Paralympian Liz Johnson tells us how jobseekers can find work and stay COVID-safe

06 December 2021

Paralympian Liz Johnson tells us how jobseekers can find work and stay COVID-safe

We spoke with Liz Johnson, a British Paralympian swimmer who’s now retired and working in disability employment services. Her UK-based business – The Ability People – educates employers on what it means to employ someone with disability.

How do you think jobseekers with disability have coped during COVID?

I’ve found that the people who adapted most quickly to the pandemic are those who face barriers every day.

As long as someone has been living with their disability, illness or injury, they’ve had to make decisions about their health. Every day they could be making choices related to fatigue, pain and self-preservation. They’ve needed to live within safe limits.

Are there any particular skills employers are looking for following the challenges of the pandemic?

I think employers have realised the importance of having employees who can focus on an objective and get it done, in spite of everything else that’s going on. They’re looking for people who can stay strong and problem-solve during tough times.

What should a jobseeker ask a potential employer to stay COVID-safe?

If you have a job an interview, or are offered a job, here are some things to talk about before accepting the role or signing a contract. It’s important your environment is COVID-safe and you feel comfortable at work.

  1. First of all, think about the work environment you’ll feel safe in. Write some notes with two columns: what you’re comfortable with and what worries you. Then think carefully about whether these are legitimate worries or panic. Talk them through with someone close to you.
  2. When you’re clear about the work environment you’ll feel safe in, ask these questions of your employer. Bring an advocate you trust to the conversation if you need.
    • What’s your COVID-safe policy?
    • How much flexibility do I have?
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, explain why you need it and offer a solution. For example:
    • I’ll be most productive if everyone in the office is wearing masks.
    • It will cause me less anxiety to work from home three days a week.

Employers often avoid or ignore issues that are important because they feel helpless. They may not have a process or solution to the issues at-hand. If you offer a solution, it empowers them and makes it easier for them to give you what you need.

What’s your final message to jobseekers with disability?

Never forget how much you have to offer. The life skills you’ve learned living with a disability are evidence of that.

If you don’t have any relevant work experience for your application, include some life skills along with concrete examples of how you’ve used them. Make sure you’re comfortable sharing them, of course. You can choose what to disclose.

Here are some possible examples:

  • I live with chronic fatigue, but I still manage to cook dinner every day and care for my child.
  • I like being independent, but I’ve learned to ask for help when things get too much.
  • I’m challenged every day by my pain, but I’ve learned not get frustrated through deep breathing and taking a break.

If people don’t live it they don’t know it. So, own it – be your authentic self.

If you’re looking for work and are living with a mental health condition, illness, injury or disability, we can help you find work you enjoy. Register for Disability Employment Services today.

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