Despite the daily psychological pressure this job brings, working with disabled people is one of the best career experiences I’ve ever had. Since I started this job, I feel like I became a better person.
That is a bold and somewhat unrefined claim. Let me tell you where it’s coming from: I’ve always been searching for that feeling of now I’m doing enough. When I was a student, I believed I was wasting a lot of money without making a difference in the world. As soon as I graduated, I realized: it was the time to start making a difference. I could get a well-paid job and start giving a lot to charities, or I could become part of a group of people who make life better for others by helping them directly. I chose the second option, and I firmly believe this experience is making me a better person by the day.
Watching people in pain and suffering is never easy. The daily life of the people I meet is painful, regardless of whether or not they are aware of their state. However, the bond between the employees is strong. The shifts are good, and the breaks are lovely. Imagine having coffee and eating cake with people you share values with. The bond with the disabled people is even stronger. This is where I got the sincerest smiles and hugs I could imagine.
So this job, like any other, has good and bad sides. The application process was the worst part. That’s exactly why I decided to share my experience. Many of you may wish to work with disabled people, but the challenging job hunting process sets you off.
First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way: this is a job that brings you a salary. If you wish to do volunteer work in these institutions, you can go for it. If, however, you intend to devote your life to this kind of work, then you’ll need the money. Getting paid does not eliminate the fact that you’re doing something good.
When I got into the right mindset (that getting money for living doesn’t mean you’re doing less good), I started looking for a jobs. The positions in the category “working with disabled people” are extremely versatile. From universities to hospitals to non-governmental organizations, there are many open positions out there. My qualifications were good for all these institutions, since I majored in psychology. All programs need a psychologist, who will work both with the disabled people and the staff.
I started applying to different ads and that’s when I encountered the first huge obstacle. The applicant selection process in this category are brutal. If they see the smallest sign of discrimination, you won’t stand a chance. Fortunately, I decided to hire one of the top resume services to help me through the application process. The resume and cover letter are the first things that get you noticed. I knew that if I got those parts right, I would get a chance for an interview. The writer wrote the perfect resume and cover letter for me, but he did something more: he knew everything there was to know about these types of jobs and he gave me interview tips that were pure gold.
When you’re working with people with disabilities, you must not show you feel sorry for them. You must not assume they are unhappy. You must never be afraid of saying the wrong thing, since that makes you stiff and unnatural. They will scan your attitude during the interviews and test period, so you must show you treat disabled people equally to any other. I got through the interviews in a non-governmental organization I really wanted to work for. Then, I faced an even more overwhelming experience. The test period was one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever stood up to.
During this time, I was assigned as the assistant psychologist to a group of 12 people. All of them had a different diagnosis, so they required a different approach. They enjoyed activities like listening to music, painting, and doing yoga. I’ve been reading about other people’s experiences with disabled people, and I knew what to expect. The reality, however, is different.
I thought I was strong enough. I wasn’t. I wasn’t showing my emotions on the workplace. At home, however, I couldn’t get the thought of those people out of my head. I was doing what I wasn’t supposed to be doing: feeling sorry and helpless. It took me some time to get my thoughts together and act like every other psychologist should act: supportive and inspiring.
After two years spent working with disabled people and one promotion somewhere along the way, I realized: this is what I want to be doing. For life. I know I am making a change, and I feel like I’m changed because of it. I couldn’t be more grateful for this opportunity.