The basics of job advancement are similar for all people, but people with learning disabilities must particularly ensure that they assess their strengths, develop credibility, and take advantage of available leadership opportunities.
Five misconceptions about job advancement can impede the process of getting promotions and advancing in careers for many people with learning disabilities.
Misconception #1: I don’t deserve a raise or to be promoted.
People with learning disabilities must overcome many challenges, including discrimination in the hiring process, requesting and receiving job accommodations, and negative thoughts and feelings that can lead to avoiding anything to change their situation, even though it could be improved. Some even think they may be fired if they ask for a promotion or a raise. Decisive action must be taken against this negative inner voice. The following suggestions can help to overcome these feelings:
- Keep a record of your achievements.
- Let your supervisor know about your work through frequent communication.
- Act confident.
- Associate with people who make you feel good.
- Be truthful with yourself.
- Believe in yourself; you deserve to be treated well.
- Accept the possibility that you are an excellent worker.
Misconception #2: People don’t like me. Maybe I’m not likeable.
Difficulty in getting along with others can be part of a learning disability. However, there is no such thing as being naturally unlikable. Social skills can be improved and the effort is worthwhile. Studies have shown that appropriate social interaction is a crucial factor in job success, especially jobs that use team-based approaches. As a person moves up in an organization, these social skills become more and more important.
Here are some ideas that might help:
- Understand what you can learn when observing other peoples’ body language.
- Trust nonverbal cues if the person’s body language differs from what the person is actually saying.
- Remember that the desire for power and recognition drives a lot of office behavior, even if people are not willing to admit it.
- Try to see things from the point of view of others as well as your own.
- Ask for feedback about your work. For example, ask: “How can I improve my work?” or “What can I do to improve my ability to be a stronger team member or co-worker?”
Misconception #3: I don’t need any help with my learning disabilities.
People with learning disabilities often avoid asking for accommodations. They prefer to hide or try to overcome their disabilities through self-accommodation, longer hours, or more effort. However, it is better to ask for the help that you need than to fail on the job. The wrong time to ask for help is after you have made a mistake.
Due to the invisibility of learning disabilities, requests for help may not always be considered legitimate. You must make a good, clear argument that your request will improve your productivity. Sometimes assigned jobs could be done more efficiently by others. It is important that you get the accommodations you need to do your job well.
Misconception #4: I can’t get along with my boss.
Many people with learning disabilities have trouble understanding and accepting the rules of authority in an hierarchical organization. Nevertheless, your boss must have respect, and you must
show respect to maintain a positive and effective working relationship.
Here are some suggestions that might help:
- Separate your feelings about your employer from how you feel about teachers or parents. Trouble with authority in the past can negatively affect how you deal with authority now.
- Give credit to your employer.
- Do not be threatening.
- Do what is required of you and do it well.
Misconception #5: I can’t get another job. I’m stuck here.
You must recognize your own value. Negotiate for what you need and market yourself. Be aware of other job opportunities and learn about the needs of other organizations. If the job changes and you need new accommodations, make sure you request them. You are never stuck in a job. There is always a way to improve your situation.
Author: Dale S. Brown. Dale Brown is a disability policy expert where she works with organizations in improving their products and processes for people with disabilities. She also serves as a consultant to families who have children with disabilities facing difficulties launching themselves to independence. Dale has written five books on disability issues and has given hundreds of speeches and trainings on disability issues.