Finding work opportunities and landing a job when you have spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) can be tricky in any field. Utilizing a few different approaches, I was able to get a number of opportunities before I was even out of college.
When it was time to look for work, I felt pretty intimidated. Right from the beginning, I felt a disadvantage in the hunt for a job because of my physical limitations. Of course, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act exists — but it doesn’t make such a difference unless there is a legitimate legal issue.
“You didn’t get the job because you lack the qualifications” or something similar is a potential excuse for employers. I noticed that immediately when looking for a job at a local grocery store during high school. Most of the positions required physical labor, and there wasn’t much room for cooperation with wheelchair-bound individuals. At the end of the day, I knew that I needed to think of more clever ways to get working.
I’m an introvert at heart, but I know the importance of being social in a professional setting. In the filmmaking industry, networking is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. I always keep my windows open for new friends, in the event that they could possibly become future connections for work.
The people I’ve connected with and friends that I made were always in the field in which I wanted to work. Surrounding myself with like-minded people helped me get my first commission editing for a YouTube channel back in 2014. Recently, my production team ended up filming a music video for a friend of a friend and now we have future projects coming.
Remote work is the easiest solution for anyone who does not mind being at home on a regular basis. The tough part about finding those opportunities is that they are popular and usually easy positions to fill. I struggled with finding remote positions until I updated my resume and found my way into my first remote position through a mutual connection.
For others, I would highly recommend taking the extra step of reaching out to family and friends about job connections. There may not be an official job opening, but they could have useful advice in securing a position or finding a contact to help you negotiate some of the details. If you are creative, commissions are another way to get new connections. I started out taking free commissions before I ended up being offered paid work — and most commissions in the creative industry are entirely remote.
I downloaded every well-known job-seeking and networking app I could find. Keeping up-to-date with LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter makes a huge shift in the job-hunting process overall. It is absolutely the most exhausting part of the process, but also the most useful. Taking the time to create accurate profiles with engaging biographies and descriptions is the best way to go.
Employers — at least in the filmmaking industry — seem to be fans of profiles with some personality. I handled my profile description with a combination of professionalism and personality. Of course, I leaned more toward the professional side, but I realize people don’t want to hire robots either.
Being bold was a big step on my work adventure. Sometimes I feel a bit nervous when putting myself out into the open with interviews and professional settings. I know that the worst-case scenario is a rejection from the employer. Trying again until everything falls into place is sometimes all that is left to do. Persistence is a huge part of the process, and it is the reason that I got to where I am today.
Columnists on mySMAteam discuss SMA from a specific point of view. Columnists' articles don’t reflect the opinions of mySMAteam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. Content on mySMAteam isn't intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.