Five questions for Helen Cooke, CEO & Founder of MyPlus

okokHelen, what 3 tips would you give to an employer who is trying to attract more disabled applicants? 
Engaging with students / recent graduates who have a disability isn’t hard, however employers need to be proactive and to position themselves as employers of choice to this talent pool by:

1. Articulating the organisation’s approach to diversity in general, and disability in particular, and why they value disability and disabled talent.
2. Bringing to life what they say with role models and case studies. It is easy to say you are a disability confident employer however applicants want to see this in practice and what better way than to hear from those who have a disability and are already working at the firm.
3. And finally, be explicit about the support you can offer applicants with disabilities and reiterate how they can request it or who they should contact.

If someone has a disability and wants to explore what adjustments they might need, how would you suggest they go about this?
It’s helpful for students to have some understanding of their disability and to think about how it affects them, before applying for jobs. This ensures they will be able to request support and adjustments that they may require during the recruitment process. It’s not always easy particularly if you haven’t been through a recruitment process before however, I can’t suggest strongly enough that they need to spend some time thinking about it because they if they don’t they won’t be able to request what they require and may be turned down for roles that they are more than capable of doing.

The following 3 step approach is useful:
1. Find out what the recruitment processes involves; from application through to the assessment centre.
2. For each stage of the process, identify what support and adjustments they will need remembering that they may not need support at every stage of the process.
3. And step three is to discuss their requirements with the employer to identify their needs, and also to identify anything else they haven’t been identified.

You can find more information about this in our free ebooks titled: ‘Adjustments in the recruitment process’ which can be downloaded from the Student’s Club website: https://myplusstudentsclub.com/requesting-adjustments/ 

Speaking to a parent, Careers Adviser or their Disability Adviser for support and advice is encouraged. But, it is also really important that the student leads conversations with the employer and that they don’t rely on others to do it for them. They need to own the conversation and they need to control what information they share, and they need to represent themselves

I’ve noticed that some disability organisations don’t use the term ‘disclosure’ and instead favour other wording. Where do you stand on this?
The term ‘disclosure’ makes it sound as if someone has a secret that they need to share and I agree that it is not a good term to use; neither is ‘declaration’. At MyPlus we use, and I advise our clients to use, phrases such as ‘openness’, ‘informing’ or ‘sharing information’.

Some candidates worry that if they tell the employer they have a disability, the employer might think they’re not capable of doing the job. What advice would you give someone who feels like this? 
When people think about disability, it’s too easy to think of things people can’t do, or can no longer do, or find difficult. So what we need to do is challenge this way of thinking and instead position disability positively and focus on the skills and abilities that have been developed as a result of having a disability.

I always say: ‘I don’t believe I’m any more special than anyone else. But I do believe my disability has given me something extra; it’s given me a ‘plus’. And these are the skills and abilities that I have had to develop in order to manage my disability on a day-to-day basis in a world that is not always geared up to it. Things such as determination, problem solving and interpersonal skills.’

And that is what candidates need to do; identify the unique skills and strengths that they have developed as a result of managing their disability, and that are relevant to the workplace, and position these positively with an employer. Again, you can find out more in our free ebook titled: ‘Embracing your strengths’ that can be downloaded from https://myplusstudentsclub.com/strengths/ 

Do MyPlus have any upcoming webinars or training that you would recommend?
Yes; we do! We have a series of four webinars for students and graduates with disabilities as follows:
1. 22nd July: What is Disability: Am I included?
2. 23rd September: Developing employability skills with a disability
3. 28th October: To inform or not to inform
4. 25th November: Adjustments during the recruitment process

You can find out more, and book your free place, at: https://myplusstudentsclub.com/events/

 

Helen Cooke was talking to Edmund Lewis, AGCAS Disability Task Group, University of Westminster

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