Looking For A Job With One Hand

How do you find a job without experience? How do you get experience without a job? Try finding a job with one hand! This adds an extra layer to one of life’s most eternal questions. A layer I never quite enjoyed experiencing. Blog #33 of my “40 Blogs in 40 Days about 40 Podcasts” campaign of awareness speaks to my early experiences finding a job with one hand. Whether I was capable to do the work or was never really the issue. The issue was whether or not the person hiring perceived if I could do the job or not. Even if I could do the work, if they believed I could not, chances are I would not get hired. This type of thing was very present when trying to find manual labor, craft labor, or working in restaurants. From the age of 15 to 27 these were the kinds of jobs I was applying for as employment. Some of it had to do with being young, some of it was lifestyle, and the rest was wanting to travel. I needed and wanted seasonal work or work that was easy to leave, easy to find, and potentially easy to return.

What made this such a paradox were these types of jobs work well with two hands in people’s perception. Construction work, landscaping, flippin’ burgers, and washing dishes were greats jobs for my lifestyle in the early part of my life, but not so great when it came time to hiring. More often than not I was on the unfortunate side of what people hiring thought I was able to accomplish. Not all potential employers thought this way and that was always a refreshing experience. However, many of them did. Once I took the “Help Wanted” sign of the window of a nightclub and carried it in and asked the owner for the job. He looked right at me and said, “We do not hire handicapped people.” At least he was honest. And that honesty let’s me know I did not want to work for someone like that. I find these interactions to be disconcerting and they leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Hiring, Disability, Help Wanted, Schedule A, discrimination, ADA, One Hand, flipping burgers

Most employers may think you need two hands to do many of the physical jobs that exist. But given the chance, by giving an opportunity to hiring someone with a disability, you may realize the power and ability of people’s thinking.

My last two years living in Seattle, Washington were spent working in the Pike Place Market. I earned some “Market Cred” serving food at Jack’s Fish Spot, Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar, and finally at World Class Chili. My boss at the Chili Parlor, Joe Canavan, gave me two deep nuggets of wisdom about being an employee and finding a job.

Regarding working for him he once said, “I do not care if you have one hand, two hands, no hands, or three hands! If you want the job you got to do the work!” At first I was not quite sure how to interpret what he was saying. Sometimes I still am not sure… I think it had two meanings. The first was that me not having two hands was not a consideration for him. The second meaning was if I wanted to work for him I needed to find a way. I found this to be inspiring. The second nugget of wisdom had to do with finding work. He said I needed to change my thinking and my approach with physical labor jobs. “Don’t go looking for a job,” he said. “You need to look for a way to have the chance to prove yourself. Once they see you work they will hire you.” The advice I received from Joe has worked every time I have used it. And I have used it many times! In fact, when I speak to limb deficient kids and teens I share this advice with them. Often they contact me to tell me it has helped them get jobs too.

Here is a story in the form of a talk I did for the Bureau of Reclamation about Disability Employment and the benefits of hiring people with Disabilities. I was asked to speak as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The podcast covers mostly the good side of my experiences as a one handed worker. However, I do cover some areas that were not so cool. In all do fairness finding work with one hand was incredibly difficult at times. As I mentioned, I found it more challenging to work with other people’s perception of me, and my potential as an employee, than dealing with my own disability. My experiences looking for work in my late teens and early twenties truly had me look and myself and others. The advice I received from the “Chili Guru” Joe Canavan helped me find work in a totally different light. Finally, in my late twenties I was hired as a graphic designer by the Bureau of Reclamation under the “Schedule A” hiring practices to help hire people with disabilities.

So much can be said about the human condition. And in my standard process of sharing my one handed life with a positive overtone, humor, and life lessons, I hope to bring a higher quality of being human to our condition. Please enjoy my story and unique perspective as I take it to the job, workin’ it 9-to-5.

To hear the story of my journey finding a job with one Hand I invite you to click on the link and enjoy my One Hand Speaks Storytelling Podcast Episode OHS005. Please feel free to share this blog or my podcast and I ask you to offer a comment with your opinion and feedback! Thanks!

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