My name is Jessica Luke and I am a visually impaired graduate. I have a BA in French with Italian from Warwick University and an MA in Translation from Westminster University.
I completed a translation traineeship at the European Commission with my guide dog Abbi and in March 2014, I began the arduous task of full-time job hunting. I was aware of how competitive the job market had become and I’d heard stories of friends searching for work for twelve months or more, but I still felt quietly confident in my chances of finding fulltime work, in spite of my disability. I had studied hard and got good grades; I had internship experience and I was a part-time athlete in a sport for the visually impaired.
It’s fair to say that job hunting proved to be harder than I had imagined. Each vacancy is oversubscribed and with highly-qualified candidates. It can be hard to stay positive and feel motivated when your applications are repeatedly rejected. Feedback is no longer something that you can expect from potential employers. Nevertheless, I am a determined, or possibly stubborn, individual and I persisted in applying to various jobs for which I felt I was well suited.
In September 2014, I decided to focus primarily on graduate schemes and I did my research, selecting the companies and programmes which appealed to me the most. Application forms are time-consuming and I tailored my responses to the company and position for which I was applying. I decided that it was better to complete a few, well-researched and eloquently written application forms than to send generic responses to several employers that will probably never be read.
I also made contact with the London-based charity ‘Blind in Business’, who work across the UK and provided me with some very useful industry contacts. I got some great advice on interviews and the assessment centre process from a former HR professional from Barclays and a current manager at BT.
I had three telephone interviews and I was invited to my first assessment centre in January 2015. I prepared thoroughly for the event, researching the company and industry, as well as ensuring that I had varied examples for the competency-based interview. I was most concerned about the presentation aspect of the assessment centre, as I do not particularly enjoy presenting without preparing the topic in advance. However, I focused on structuring my presentation, highlighting the key points and reserving some information for my Q&A session at the end. Five days later, I was offered a place on the Marketing Graduate Scheme.
I was relieved to finally be given the opportunity to show a company what I can do. Job hunting can be frustrating, time-consuming and disheartening, particularly for disabled candidates; at times I felt like I was wading through sludge.
The best advice that I can give is to choose your positions carefully, do your research and write a captivating application. Don’t take it personally if a position doesn’t work out and remember that something will come up if you keep looking. Finally, make the most of networking opportunities and contacts; Blind in Business certainly helped me to gain some invaluable advice.
– Jessica now works for Blind in Business. You can find out more about them at www.blindinbusiness.co.uk