Job Talk: When do I tell them I'm disabled?
Dear J.T. & Dale: After being injured on the job, I took a position as a construction safety manager. After surgery and recovery, I could no longer meet the physical requirements of the job. My workers' compensation claim and insurance have been turned down. I am out of work and looking for a job. I've been in the safety field for 10 years, but I cannot meet the physical requirements of the jobs I'm qualified for. Should I state in my cover letter that I am disabled and say what my limitations are, or wait to discuss this during the interview? — Mike
DALE: Sounds like a lousy deal, Mike. If you haven't consulted a disability attorney, it would be worth getting an opinion. However, you can't let legal possibilities distract you. Here is a good assumption for most problems in life: Help is NOT coming. But back to your question about when in the hiring process to reveal your disability: The timing probably won't change the outcome, not if you're unable to do the work. That said, it's always better to be screened out later rather than earlier; there's the chance that a hiring manager you meet in an interview could see something special in you, or even spot another position where you might fit into the organization.
J.T.: That's a long shot, of course, and another case where you're better off sticking with the assumption that "help is not coming" and moving on to what you can control, which is professional reinvention. The challenge you face is typical of someone who's been injured: You're trying to fit skills into jobs that your disability won't allow you to do. Forget your training and work experience for a minute: What work can you physically do? Make a list of all your marketable skills and how many hours each day you could manage. From there, you can start to research roles that your skill set would accommodate. I'd check with your local staffing firms and Career OneStop (www.careeronestop.com) to seek advice. Once you find jobs that will work, it's time to start asking your network of family, friends and former co-workers if they know anyone in these fields. Your goal is to get informational interviews with people who have these jobs so you can learn what it will take to get hired. The process of professional reinvention isn't hard; it just takes some work to figure out what to look for.
DALE: The good news is that the process of reinvention will, if done wisely, create a new network of industry contacts, and that will give you access to the so-called hidden job market, the one where you hear about jobs before they get posted.
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Dear J.T. & Dale: Two weeks ago I was told that my position as a part-time concierge was being eliminated. The company offered to reduce my hours from 27.5 per week to 12 per week, but that isn't feasible. Should I still write a letter of resigna tion? Should I include their offer and my not being able to accept it? — Kim
J.T.: Because they are changing your hours and you aren't accepting, you are technically quitting your job. This is a situation where I would ask your current management if they even want a resignation letter. If they do — and they probably do, as proof that you are quitting, not being fired — then I would suggest that you include the reasons why. That way, if you want to work there again, they'll see that you left because you wanted to work more, not less.
DALE: There is something much better to put in that resignation letter — namely, "I'm leaving because I found a much better job." I know that isn't true at the moment, but I hope you will make it so. I'd urge you to stay in the job while you search. Given the meager number of hours you'll be working, it shouldn't interfere with your job-searching, and searching while having a job has many advantages — not just the income to buy you more time and thus more negotiating leverage, but it's also true that many employers are skeptical of those out of work.
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