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. 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.
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:
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:
You need to:
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.”