Category Archives: Career

How to choose a career when you have a disability

A lot of people with disabilities struggle when deciding which career to pursue. It’s not like any Joe Smith in a wheelchair can get a job splitting logs or mowing lawns. We don’t have the luxury of thoughtlessly falling into a job. But…maybe that’s a good thing.

Instead, we have to carefully calculate our abilities, scrutinizing what we can and can’t do (so someone else doesn’t do it for us). Before my injury, I had my heart set on becoming a professional dancer (i.e. my 14 year old fantasy to be in music videos on MTV).

After my injury and knowing that was no longer a possibility, I had no choice but to brainstorm like crazy. I needed to figure out something else that made me want to get up every day. Dance was my everything, but not anymore. What other area of life did I want to become a pro in?

Not being able to walk is limiting enough, and when your hands are paralyzed it’s even more tricky to find a job. My backup plan, to become a secretary, no longer possible. Filing papers, typing faster than 20 words a minute, stuffing envelopes and making coffee (oh man). So I took a cue from Stephen Hawking and started to nourish my brain.

Fortunately, the jobs we can do are opening up thanks to technology. We have it good. Back in the day, when World War II vets were some of the first people to live full productive lives after sustaining a spinal cord injury, a lot of them guys could no longer do what they did before, so they had to reinvent themselves.One of the most popular choices of these hardy men was to start a business, and start a business did they indeed.

From PCA agencies to mainstream businesses that have nothing to do with disability, these guys honed in on their business acumen and found happiness in their new paths.

But maybe business isn’t your thing. There are a ton of other fields you can get into.  Technology of course. Or you can do what I did and get a degree in Mass Communications, and work in the media (writing, blogging, reporting on air), otherwise psychology, an account degree, a teacher, customer service, computer science, foreign languages and math are fields people with disabilities have been known to try out.

The key is to find a career you love. No settling. Maybe you can’t be a dancer anymore, but you could run a dance studio. Or maybe you can’t be a construction worker anymore, but you could now elevate your career into architecture.  The best thing you can do is to is to look at your disability as the best opportunity ever to make yourself smart as a whip.

You can find a career you love, it just may end up a bit more white-collar.

What do you do? How did you choose your career?

Photo courtesy of looking glass

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