Knocked down and tired of getting up again

Katrina Doolen
Getting a paid job isn't that easy when you have a disability. Being unemployed for a long time can be difficult. It can be hard to keep trying to look for jobs. You need to have the right attitude. Support from other people can help. Talking to people who are looking for work may also help. You might want to try volunteer work until you find a paid job. You may want to work for many reasons. You want to earn money or want to be part of a community. Of it may help your self-esteem.
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Katrina Doolen on 24/02/2012
A boxer in the ring facing his unseen opponent.

I get knocked down but I get up again.

Getting regularly paid work isn't that easy when you have a disability. People with a disability are frequently unemployed for longer than people without a disability. Having paid work is highly valued and can determine your status in society. Working can influence how you see yourself and how other people see you.

Long-term unemployment can be a crushing experience for many people. After each knock back it becomes harder to get up and try again. Your confidence and self-belief may take a battering. You might feel like you failed at everything, which can be really overwhelming.

Being resilient during difficult moments requires more than just keeping your spirits up. It's finding how to get your strength back to want to try again. There are a number of things that make people want to try again. It takes a combination of attitude, support and practical strategies.

Why work?

People have different reasons for why they keep looking for work. They want to earn money and get work experience. Or they may want to contribute to their community. Joanne's a nurse who has bipolar disorder and finds getting regular work difficult.

I want to prove that I'm like anyone else, she says. I have bipolar, its part of me but not all of me.

Riki has low vision and an acquired brain injury. She is currently studying welfare.

I want the financial independence to do normal things that everyone else does. I don't want to keep living at home and I want to earn my way in society, she says.

Support and attitude

Having support from other people can make it easier to stay strong. Support from family and friends who believe in you make a big difference. They remind you that you're good at what you do, even when you don't think so.

Often you think you're the only person having trouble finding work. But you aren't alone. Making contact with other jobseekers that have a disability can help you feel less isolated. Together you can talk about your job-seeking problems, frustrations and ideas for coping. You can meet other jobseekers through disability groups or your employment service.

When life is hard it's important to do something you are good at and enjoy. I make tactile art, which are pictures that can be felt. Being creative reminds me that I'm good at what I do.

Volunteering and work experience

There are many things you can do to increase your chances of getting work. Prospective employers need to see you have experience and are using your skills. When paid work is scarce doing volunteer work might be helpful. Look for volunteer work in the area of work you're interested in. If you can't find work there, try different jobs that use the same skills. You could also ask an employer about doing some unpaid work experience. Go to workshops when you can and try relevant training.


When it comes to employment its not just what you know but who you know. Having a good network of contacts means that:

  • more people know who you are and what you can do
  • they know you are looking for work
  • it will be easier to find out when jobs become available
  • you will have more people who could be your referees.

You can increase your contacts by joining committees and getting involved with local activities.

Approaching employers for work

It's worth directly asking employers if there are any jobs going. You can phone or email the relevant manager mentioning your skills and experience. This shows employers you're keen, have initiative and gets you known to them. This method can work and its how I got my first job.

Being resilient doesn't mean you have to tough it out on your own. Find what works for you so you can get back up again.

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