New College Grads Face Working World

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Question: I am about to graduate with a masters degree, which is a huge accomplishment that I'm proud of, considering I'm deaf. Now that I'm applying for jobs, it's a challenge for me to tell the employers I don't talk on the telephone. If I reveal my disability, I feel they are turned off and think that it impacts my ability to do my job. If I don't reveal my disability, then they attempt to contact me via telephone, when I would rather they e-mail me instead. How do I approach this situation?

Tory Johnson: At some point fairly early on in the interview process, you'll have to meet with people face to face. No employer will offer you a position based on e-mail exchanges. Your goal must be to address their hidden concerns head-on. I use the word "hidden," because many people are naturally uncomfortable when they aren't sure what to say or how to react when faced with a new challenge. Interviewing a deaf person might be just such a challenge.

Once you've gotten a sense that an employer is interested in you based on initial feedback from your resume, instead of just announcing that you're deaf -- or hiding from it -- be clear about your situation. For example, you might respond via e-mail by writing "I appreciate your interest in me, and I'm eager to interview with you for this position. Since I am deaf, I'd like to bring an interpreter to the interview. I am confident that I have the skills and abilities to succeed in this position, and I'd welcome the chance to address how we can handle any communications challenges as well."

Many cities and states offer taxpayer-funded interpreting services for job seekers going on interviews and to career fairs. You should look into such programs in your area to see if they'd benefit you. Question: My daughter graduated from the University of Dayton in December 2005. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications/public relations and a minor in marketing. She would dearly love to get into sports media relations (she says her ultimate goal is to be the commissioner of the NHL someday). She has had numerous interviews and sent many, many resumes. Still nothing. For now she has moved back home and works in a local convenience store so she can start paying for student loans coming up. The problem is, everyone she has interviewed with or sent resumes to says she doesn't have the experience. How is a college grad supposed to get experience? Help please.

Tory Johnson: Every company employs entry-level people, so don't give up. Your daughter should ask her college's career service office for a list of employers that are hiring new grads from the school.

She should also ask for feedback from the people she's interviewed with. She can thank them for their time and ask for candid feedback. "I appreciate your interest in me, even though I wasn't selected for the position. I'd welcome your candid feedback on why I didn't get the offer so that I can learn and grow as I launch my career."

That feedback might shed light on something she's doing wrong or provide insight on issues for her to consider. She can also ask if they'd be willing to hire her on a part-time or freelance basis, which would enable her to gain valuable experience and allow the employers to see her in action before making a formal, long-term commitment.

To connect directly with Tory Johnson, visit womenforhire.com.

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