Finding the Right Job

An image of black binoculars on a brown leather looking case the background it blurred but you can see the orange sun.

This blog posts aims to take you through applying for a job as an occupational therapist with a disability right from the beginning to the end. Along the way, me (Georgia) and the rest of the team have provide some tips and anecdotes, that we hope you’ll find useful. If there are any tips that you feel I’ve missed, please let me know! 

Disclosure

So the big question… to disclose or not disclose? It’s that simple, right? No. 

Let’s talk about disclosure and what this means for you.

Why some may choose to disclose: 

Disabled people may want to disclose their disability to be upfront with their employer, which is absolutely understandable and this is known as positive disclosure. Another reason why one may disclose is that aspects of their disability are quite visible therefore, they might feel the need to get rid of the elephant in the room. Which of course, is a personal preference and no one should be made to feel like they need to disclose. Disclosing, however can make it easier for individuals to get the reasonable adjustments needed under the Equality Act (2010).

Yet, disclosing your disability isn’t easy and takes a lot of courage.

Why some may choose not to disclose:

The psychological aspects of disclosing your disability do not get recognised enough by non-disabled people. The fear of rejection, the anxiety around how people will react to our disclosure – will they accept us? Believe us? Especially if your disability is invisible, this can play on your mind a lot.  There is a huge need for us to feel safe when disclosing our disabilities, which needs to be recognised and until it is recognised and understood, not all disabilities will be disclosed!

It isn’t an easy decision and one to be taken lightly. However, here at AbleOTUK, we are there to support you and help you make the decision that is right for you!

Ticking the box

Ticking that box at the application process can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Yes, we understand you want to get the interview fully based on your skills and everything that you’ve worked so hard for. After spending so long on that application you want to make sure that it is put to good use. 

But on the other hand, after spending so long on that application you want to make sure it’s put to good use. Many of us living with a disability or long-term health condition have a small pot of energy. So, after spending so long on that application and using so much energy, it can be heartbreaking when you don’t get an interview. However, if you tick that box you know that energy’s been put to good use. 

It’s a personal preference and there’s no right or wrong answer but have a think about it before making your decision and remember the real decision comes when they’re deciding to offer you the job. If you’re entitled to reasonable adjustments use them. They are there for a reason.  

Part-Time/Full-Time

For some people with long-term health conditions full-time employment may work and if you can work full-time and enjoy doing so, you go do that and show the occupational therapy world all your fabulousness. 

Yet, many of with that small pot of energy prefer part-time work as this means that we can give more energy on the days that we are in practice. However, finding part-time work can be a challenge, particularly if you are newly qualified as many band 5 roles are advertised as full time. News flash, not all band 5 occupational therapists are young non-disabled people or occupational therapists of any band for that matter.

What can I do if I see my dream role but it’s advertised as full-time? 

Well, you don’t get anywhere if you don’t ask! Email them and ask if part-time, flexible working or job-share could even be an option you never know. 

It can be hard establishing the right work pattern that fits with you and your energy, some of us may work better in the morning, whereas others may have more energy in the afternoon. Be honest and have an open discussion with your or potential employer, you never know what can be offered. Yet, again not forgetting reasonable adjustments which is the law!

The setting

Choosing the right setting can be a minefield disability or no disability as we all know how vast the profession is and when access needs are added to the mix this can get complicated. It’s hard to cover this section in just a few lines but a top tip would be to explore within reason.  For example, many newly qualified occupational therapists start on a rotation however, yet again, this is not as straightforward when you have access needs.

If you see an area that draws your attention but you are unsure contact them and explain your situation (only if you feel comfortable to do so, of course). Ask to do some shadowing for a short period, to get a feel of it. I know, this can feel deflating when you’ve worked so hard to get your qualification or if you’ve been in the field a while and have acquired your disability and hell, you deserve that post, but sometimes taking your time to find your feet can work out better in the long run. 

Use your connections and AbleOTUK’s peer support group to network with others who have disabilities and work within an area that you’re interested in, so that you have all the information.  I know, it can be extremely disappointing when your first role or isn’t quite what you wanted as when you do have a long-term condition, it’s not as easy as going for another job when it’s already taken you a lot longer to get settled. But, just remember most occupational therapists don’t find their dream job straight out of university. So, you’re not alone, and no matter what area you’re ‘for the time being’ role is in, it’s all clinical experience and that counts for a lot. 

Again I understand this is very vague, so if you have an area in mind and want more information, do get in touch and we will be able to figure it out together. 

Adaptations to the Interview Process 

If you have stated within your application that you ‘consider yourself to have a disability’ then when you receive an offer of an interview there should be a section that asks if any adaptations need to be made. If not then do email them as if you have ticked that box then this should be asked when accepting the invitation to the interview. 

Think of what adaptations you may need when it comes to the interview by reflecting on any experience, for example, extra time may be needed. Make sure you’ve read the email carefully about what is expected of you in the interview. For example, if you’ve been asked to do a practical or give a presentation then you may need more adaptions. 

If there is a practical don’t be afraid to ask what it is to see if you’ll need support. Other examples are letting you do a practice run of a presentation, (to a non-panel member of course) to make sure that you know timings and if any other adaptions are needed, that you perhaps hadn’t thought about until you run through it within the actual setting. 

Occupational Health

Now, remember there is only one specialist when it comes to knowing your needs and that’s you! We’ve all heard the stories of bad experiences with occupational health and it’s inexcusable. Yet, I have had some good ones, do you know why? Story time! When, I started my first occupational therapy role I had the best experience I’d ever had with occupational health. This is because I wrote all my known needs down from my previous roles on placement on the sheet before the discussion with occupational health therefore, they already had a clear idea before the appointment. Now, if you’ve never worked before this is harder but likes I said, think about your placements experiences and what adjustments you needed at university. 

Yet, again it all boils down to not owing anyone your medical history, which you don’t! But writing down all my needs before the appointment has worked wonders and certainly had a positive effect on my mental health and wellbeing when thinking about my previous experiences. It enabled me to show the assessor that I knew what I was talking about. Let’s face if you’re an occupational therapist and have a long-term health condition yourself, you certainly know your stuff!

If this doesn’t go to plan, please get in touch with us as we are all stronger together (sorry for sounding like a broken record)! We hope you have a good experience with occupational health because as you’ll know it can have a knock-on effect if it doesn’t go to plan. But don’t be afraid to take it higher because when you’re thriving in your role, it will all be worthwhile. 

Disclosing to HCPC

We’ve already discussed disclosure in general yet, disclosing to HCPC can feel like a whole different ball game. From speaking to universities, we have learnt that if you have passed all your placements you have shown that your disability does not affect your ability to practice you. Therefore, you shouldn’t need to disclose your health condition. Yet, there is also the fear of being penalised for not disclosing further down the line and this is an ethical dilemma that needs to be put right by the HCPC themselves. 

AbleOTUK is talking to universities to ensure that systems are put into place to support you in disclosing to HCPC, in which we will provide updates on this! We recommend that that you don’t disclose to HCPC and disclose to your employer instead as that’s who provides the reasonable adjustments. But we appreciate that this is a hard personal decision, and we are here to support you every step of the way! If you should need to disclose to HCPC further down the line please do get in touch, as we are still currently figuring this out ourselves

As said a lot within this piece, I could have written a blog on each of the sections covered in this post and I’m fully aware that this is a vague picture. So, if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team! 

Published by Georgia Vine

I am a Newly Qualified Occupational Therapist, an ambassador for CP Teens UK and founding member of AbleOTUK. I chose to train to be an Occupational Therapist, because when I was younger, my occupational therapists played a highly significant role in my life. Yet, now being in the profession myself I am aware of the ableism that exists within it. Therefore, I use my blog to highlight ableism in practice in hopes to improve the profession for current and future disabled Occupational Therapists or those with a long-term condition.

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