Your Career Q&A: How to Job Search in a New Field, with a Disability

By Martin Yate Apr 4, 2017
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​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

I would love your advice! I am legally blind with a degenerative eye disease. Five years ago, I experienced an extreme vision loss. The loss devastated me. While I am not totally blind because of it, the loss persuaded me to make a mid-life career change from event planning to human resource management so that I could have more secure employment. 

I just completed my master's degree in leadership with a concentration in human resource management and passed the SHRM-CP exam. I am finding that I am either overqualified or underqualified for HR management positions. I acquired many relevant experiences and skills in my current and past employment opportunities, but without the human resource title and knowledge of HR information systems (HRISs), recruiters won't look past my resume.  

Any suggestions? I would also like your advice on when and how to disclose my disability. I'm a perfect candidate! I am driven, intelligent, engaged, quick to pick up on information systems and processes, my accommodations are minimal, and I am an asset on issues regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Try this: Identify the most common HRISs and then check their websites for training opportunities. This research will give you a frame of reference for what each of the modules do.

HRISs increase compliance and productivity and usually:

  • Manage recruiting and hiring.
  • Analyze employee data to improve decision-making. 
  • Protect your organization from compliance mistakes.
  • Reduce manual HR admin processes. 
  • Ensure accurate timekeeping.

Researching the functions of different HRIS packages will show you their commonalities, and you may well be able to relate them to similar experience you have developed with information systems in your career to date.

This will enable you to speak intelligently about HRISs. If you can get some formal training, you will show potential employers your commitment. Plus, you can put that HRIS system on your resume with an anticipated training completion date. Here's an example:

Paycor                                                                         (anticipated) October 2017

This will make your resume more discoverable. Your commitment to training can satisfy recruiters' concerns about your lack of on-the-job experience, especially when you can demonstrate understanding of the functions and relate them to other productivity software you've worked with.

I looked but could find no HRIS certification courses. But please do your own search to be sure.

You can also find local SHRM members who use these databases and ask to be shown how they work—most people will help a professional colleague when they can—and be sure to find a way to return the goodwill. 

When to Talk About Disabilities

Unless you are asked a question about "any needed accommodations?" say nothing until an employer makes you an offer of employment. Then your accommodations become part of the negotiations. In preparing for this discussion, don't only say "I have a degenerative vision disease" and leave it at that. Tell them you need accommodations because of an eye condition, explain what they are and how they do not affect your performance, and finish with some good reasons to hire someone with a disability.

I did a search for "Benefits of hiring people with disabilities," which you might find helpful. You will also find companies actively recruiting new employees who are people with disabilities by searching "disability job sites"; you might be surprised at how many there are.

One last comment: However much experience you have, the job postings will always seem to be looking for people with less or more—it's the same way for everyone. If you identify jobs where you have the majority of the skills required and write a resume focused on what you bring to the table in each of those areas, your resume will become far more discoverable.

Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

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