I can then go back to and read manually. Another way I use the reader is when I’m writing long emails as my brain works faster than I type, having it read back to me, allows me to check my writing flows.
After raiding the job ads, I try to think more laterally. I think what companies or organisations I’d want to work for and try the direct approach: explaining my situation and offering to do unpaid "behind the scenes" work. Bar a great two-month internship and a bit of pre-university work, so far I haven't had much success. A lot of junior roles are client-facing, which is a no-no for me.
After the emails and applications are sent, I find it is like the first few months of dating - you just want to stare at your email waiting for a reply. Every day I wake up thinking today might be the day when I get a reply from the right post at the right time.