As I like to say, “perception is reality.” The fact is that anyone you meet for the first time will only know what they see, you show, and you share. It is up to you to sell yourself in a job interview or in your general interactions in life. You need to embrace and practice this throughout your life. I know I do, and I encourage this in all of the people who I provide workshops for and teach. These tips are from a person who is blind or visually impaired and aimed directly to professionals and all who are blind or visually impaired.
You should be dressed appropriately, and I can tell you this is a huge issue. I am not Mr. “GQ,” but I try my best to look good and appropriate. It doesn’t take a lot of money to nice and professional. I give the example that you can buy a suit for $10 from a Goodwill store or thrift shop. I recently wore a newer outfit to a workshop; my pants cost $10 and my shirt was $7. You cannot take a date to see a movie for $17, so this is a pretty great deal. I have to thank my wife’s use of coupon apps for those prices, though. (I love you, Jen!)
Dressing appropriately for interviews seems to be a lost art, and I am not sure why. I can’t tell you how many stories I hear from human resources professionals about this issue. I interview interns, and I get quite irritated by this. Please don’t show up to an interview in a short-sleeve shirt and a pair of jeans. Seriously, I feel colleges should be coaching youth on how to dress for a job or internship interview. I may be blind, but I still care about how a person presents him- or herself.
Show your competence and that you can provide appropriate non-verbal communication and behaviors during your interactions. We all need coaching in our non-verbal communication, and that includes me. I try to get input from others about this at times. I want to make sure I am communicating properly. I make a big effort to provide appropriate eye contact. Estimate from their voice, and you should be able to figure out about where to look. Have I ever failed at this? Yes, but you will have to ask my wife.
Show your competence by presenting yourself in a professional manner with a good hand shake and a nice introduction. I don’t mean crushing someone’s hand, or giving a Madison Square Garden introduction of the New York Knicks. Provide a nice, firm, even-handed hand shake. I tend to say, “I’m reaching out for your hand,” to avoid reaching out for nothing or hitting something off target.
Show off your technology skills, if you have tech that you can bring and demonstrate. Most people like technology, and it provides the opportunity to open up that aspect of the conversation. You can explain how you will use your efficiency tools or accommodations to do the job.
Share your skills, strengths, accomplishments, work and volunteer experience. Provide the employer with the information that lets them know that you are the real deal and qualified. I can’t tell you how often youth and adults don’t share important information about relevant work experience. Sometimes, I’ll talk about a particular topic, but the job seeker won’t say anything. Then, something else will cause them to bring it up their relevant experience much later in the conversation, and I end up tilting my head in confusion, much like a dog will when given commands that involve a full sentence or two. Tell your dog to go clean the shower with a non-toxic cleanser, and you will see or feel that head tilt.
Avoid the head tilt by making sure you share with the organization why they will benefit from hiring you. It is all about meeting the needs of the employer. Tell them how your skills have benefited organizations in the past, and it doesn’t matter whether this is work or volunteer experience. Part of sharing might be a little coaching of your references. You can coach your references on addressing the employer’s concerns, and bringing up how you performed on the job for them.
AFB CareerConnect offers a ton of great resources specific to navigating the employment process. Take the time to sign up and explore all of the great features. The cost is reasonable&mdashFREE! When you register, make sure you sign up for the free online course, the Job Seeker’s Toolkit.