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Should I Tell Them I’m Disabled In My Cover Letter?

Should I Tell Them I’m Disabled In My Cover Letter?

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Dear J.T. & Dale: After being injured on the job, I took a position as a construction safety manager. After surgery and recovery, I could no longer meet the physical requirements of the job. My workers’ compensation claim and insurance have been turned down. I’m out of work and looking for a job. I’ve been in the safety field for 10 years, but I cannot meet the physical requirements of the jobs I’m qualified for. Should I state in my cover letter that I am disabled and say what my limitations are, or wait to discuss this during the interview? – Mike

DALE: Sounds like a lousy deal, Mike. If you haven’t consulted a disability attorney, it would be worth getting an opinion. However, you can’t let legal possibilities distract you. Here is a good assumption for most problems in life: Help is NOT coming.

But back to your question about when in the hiring process to reveal your disability: The timing probably won’t change the outcome, not if you’re unable to do the work. That said, it’s always better to be screened out later rather than earlier; there’s the chance that a hiring manager you meet in an interview could see something special in you, or even spot another position where you might fit into the organization.

J.T.: That’s a long shot, of course, and another case where you’re better off sticking with the assumption that “help is not coming” and moving on to what you can control, which is professional reinvention. The challenge you face is typical of someone who’s been injured: You’re trying to fit skills into jobs that your disability won’t allow you to do.

Forget your training and work experience for a minute: What work can you physically do? Make a list of all your marketable skills and how many hours each day you could manage.

From there, you can start to research roles that your skill set would accommodate. I’d check with your local staffing firms and Career OneStop (www.careeronestop.com) to seek advice. Once you find jobs that will work, it’s time to start asking your network of family, friends and former co-workers if they know anyone in these fields.

Your goal is to get informational interviews with people who have these jobs so you can learn what it will take to get hired. The process of professional reinvention isn’t hard; it just takes some work to figure out what to look for.

DALE: The good news is that the process of reinvention will, if done wisely, create a new network of industry contacts, and that will give you access to the so-called hidden job market, the one where you hear about jobs before they get posted.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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J.T. & Dale “JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.