15 November 2023

Using Your Disability to Stand Out: What’s Your ‘Plus’?

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‛Aspergers isn’t a fault. It’s a variant. It’s potentially a major advantage. Asperger’s syndrome is associated with organisation, focus, innovative thinking, and rational detachment’ (Prof Don Tillman – ‘The Rosie Project’)

When it comes to disability, it’s easy to think about all the things you can’t do. Or that you can no longer do.

It’s tempting to compare yourself to others who don’t have a disability, however when it comes to searching for a placement or a job, it’s helpful to think about what you can do and what skills, strengths and competencies you do have.

We all develop skills as a result of our experiences, and this is especially true when you have to manage a disability on a day to day basis in a world that isn’t always geared up for it. These are skills that employers are potentially looking for.

By identifying the strengths you have gained through managing a disability, you can market your disability as a ‘plus’ when applying for jobs. And make your application stand out from the competition, catching the eye of recruiters.

What is your plus?

There are many ways to identify your strengths, however a good starting point is to reflect on your own experiences, including those related to your disability, in order to understand where your strengths lie.

By finding real examples in your life where you have overcome disability-related challenges to achieve success, your talents and character strengths will become clearer.

A good way to do this is to consider what you have to do on a daily basis that your non-disabled friends don’t.

Equally, your disability may equip you with a unique set of skills that make you stand out from the crowd in terms of what you can offer a potential employer.

Communicating your plus

For each of the strengths and skills that you identify as having developed because of your disability, you will need to be able to provide a couple of examples.

The examples should be related to your disability and ideally each skill will have been developed by a different experience.

At an interview, concentrate on demonstrating your five best strengths. You should think positively about your experiences of disability and articulate a couple of strengths that your disability has forced you to develop that will enable you to achieve results in the future.

By communicating these strengths in an interview and discussing the disability-related challenges you have overcome to achieve success today, you can begin to really stand out as a candidate with a ‘plus’.

Don’t let your disability hold you back

Relating your plus to the role

As you choose your strengths, remember that the aim is to show the employer that you have the relevant competencies and attributes to succeed in the role.

Read the job description carefully and familiarise yourself with the requirements of the role. You can then match your strengths to the job and explain how these will enable you to achieve the best results in the organisation.

Obviously, you must choose strengths you actually possess rather than just because it is in the job description.

If you decide to talk about strengths relating to your disability, you will need to explain their relevance to the role. Otherwise, you will look like you are ‘playing on’ having a disability.

Leveraging your disability as your differentiator

Once you have chosen your strengths, you can prepare one or two supporting examples to demonstrate how the strengths you have developed through a disability have enabled you to excel or why this strength will be an asset to the organisation. 

By drawing upon personal experiences to illustrate your strengths, you can set yourself apart from the competition. 

For more advice and information, become a member of www.myplusstudentsclub.com, for free, and explore our eBooks covering a range of topics such as disclosure, making an application and requesting adjustments by clicking on our Resources section here.

Author: Helen Cooke, Director and Founder of MyPlus Students’ Club