Congratulations to the college graduating class of 2013! You have a world of choices and exciting possibilities ahead of you. Graduate school, internships, the workforce and countless other opportunities are calling. If you’re in the class of 2013 and you have a disability, these tips can help make the transition into the next stage of life a seamless one.
Graduate school. If you have decided to pursue grad school as your next step, make sure you sign up for the GRE or other respective qualifying exam right away. Seek specialized tutoring if your college offers it. Apply, accept and register as early as possible for classes and try to get priority registration if it is offered to people with disabilities. Avoid online classes particularly if you are accustomed to using facial expression and tone to enhance your understanding. If you have mobility or learning difficulties, know that summer classes—which cram 15 weeks of curriculum into six weeks—can be both physically and mentally taxing.
Internships. Internships are a flexible way to get your foot in the door and are great for shopping around different fields of work and making valuable connections. Internships can be paid or unpaid and have negotiable hours and accommodations. Many entry-level positions require some level of work experience, which can be gained during the internship stage. Be sure to communicate any needs or requirements you have as far as accessibility. Many organizations seek individuals with disabilities or are willing to accommodate, and maintaining open communication with the internship coordinator is key.
Full-time employment. If you have already chosen your field or industry, perhaps you are ready to commit yourself to the workforce. Particularly for those who have already completed internships during college, it might be wise to dive straight in to a full-time position with at least a year of planned commitment. Be sure to read up on a company’s culture and benefits before deciding to apply. Many companies, including those in DiversityInc’s Top 10 Companies for People with Disabilities and Fortune’s 100 Companies to Work For list offer accommodations such as telecommuting and flexible work schedules.
Here are some other tips to get you prepped for the next chapter:
Polish your resume. For internships and jobs alike, there is just one place to start, and that is with a polished resume. Your new degree should be the magnum opus of your resume and listed at the top. When you have a disability, a well-constructed resume can highlight your abilities and unique perspective to any potential employer. If you have not taken a class on resume building, be sure to check out our samples crafted for people with disabilities.
Get business cards. If you don’t have business cards, print some with your name, contact information and field of expertise or college major. That lets employers keep in touch with you even if your resume is in a very large pile.
Network, network, network. Access your college alumni network and locate individuals with the experiences you are looking to gain. Professors are often connected to the professionals in their field and can help connect you. Always keep resumes and business cards on hand, and don’t be afraid to use the networking pickup line, “I am interested in what you do for a living – can I take you to lunch and pick your brain?” Many working professionals enjoy helping out a fellow alumnus and others are simply flattered at the prospect of mentoring a young mind. It might lead to an internship, or even a full-time job.
Check out job boards. Think Beyond the Label maintains a jobs board that is constantly updated with job openings within companies that actively seek individuals with disabilities. Also, the quarterly Hiring Fair partnership between Brazen Careerist and Think Beyond the Label caters to specific interests and needs of employees with disabilities.
Practice interviewing. Check out Think Beyond the Label’s tips to boost your interview confidence.
Keep your social media clean. Be sure that your social media face is at its best. This includes having an updated LinkedIn profile, a G-rated Facebook page, and active but carefully monitored Pinterest and Twitter feeds. Prospective employers often research you as much as you them, so you want to make sure that when you Google your own name, your most professional side is generated in the results.
Whatever your next step is, do it with enthusiasm and pride. You’re now a graduate, and the future is bright and bursting with opportunity. Good luck!
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