Moving from secondary school to the working world can be a scary leap, but it can also be exciting and rewarding. Having a job or volunteering to do some meaningful work gives you independence, confidence and a sense of purpose. It adds another layer of meaning to life.

Yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as of 2018, ‘53.4% of people with disability were in the labour force, compared with 84.1% of people without disability’.

That’s why it’s important to use the resources available to you to advocate for yourself and empower yourself to join the working world in whatever capacity you can.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What are my employment rights in Australia?
  • Goal setting, identifying strengths and building pathways to success
  • How do I find a job?
  • How do I write a CV and cover letter?
  • How do I prepare for an interview?
  • What about volunteering?
  • What if I’m not quite ready to go into the working world?

Let’s dive in.

What are my employment rights in Australia?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand your rights in the workplace.

In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects you from discrimination in employment. This means employers must provide fair treatment and make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.

The Act does note, however, that the exception would be if your disability makes you incapable of performing the tasks related to the job you’re looking to be hired for. This is why it’s important to assess your abilities and strengths, so you can pursue work that’s suited to you.

Goal setting, identifying strengths and building pathways to success

Setting clear goals is the first step towards a successful career. And to set goals, it’s important to identify your strengths and interests. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? What interests you? What do you want to learn more about?

Once you’ve identified your strengths, you can set your goals and plan for them. Perhaps you need to study further and vocational training or tertiary study is the next step. Maybe you’re keen to get stuck into the working world right away and job applications and CV building is the next step. Look at the various career paths and how they align with your abilities and goals. Tools like career assessments and counseling services can help you figure this out.

How do I find a job?

If you’re ready to launch into the working world, it’s time to job hunt.

Nowadays, most jobs are advertised online. A good place to start is the Australian Government’s Job Access site. They have a whole host of resources for jobseekers with disabilities including online job sites you can search, such as:

Another option is to make use of Disability Employment Services (DES). These are providers that receive government funding to assist people with disabilities in securing and maintaining employment.

A DES provider can help you with:

  • Preparing for employment
  • Getting specific job-related skills
  • Crafting your resume
  • Developing interview techniques
  • Seeking employment that aligns with your abilities

After securing a job through your DES provider, they can also offer assistance with:

  • Training while on the job
  • Communication with your employer and colleagues
  • Continued support in your role
  • Adjustments to your work environment
  • Providing Auslan services in the workplace

Networking is also a great way to get a foot in the door. If you know someone in the industry you’d like to work in, see if they can get you an interview or at least put in a good word for you.

How do I write a resume and cover letter?

When applying for the role, it’s important to ensure you meet the basic requirements of the job and can do the tasks required. Then, it’s time to tailor your application to highlight how your skills align with the role.

A resume and cover letter create your employer’s first impression about you. That’s why it’s important to put some time and effort into these.

Make sure your resume is clear, concise, and up-to-date, focusing on your educational qualifications, strengths, and relevant experience or personal aspects that you feel will help you do a good job. Your cover letter should be tailored to each job application, showing your interest in the position and why you think you’d be a good choice for the role.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s website, Includeability, has some great tips for writing a resume and cover letter. There are also numerous free online tools to quickly and easily build a resume. You can also look at using AI like ChatGPT to help you write both your resume and cover letter. Just remember to edit whatever it produces to make sure it’s accurate and sounds like you.

The important thing to know about applying for a job is that you are under no obligation to disclose your disability status. That’s your choice. It could, however, be helpful so that the employer can make reasonable adjustments when you go through the interview process.

How do I prepare for an interview?

Interviews can be nerve-wracking, but preparation is key. Be sure to do your research about the company and their products or services. Then, practice some common interview questions, like:

1.   Tell me about yourself
This lets you introduce your professional self and highlight key aspects of your background that will be relevant to the job.

2.    Why are you interested in this role/company?
Employers ask this to gauge your enthusiasm for the role and to see if you’ve done your research about the company.

3.    What are your greatest strengths?
This question helps the interviewer understand what you see as your best qualities and how they may be beneficial for the role.

Remember, it’s also your opportunity to assess if the job and company are right for you. If you need accommodations for the interview, make sure you request them in advance.

What about volunteering opportunities?

If you’re not ready to dive into paid employment, volunteering is a great alternative. It can help you build skills, gain experience, and expand your network. Plus, it’s a fulfilling way to contribute to your community while exploring potential career interests.

City of Sydney has a range of different volunteering opportunities on offer. You can also search for volunteering positions on the regular job search sites.

To get you started, here are some organisations in Sydney offer volunteering opportunities:

  • Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation offers volunteer opportunities to support sick children and their families in hospital settings.
  • Sydney Dogs and Cats Home is ideal for animal lovers, offering opportunities to help care for abandoned pets.
  • Royal Botanic Garden Sydney offers opportunities for people interested in horticulture and conservation to help with garden maintenance and educational programs.
  • Taronga Zoo gives volunteers a chance to contribute to wildlife conservation and enhance visitor experiences at one of Sydney’s most iconic attractions.

What if I’m not quite ready to go into the working world?

If you feel the workplace isn’t the right step for you just yet, you may want to focus on skill development. This could be through further education, vocational training, or special programs designed for people with disabilities. Developing your skills now may open up employment opportunities in the future.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) offers a range of supports and services for people with disabilities who are looking to enter the workforce. Their Let’s talk about work booklet details all the ways they can help you.

A great option if you’re looking for a transition step between secondary school and the working world, or just want to increase your independence, is our Day Programs. We can help you build on what you’ve learned at school and set goals for specific areas you’d like to focus on.

This could involve working on:

  • money handling skills
  • time management skills
  • communication skills
  • community activities
  • cooking skills
  • travel skills
  • personal development skills

We’re a registered NDIS provider and can help you learn new skills in a safe and supported environment. Our Day Programs are tailored to your individual goals and needs and will continue your development where secondary school left off. Plus, they’re a load of fun where you can meet new friends and find a community.

Get in touch now to book your spot or call: 8328 0679.

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