Getting a Job When You Have a Learning Disability

Recently, Amna Saleem posted an article on Buzzfeed, 7 Things I Learned From Struggling With Dyscalculia.  This article really spoke to me, especially since I’m job hunting once again.

The linked Wikipedia article defines dyscalculia as “difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in mathematics.”

Along with dyslexia, dyscalculia is a learning disability (LD for short), not to be confused with intellectual disabilities (formerly called mental retardation).  Symptoms vary for different people.  For example, Amna points out in her article that she has trouble reading maps.  I can read maps okay; yes, I do occasionally go the wrong way.  But I once got myself unlost at night by looking at the sky and knowing that Venus rises in the west.

800px-venus_over_radom

I’m in your sky, telling you which way to go.

Image:  Man / Wikimedia Commons

Dyscalculia limits me to work that has no accounting, budgeting, or data analysis.  I have accepted this, but more and more companies combined jobs during and after the recession.  Of course, they didn’t raise wages either.  So a receptionist position will be renamed “administrative assistant” and do both accounting and front desk duties, often for minimum wage or just a couple of dollars more.  Not really enough to live on.

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Please sir, can I have some more?

Image:  George Cruikshank illustration, Oliver Twist / Wikimedia Commons

At the start of this year, my perfect-fit administrative / editing job got sucked into a larger department after my angel of a boss retired, and it began to change.  I rode the struggle bus for a while.  Despite disclosure and accommodation (of a sort), my performance suffered, and they let me go.

I made mistakes and I own them.  But they recently posted the newly altered job, and I pulled the listing out of curiosity.  It had morphed from report-heavy to numbers-heavy.  Even if I had been 100% perfect otherwise, I could not have done the work the way the new boss wanted.

When you’re job searching with a learning disability, there are questions.  Keep in mind that I’m not an expert.

#1–Should I disclose the LD to potential employers?

Multiple forums say no, don’t tell them you need an accommodation until you actually have an offer.  Unfortunately, many LDs aren’t well understood, and though employers aren’t supposed to discriminate against people with disabilities, unconscious bias still exists.

That said, you absolutely can disclose, on a need-to-know basis.  If so, keep it positive.  Focus on what you can do and how you get around limitations.  I’ve included a Department of Labor link at the end of this post with guidelines.

If you need accommodation, you will have to provide proof of the disability.  So if you’ve never been tested, you might want to look into it.  If you’re employed currently and have insurance, see if it’s covered, or if your company’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) can help you find professionals who diagnose LDs.

#2–How do I find a job I can do?

Read listings carefully.  You are the best judge of your abilities and limitations.  Example:  I can’t do your budget reconciliation, but I can assist accounting personnel with filing, data entry, check matching to invoices, and other duties.

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Got your file right here, bro!  BOOYA!

Image:  imagerymajestic / freedigitalphotos.net

If duties are unclear, make a list of questions to ask.  The best time to make these inquiries is if you have a phone interview; many companies do a short phone screen first before they schedule a formal interview.  Some don’t.  In that case, you’ll have to wait until you actually speak with the hiring manager.

#3–What if I can’t find a job I can do?

I’m the last person to advise anyone to take on debt they don’t have to–thanks to school loans, I can never ever retire.  But if your field has changed in a way that prevents you from finding gainful employment due to your disability, it might be time for a career switch.

My unemployment in 2012 led me to the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation program, which can retrain people with disabilities (choose the school track, not the work track).  Fortunately, it paid for testing too.  However, the program will not pay living expenses, and it does have an income threshold.  Even with Exjob’s tuition reimbursement, I couldn’t avoid taking out more loans.  That killed that.

You might be luckier than I was.  You might have in-demand skills that can swing a career transfer without going back to school.  You might have a spouse or SO who can work while you retrain.  You might have enough savings to carry you through.  You might have a trust fund.

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Well you hardly need MY advice then, do you, princess?

Image:  Ken Thomas / Wikimedia Commons

I recommend making a skills list–what have you learned from your previous work? Which of these skills can transfer to other positions?  You might be surprised.

  • Customer service can translate to sales.
  • Any management experience, even retail or food service, has value.
  • Software skills: databases, desktop publishing or document software, etc.
  • I now have nearly four years of technical editing experience, and I’m starting to look at jobs that need this skill.

Check the transferable skills link below for a good list.  Look at O*Net to explore careers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics has an Occupational Outlook Handbook with scads of info on duties, pay, and more for different careers.

People with learning disabilities can do tons of jobs.  And we can find employers who value our skills and embrace our abilities.

Additional reading:

Transferable Skills List:  Skills You Can Use in Multiple Jobs and Careers, by Dawn Rosenberg McKay, www.thebalance.com

Youth, Disclosure, and the Workplace Why, When, What, and How, U.S. Department of Labor

Pros and Cons of Disclosing a Disability to Employers, by Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos, www.understood.org

Getting the Most out of Working With a Learning Disability, by Eli Epstein, The Atlantic

2015 in review

Happy New Year!

Wow, I’m surprised anyone is still looking at this thing.   I can’t possibly compete with excellent work blogs such as Ask a Manager and Evil HR Lady.  Go check them out, if you haven’t already.

Not much has happened lately in the world of work for me to write about, but with the start of the new year, I have a new boss and my job is changing (yipes).  So I’ll probably talk a little bit about how that’s going.  I’m sure new issues and challenges will arise, and I’m happy to share what I’ll learn.

In the meantime, WordPress has done its yearly thing so here it is!  Happy New Year to everybody!  To those who are trying to escape a horrible job or find something, I wish you luck; to those who just became employed, I wish you congratulations, and to those who are doing well, hooray!

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Discount on Ask a Manager’s How to Get a Job book!

Hey everyone — if any of you are looking for a job right now, I’d like to pass on a resource.

For the next few days, Alison Green at askamanager.org is offering a discount on her book, How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager.  It’s chock-full of useful advice and helpful tips on interviewing, resumes, and more.

You can click on this link to go to her blog and buy it.

Get your copy today!

Image:  askamanager.org

Image: askamanager.org

Happy New Year! 2014 in review

I didn’t post much on Clerical Chick this year.  And yet more of you stopped by here than by Graphomaniac.  Let’s hope 2015 is a bit more eventful–of course in a good way.  Thank you for reading!

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hobbits at the Office

Wow, I’ve been neglecting this poor blog.  And here I am about to do it again, by lamely posting something I’m sure you’ve already seen.  But it’s so funny I just can’t help it.

This past Saturday, Martin Freeman, star of Sherlock and the Hobbit films, hosted Saturday Night Live.  The show has been hit or miss for me for a while, but tuning in this time did not disappoint.

You might remember that Freeman also played Tim in the original U.K. version of The Office.  Well, in case you are one of the five people who probably didn’t see this, SNL and I present to you the best mashup I’ve seen in a very long while.  Enjoy!

 

Happy New Year! 2013 in review

Once again, it’s annual report time!  This blog got more views than my writing blog.  I got more spam comments on both, which means–well, I don’t know what it means.  But for all legit commenters and those non-bots who actually read my posts, thank you!  Have a great 2014!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,800 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.