I knew when I decided to apply for a part-time job I was going to have some explaining to do but when I should explain my circumstances nagged at me throughout the application process. This was my first time applying for a job since I had taken medical leave. This was also my first time applying for a job since I had created Disabled.DVM. I had a million questions buzzing around in my head as I filled out my application, updated my resume, and wrote my cover letter.
Should I still include dates of me attending vet school? That’ll be a dead giveaway that I needed to take time off... or maybe they’ll think it’s a typo and I don’t know how to proofread my resume.
Should I mention in my cover letter that I am currently on leave, or will they immediately toss my application aside?
Should I mention the brand I’ve created, or should I keep it hidden because I don’t want them to know I’m disabled yet?
I feel burdened and blessed that I had to wrestle with these dilemmas. On the one hand, I hate that people with disabilities are not typically encouraged or embraced in the workforce. On the other hand, I am lucky to even have a choice in whether or not I choose to disclose my invisible disabilities. Many people are written off or prematurely judged and discriminated against just because they have a visible disability. I also feel blessed to even be able to work with my disabilities, as people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to those without a disability.
I decided to keep my application as "normal" as possible. I listed only my anticipated graduation date, and did not mention my medical LOA in my cover letter. I did, however, list my LinkedIn page, which displays the DisabledDVM.com website. I figured this way, I was not outright advertising my website and social media, but I also was not hiding it.
During my interview, I again remained conservative with the personal information I offered. I did make sure to answer any questions that were asked fully and completely without omitting any details. Seeing as though I applied at the end of October, there was a question of why I was so available considering I stated in my application that I am currently a veterinary medicine student. I shared with them that I was currently on a medical LOA because I had brain and cervical spinal surgery in July, but I felt that I had recovered enough to return to work part-time. My new employer was AMAZING about only asking the minimally necessary questions in regards to my disability: What are your restrictions? What kind of support would you need throughout your shift? My practice manager's reaction was incredibly supportive, so I made the decision to disclose in full what my journey had looked like over the last year. I made sure to reassure her that my surgery would not affect my ability to succeed as a technician, and reminded her of the skills I had already developed and shared which skills I was looking to develop more while I worked there.
After I was offered and accepted my position, I decided to mention the conversation I have started with Disabled.DVM. During my on-boarding, I gave my practice manager a business card with my website and social media information. I told my practice manager that if she or the Medical Director ever had any questions or concerns about the content I published on any of my social media platforms to just let me know, and I would be more than happy to talk with them about it. I firmly believe in maintaining a fully transparent and open door relationship with my employers. Plus, this protects me from unknowingly violating social media policies or conflict of interest policies. .
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to disclose your disability to a potential employer. It’s all about your individual comfort level and personal preference! My personal preference as a person with invisible disabilities is to present myself as any other candidate first, and then disclose information about my disability after an offer has been made, or if I feel an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement during the interview. Employers can reject your application due to a number of vague reasons. “Lack of experience,” “Personality didn’t seem to fit our culture,” or simply “Was not the best candidate for the job.” Waiting to disclose minimizes, but doesn’t not eliminate, opportunity for discrimination.
Thankfully, I have found an employer that does absolutely everything they can to accommodate and support me! If I were to give one piece of advice from my experience to others going through a similar situation it would be this:
I do not want to work with or for someone who sees accommodating your disability as a chore or an obligation. Search for an employer that WANTS to support you and give you the tools you need to succeed. Those practices are out there, and I am SO glad that I have found one!
Interested in reading more about unemployment among the disabled community? Check out this CNBC article below!