Britain’s Most Extraordinary Job Seekers

That’s not my line, it’s a quote from the BBC series, ‘Employable Me’, a quote with which I take issue.

What is extraordinary about job seekers with impairments is not that we are exceptionally heroic, though attempts to find jobs and field the disappointment of literally thousands of job rejections contain incredibly valuable lessons about the inflexibility and inhumanity of the current mainstream system of looking for work.

Adults with impairments do not often appreciate, either, having to field the mainstream of sentimental hogwash that we are somehow different from the rest of the world’s population in our aspirations. All of us want homes, enough to eat, meaningful friendships and meaningful work.

The whole point of this series, in many ways, is that although disabled applicants bring a special perspective to many tasks that the rest of us take for granted, we do not want to be cast as, or become, especially long-suffering. Yet applicants with impairments looking for jobs are so often hindered by a self-image that is clouded by our own perceptions as, first and foremost, candidates with disability. Yes, that impairment brings a special and valuable gift to any workplace, but all the other great stuff seems to be forced to take second place to the heaviness of impairment.

One really eye-opening aspect of ‘Employable Me’ is that, when interviewers and employers intervene to remind the candidates that they have talents, that they would do themselves a favour by dressing more formally, by watching what they say about themselves, by having real, public faith in their ability, then they start to see themselves more positively. The programme makes the valuable point that when we focus on what we enjoy and what we contribute to the world, our employment prospects improve massively. Employers only want to see our sunny, optimistic, professional selves. All else is secondary.

We can be disabled and proud. We can also choose to overlook our disabilities and focus on our other parts, in the hope that our friends, family, acquaintances and employers will see our talents, and treat us as we wish to be treated – like everyone else.

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