Should I pursue my dream career?

When deciding on career options, there’s often a ‘push-pull’ between the ‘push’ of wanting to pursue a ‘dream’ career, and the ‘pull’ caused by fear it isn’t achievable. This can be complicated by worries that regardless of ability, having a disability could be a barrier to achieving an aspiration. Below are some suggestions to help with this decision.


Identifying if your dream career is a good fit

Before pursuing a career path, how do you know if you’re focusing your energy in the right direction? You might want to consider the following:


  1. It seems intuitive that a job that ‘fits’ your personality and interests will make you happy. However, empirical evidence shows moving from something you’re reasonably interested in to something you’re very interested in only marginally improves your job satisfaction. (Yates 2010: 48-49)
  2. As human beings, we’re not very good at predicting what will make us happy in future jobs.
  3. People change over time, including what they are interested in.
  4. Jobs evolve over time. For example technology has replaced some of the numerical work that accountants have traditionally done and instead customer-relationship building skills are more important.


All of this may make it seem like making effective career decisions is almost impossible, but giving a little thought to the sections below can help greatly.


Part 1 – Understand your motivations

A lot of our decisions are made emotionally using mental shortcuts and then justified rationally in our brains afterwards, so it’s important to understand what is ‘driving’ your decisions.


Subtly changing ‘what job do I want to do?’ to ‘what do I want from a job?’ is a good place to start. Think of your ‘dream’ job. What do you hope to get from doing this, i.e. how would it make your life better than if you got a different job? Make a list of all the things that come to mind.


From your list, look at anything you can ‘have’ or ‘do’ (e.g. money, travel) and ask ‘what would that give you?’ (e.g. freedom, making an impact, love/respect, fun). If you have a long list, consider prioritising it by which are most important. What have you learnt about yourself? How does this affect your career choices?


For example, many students I work with want a job that ‘makes a difference’, even if they’re not initially sure exactly what job they want. Other people want a job that earns a lot of money because it gives them a feeling of recognition.


Be aware of ‘conditional’ thinking, such as ‘if I get this job, I will be a success, but if I don’t I’ll be a failure’ or ‘people will like me more’. If you feel this is something you need help with, speak to your student services department.


Part 2 – Your career is not in a vacuum


The next step is to consider your career in the context of other people and extend the question ‘what do I want from a job’ to ‘what people do I want to help solve which problems using which skills?’ In other words, thinking of your dream career focuses on you, but to do well in the labour market it’s important to focus on what you can offer the world. Work that you are good at and makes a difference are also two key factors in job satisfaction and achievement.


  • ‘People’ can include customers, service users, colleagues and so on.
  • ‘Problems’ includes anything that is the focus of a job, e.g. helping people find the right product for their needs or helping people be happy.
  • ‘Skills’ are what you are good at and what you could potentially become good at, and most are transferable between jobs.


For example, someone exploring roles in education outside of teaching could say ‘I want to help young people to achieve more in their lives through using my research and presentation skills’ or an art student ‘I want to give people a thought-provoking, uplifting experience to make their lives richer using my fine art skills’.


Don’t worry if you can’t answer all three of these, start with what you can answer for now.


Job satisfaction


The following factors also greatly influence job satisfaction. Think about how they relate to you. Below are some prompts to help get started.


Factor What does it mean to me?
Variety of work tasks E.g. what would I like variety in and what things would I like to do consistently? For example, as an artist using the same skills but working on commissions for different types of clients.



Good colleagues E.g. What sort of people do I want to work with?



Working conditions E.g. working environment, travel/commute, location, hours, organisation structure/culture.


Workload E.g. time pressure, deadlines, amount of work.
Autonomy E.g. how much responsibility/accountability do you want for work, and how much freedom to complete tasks
Educational Opportunities E.g. how far do I want to go in my career? What jobs will give me the opportunity to develop the skills and experience needed to do this?
No major negative factors E.g. How do I want my job to fit in with the rest of my life? Are there any other significant factors for me personally that I need to consider?


While your disability(s) may influence your answers to this activity, try to focus on your strengths and what works well for you rather than any perceived disadvantages. Remember that employers are obligated to consider reasonable adjustments for disabled employees, and Access to Work may cover additional assistance beyond these.


Part 4 – Labour Market Information (LMI)


LMI is the latest information about the economy and employment. Researching current and projected employment trends is a starting point for researching how many job opportunities there potentially will be in different areas. For example, in the UK there are a shortage of engineers, meaning there are more jobs; whereas the majority of paid art therapist jobs are within the NHS which is possibly unlikely to receive funding for lots of new vacancies in this area.


Websites such as Prospects and Targetjobs have sector and job profiles that are a good place to start.


LMI can also tell you more about what skills are needed now and potentially in the near future. From this you can make some educated guesses about how jobs will evolve and where you can focus your professional development. Consider how this influences your opinions on career options, e.g. is a job you’re interested in going to possibly involve skills you would not like to use?


Part 5 – Research

If you have decided to explore other options but are unsure where to start, reading job profiles (as per above) can help. You can also conduct informational interviews with people who work in different roles to find out more details about jobs. Your careers service can help you with this.


Making a plan

Once you are clearer on options, the next step is to create an action plan and see how realistic it is to achieve your aspirations:


  1. Listing the actions needed to get into your career, including developing skills and professional contacts. How realistically achievable do you feel this every step of plan is? Why (or why not)?
  2. What skills are required in my chosen career(s) now and in the future? Job profiles can help here. Are these skills you can develop and would like to use?
  3. What other concerns or worries do you have about trying to achieve your ‘dream’ career?
  4. What resources do you have to help you achieve your aspirations, including addressing the above concerns/worries? This includes university careers and disability services, friends/family to offer moral support and a listening ear, specific reasonable adjustments, Access to Work and so on.
  5. Is there anything you can do now to find out more about my choices, such as work shadowing or informational interviewing?
  6. What are your thoughts now on career options? Why?


Final thoughts

Don’t put pressure on yourself to find one ‘true’ job that will make you happy for the rest of your working life. It’s obviously great if you achieve a career aspiration that you’ve always wanted, but it’s fine if you don’t – it doesn’t change your ‘worth’ as a person. By focusing on who you want to help with which problems using which skills you’ll have a good understanding of where you’ll do well in the workplace, have more job satisfaction and be more aware of suitable opportunities as they arise.


Regardless of what you decide to do, investing in yourself early in your career through developing skills, confidence, professional contacts and will put you in a better position for the future, even if you completely change industries. Remember that it’s normal to change jobs throughout your career. Even if you start a job that you don’t like and decide to leave the experience is never wasted as you’ll learn more about yourself and have gained skills that can be transferred to other jobs. Generally, prospective employers won’t think negatively of you for changing jobs early on.


Finally, your university careers and disability services should be able to assist you with every stage of choosing, applying for and starting suitable employment.

disability, Strategy

Worried about starting a new job? Pick an approach that works for you

I wanted to share with you some thoughts that I have had about starting a new job.  Since finishing University 10 years ago, I have had 3 jobs. Although everyone’s experience of starting a new job is different, I think these tips will help to keep things in perspective:

  • We all experience the first day in a new job. Everybody goes through being introduced to new people and (usually) instantly forgetting everyone’s name. Worrying about what to wear and where you’ll be sitting are part and parcel of starting a new job.
  • The reality is that it’s the long-lasting impression that you give your colleagues and your manager that matters, not just the impression you give during the initial few hours on your first day.
  • I have noticed that becoming familiar with your workplace, getting to know the people you are working with, and grasping what you’re supposed to be doing every day is a gradual process that takes time.

Picking an approach

I can’t think of a job where managing your own time and showing a bit of initiative isn’t really important. Making sure you cover the basics during the opening days and weeks of your new job will help to ensure that you are making a positive start. These basics include:

  • Being on time.
  • Having the frame of mind where you want to learn and take on board new information.
  • Asking questions and asking for help if you need to.

It’s undeniable that we all have our own individual worries about the different aspects of starting a new job.


My tip would be to focus on the 3 main worries you have before you start your new job. Pick an approach to deal with those 3 best you can, so instead of hoping they won’t come up, you will have thought of an approach to overcome those worries and you can start to focus on…

Your potential

Don’t overlook your strengths and potential to excel in your new role. It’s often easy to forget about the many great attributes that you have. Hard-working, loyalty, listening, perseverance, persistence, resilience and approachability are characteristics you already have that will help you overcome your worries about starting a new job.

Revisiting the job description, what you wrote on your application form or the answers you gave at interview are all ways of reminding yourself of your ability to do well in the job and can help you to identify your strengths and potential.

Do first impressions really count?

For most of us, we worry about how others might be viewing us when we first meet new people, particularly if that new person is a colleague or the manager.

It’s human nature to form an instant impression of someone when we first meet them. But that first impression will seldom be the same impression that we keep of that person forever…

Take my first impression of Dave. My first job after University was as a trainee Careers Adviser. I started that role alongside other people that I had never met before and, because we were all in training, much of the first weeks were spent together as a group.

On my first day, we were asked to introduce ourselves and tell everyone in the group a bit about our background. I was worried about this as I hadn’t had many jobs previously and had just finished University so didn’t feel I had anything particularly impressive to say. One of the first people to introduce themselves was Dave. He said…

“Well, before this I was working in the film and distribution industry.”

*When he said that, I remember thinking to myself that this person seemed confident and must have had good jobs in the past. I started rethinking what I should say when it was going to be my turn to introduce myself*

The trainer replied to Dave asking “The film and distribution industry -that’s interesting- what did that involve?”

With a cheeky expression on his face, Dave said, “Oh, I was serving popcorn and drinks in my local cinema.”

Remember the Picking an approach section in this blog? Well, thinking about it now, I’m pretty sure Dave (who is good friend of mine to this day) was nervous about meeting new people and was worried about being asked about what he had done in the past, in front of other people. He picked an approach that meant that he could deal with the situation in a way that worked for him.

Dave used humour, but the approach you pick might be to take some time away from your desk if you start to feel worried or anxious. It might be to read some positive words that you have written down, to call upon when you need to.

These approaches don’t cover all situations, but the important thing is to choose an approach that works for you.

It’s normal to feel unsure and to make mistakes when starting a new job. Everybody has their own apprehensions about it, but allowing yourself some time to get know new colleagues and reminding yourself of your strengths will really help.

That’s the end of this blog post but the eagled-eyed among you may have noticed that a few expressions and phrases have crept into this post…keep things in perspective, part and parcel, cover the basics…

Look out for a future blog post where I hope to untangle the confusing world of clichés and workplace jargon. Until then, thank you for reading this blog.

Edmund Lewis, AGCAS Disability Task Group, University of West London


Upcoming disability conferences

For information – details of two external disability related conferences that might be of interest to readers of this blog:

DMU in Defence of Disability conference banner

DMU in Defence of Disability conference

In Defence of Disability: De Montfort University’s third annual disability conference.

6-7 June 2018 at DMU Hugh Aston Building, Leicester

Speakers will include:

  • Bettina Rigg, Partner, Veale Wasbrough Vizards LLP
  • Phil Scarffe, Head of Student Welfare, DMU
  • Abigail Moriarty, Director of Learning and Technology, DMU

At DMU around one in five students declare a disability, and the university takes seriously the implementation of the social model of disability. DMU demonstrate this through adoption of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a guiding principle in relation to Teaching and Learning, backed by innovative services which aspire to give disabled students the best possible opportunity to thrive.

The two day conference will be of interest to senior managers, project managers, disability practitioners, academics and anyone who has an interest in areas such as TEF, NSS. It will also be of interest to those who are concerned with legal compliance, and issues in relation to managing or enhancing reputation.

Booking arrangements: To secure your place please visit the booking page here.

UCLan building

ADEPT Conference 2018 – ‘The Diffusion of Knowledge: sharing ideas in deaf education’ at UCLan

ADEPT Conference 2018 – ‘The Diffusion of Knowledge: sharing ideas in deaf education.’

Saturday, 23rd June 2018, Greenbank Building, Victoria Street, Preston PR1 2HE

The Association of Deaf Education Professionals and Trainees (adept) and BSL & Deaf Studies team, UCLan have jointly organised this conference.

More details, including application and payment can be found here.

Further information can be accessed from www.adeptuk.co.uk. Everyone working or interested in deaf education is warmly welcomed.

Claire Byron, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Newcastle University


Stammering – a useful employer resource

BSA logo

BSA logo


Those of you who are members of The AGCAS Disability Development Network (DDN) discussion list may have already seen this Understanding Stammering (Nov 2017) Guide for Employers created by The Employers Stammering Network (ESN) (a British Stammering Association (BSA) initiative).

This is a really useful and comprehensive resource, so we thought we would share on the blog for those of you who aren’t on the mailing list (though we’d also encourage any AGCAS members with an interest in disability to join the AGCAS mailing list by emailing lists@agcas.org.uk).

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Ready for your festive round up?

Apologies from the DTG team that the blog has been a little quiet of late but now things are finally calming down for most of us….we hope you are ready for a last minute round up of some disability related news and advice you may have missed this year?

It’s quite a read, so grab your festive beverage of choice, relax and enjoy catching up on the following…

Festive drink


Employable Me

Some of you may have been watching the new series of Employable Me, where “Britain’s most extraordinary job seekers aim to prove that having a neurological condition, such as Tourette’s or autism, shouldn’t make them unemployable.”

Find out more about Genuis Within, the organisation who work with the show who describe themselves as being ‘passionate about developing talent and achieving success with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Tourette Syndrome, Mental Health, and all neurodiverse conditions’.

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Training course

Do you have questions about visual impairment?

Just wanted to highlight a course being held by Visualise Training and Consultancy this September and October that may be of interest:

  • How do I support a visually impaired person?
  • Is visual language such as “see you later” offensive?
  • How do I guide someone with sight loss?
  • How can I ensure my business is accessible for people with sight loss?
Picture to illustrate Visual Impairment training

Visual Impairment training

These courses are intended to raise awareness of visual impairment, and best business practice in supporting VI customers and colleagues. Informative, motivational and inspiring.

You will gain an understanding of:

  • The main eye conditions and the importance of eye health care
  • How to safely guide a person with a visual impairment
  • Appropriate language and effective communication, is it ok to say “see you later”?
  • Reasonable adjustments as per the Equality Act 2010

Book your place in Cardiff or London

Alison Skellern, AGCAS Disability Task Group, De Montfort University

Training course

AGCAS training event. Seeing the unseen: How to spot and support students with non-visible disabilities

Date June 1st 2017, Venue: Imperial College London, now open to all AGCAS members


Venue: Imperial College London

The aim of this event is to increase participants’ confidence and knowledge when working with students with non-visible disabilities, and will cover the following –

  • What is a “non-visible” disability?
  • Positive self-marketing for students: Role models, and examples of strengths and attributes of those with a non-visible disability.
  • Signs and symptoms of some of the more common non-visible disabilities.
  • Hints and tips for supporting students with a non-visible disability, including information resources.

There will be contributions from two university careers services (De Montfort University, Leicester and the London School of Economics) and a speaker with experience of overcoming a non-visible disability to succeed in the workplace: Our speaker is Edward Howlin, IT Delivery Manager at the Food Standards Agency. Edward is an alumnus of the London School of Economics and will be talking about his own experiences as a student, an employee, and an employer with a non-visible disability.

Some interactive group work will be included as well as the opportunity to share good practice and useful resources.

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