People with disability navigating a different route to career success
Fri 28 March 2014
A team at UTS Business School has undertaken a research project to ascertain some of the keys to career success for people with disability.
Rather than looking at the barriers faced by people with disability, the team, led by Jenny Green, Senior Lecturer of Management and Director Postgraduate Community and Not-for-profit Management Program at UTS, spoke to 30 people with disability who are successfully pursuing a career, to try and determine any common factors.
The key finding from this project was that "people with disability are instrumental in creating their own career opportunities and pathways."
The 30 study participants ranged in age from the mid-20's to mid-60's, and had a range of impairments including mobility, vision, hearing, communication, mental illness and chronic illness. They worked in a variety of occupations including law, journalism, politics, IT, academia and management, in the private, public and not for profit sectors.
While the participants had had very different experiences based on their choice of career, specific requirements and life stages, the most common experience shared was their work (paid and unpaid) with not-for-profit disability organisations. Known as NPDO's, these organisations were not employment services, but rather advocacy, arts and research organisations providing services to people with different disability types.
Around 50% of participants gained their first paid job (as an employee with disability) with an NPDO, often after being unsuccessful in gaining employment with more 'mainstream' employers, despite being suitably qualified.
The study found that networking with people in similar situations to themselves is an important part of navigating a successful career path, and NPDO's can act as a "hub of opportunity and activity that can launch and support careers."
A key recommendation from the study was for NPDO's to work together to measure their collective impact on the employment of people with disability, and actively promote these employment outcomes as part of their service delivery. Networking opportunities, mentoring and voluntary work all play a vital role in the development of a successful career path for all people, and even more so for people with disability who may face additional barriers to career success.