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Job Hunting with Hearing Loss– or How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

job hunting with hearing loss

“The empty streets loom ahead of you – the shadows between derelict buildings and long-abandoned vehicles all create possible hiding places for the lingering undead. Food, water and safe shelter are scarce. It’s hard work providing the basic necessities for survival, but everyone else is dependant on you.”

Oh man. As a millenial living with a disability in a Third World country, the issue of job hunting is one tough, tough subject to deal with.

Here in South Africa, the reported unemployment rate is 27.7% as of the third quarter of 2017.[1] That’s among the population at large – I’ve seen claims that among those living with disabilities, the number is as high as 75%.

Obviously employment for people with disabilities is something we’re battling with worldwide, given the recessions we’ve been through over the last decade or so. There’s also been much talk about the diminishing value of holding a university degree, with many graduates struggling to find work or work that actually pays a livable salary. Rising costs and the price of housing put many things out of reach for our generation that were taken for granted before.

So, how do we work around this, especially given the invisible workplace bias that seems to inevitably rear its ugly head? (Anecdotally, I didn’t even get calls for interviews until I removed all references to my hearing loss from my CV – highly frustrating as you can’t prove discrimination based purely on suspicion!)

Here’s my take on it.

Basic Needs

In order to make yourself marketable with your hearing loss, the question you have to ask yourself is this: “What would make me able to survive and be invaluable in a zombie apocalypse?”

This probably sounds really strange, but hear me out. My wife and I are long-time fans of movies like Zombieland, I am Legend and so on (strangely, we haven’t seen The Walking Dead at all yet). We also own a board game titled “Dead of Winter” (Highly recommended, by the way!)

In the grim darkness of a far future where the world has devolved into madness and denizens of darkness want nothing more than to eat your brain, what will be the things that are most important to keep you and those around you alive?

Before you all rush for the shotguns, consider the basic needs one would need to survive:

  • Hypothermia, hyperthermia, and other conditions borne of exposure to the elements will kill or debilitate you far more quickly than a lack of food or water.
  • A clean water supply is essential to survival, and the longest you can last without it is three days.
  • Food doesn’t just magically appear in your refrigerator or at supermarkets – it has to come from somewhere, and that means someone has to take the time to plant, harvest, transport and process it.
  • If any of these conditions aren’t met properly and hygienically, disease becomes a very real threat.
  • And that shotgun you were reaching for needs ammuntion and maintenance to be of any use in the long run.

Utilizing your skills and passions

In society, those are the things that people will always need. And I think that makes a good starting point to look at your own skills and passions and see what needs you can cover for others.

Read more: Working with hearing loss: 7 tips for perfecting your resume

If you can’t find something that grabs you in the basic needs people have, keep thinking “up” – once people have the basics of shelter, food and water, what else do they want or need?

Society’s current running joke is that Wifi is critical – but it means that there are very real opportunities to focus on a skill that either puts this in place for people to use it, or making and maintaining things to use it with! Nicer food than the bare minimum is always popular (chefs, waiters, specialist producers…)

We – and I’m talking about those of us living with hearing loss here – have another clear need to consider. Coping with our hearing loss.

Whether we do that by wearing hearing aids, learning sign language or anything else, given our investment in those needs it may well be a good field to explore for us, specifically. Would we survive the Zombie Apocalypse if we couldn’t hear whether we were walking too loudly over gravel, or getting separated from the rest of our survivor band?

“That also really points out the biggest issue when it comes to seeking jobs for us – communication.”

That also really points out the biggest issue when it comes to seeking jobs for us – communication. That’s the thing that we have to surmount to survive the zombie hordes with the rest of our crew. Figure out how to interact with the hearing, and be useful to everyone. You can be entirely brilliant, but if you can’t communicate and don’t make the effort, you’re dead wood. Don’t be an island – you NEVER see successful lone survivors in a Zombie Apocalypse. 

“Figure out how to interact with the hearing, and be useful to everyone.”

There’s a reason for community. See, whatever need you provide for, you’re always going to need someone who has that need to make it any use.

It really boils down to this:

What matters isn’t your hearing loss. It’s what you can do and how you communicate that to others.

You need to:

  • Identify the needs of your community
  • See which needs “grab” your interest and start building or identifying the skills you have to do something about it
  • Build a network of people who either hold the same interest, are already providing for that need, or need the thing you’re providing.

Don’t allow yourself to fixate on being judged on your disability. The point is to give yourself skills that align with your interests and do them so well that it’s impossible to ignore. And you must, must, must look for allies. Remember, every single job there is out there comes down to providing either goods or services that benefit people. Be worthy.

“The point is to give yourself skills that align with your interests and do them so well that it’s impossible to ignore.”

Hours of skirting your way through buildings led you to find a small 24-hour petrol station with a convenience store that hadn’t been raided yet. Inside, you manage to find a plentiful store of  non-perishable foods – pasta, tins of tomato and fruit and tuna, and preserves such as peanut butter and jam. Those at home who have been successful in raising your first crop of wheat  and those with some skill at milling it will be glad for something to spread on the homemade bread it will provide. You check the map you’ve sketched as you’ve been going, hefting the pack and shotgun that have become your constant companions, allowing you to move through the ruins with relative safety and protecting those who rely on you. They have their skills, you have yours, and somehow you’re making it through together.”                                                                     

[1]          https://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/unemployment-rate-unchanged-at-27-7-in-q3/

markbarnard
Mark was discovered to have severe hearing loss - total loss in his left ear, severe in the right - at the age of 3, owing to a Cytomegalovirus infection. He grew up as part of the mainstream community, and only started regularly wearing hearing aids at the age of 15, when his hearing loss dropped to profound levels.

Rugby has always been a passion of his, and he's never stopped playing since getting his first opportunity in high school. His greatest claim to fame is playing for the South African Deaf Rugby team, a position he also uses to advocate for the Deaf community. However, he is afflicted with an interest in anything and everything, which manifests in limitless Star Wars puns, comments on the things making up the fabric of society, requests for your favourite banana bread recipes, a predilection for painting 28mm sci-fi models and the inability to fit into any of the proverbial descriptive "boxes" society likes to place people in.

He is currently teaching at a short term remedial school and lives in Durban with his wife, Amy.

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