Natalie works on campus at Griffith providing individualised career support to graduating and graduated students with disability seeking a graduate job.
Natalie is the first staff member to work in this specialised role starting in 2017, employed by Disability Employment organisation Mylestones Employment.
David, one of the NDCO’s working on the USEP project has asked Natalie some questions about her experience so far, opportunities for improvement, and observations about working with university graduates with disability.
How long have you been working in the Disability Employment Services sector?
You’re studying while working, what are you studying & why?
I’ve recently finished my Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare and am now about to start my Master’s degree in Counselling! I am studying because I enjoy learning and developing and I feel that that skills within the Masters can be transferred to my work in the employment field. I feel the need to constantly keep up with stimulation of study and up-skilling as a mature person.
What appeals to you about working with graduates with disability?
My strong passion for social justice and equality combined with my own experience in undertaking an undergraduate degree drives me forward. I built an understanding of the challenges of studying while I juggled life, assignments, personal issues, raising children and caring for an elderly father all the while hoping to be the best I can be.
I feel blessed to be in a position to support graduates with a disability, as I understand the blood sweat and tears required to remained disciplined and motivated to achieve results at university.
It’s a great opportunity to assist students to reach self-determination and to have a voice. I also enjoy having the opportunity to engage employers and discussing being open to a diverse talent pool.
How often are you on campus and how much time do you spend on graduate employment in your working week?
I spend 2 days per week co-locating on campus and do my follow ups in between when needed and when possible. Potentially this is a full-time role now. The nature of this program is that students are of a high calibre and require more time for face to face. The spread of the university means that I spend a fair bit of time travelling between campuses and around the region meeting students and employers.
How has the student response been – what are their thoughts about accessing your individualised support to reach their graduate career goals?
I guess this is anecdotal – but students are extremely pleased and appreciative in having access to a more personalised service on campus. Students have commented on being valued and understood and felt encouraged to discuss their disability and potential impacting factors in a confidential environment. Students are interested in what type of supports can be provided in an employment situation.
Are students with disability ready to go for an interview at a graduate job when they get to you, and if not, what is it that they mainly want help with first?
It’s a mixture of these scenarios. Some students have not experienced paid work yet or alternatively, have experienced work and their disability has impacted or they have become unwell and have been unsure how to deal with an employer with regard to this.
In some cases, students have left their previous employment based on discriminatory behaviours, and the negative experience has impacted their confidence to get into work again.
One of the common themes is discussions regarding disclosure when applying for positions and review of resumes. Many students are a little uncertain with resumes and how they should look and many have not yet accessed the careers team – so there are some cross referrals that can be done as well.
Do the majority of the students who come & work with you have industry related work experience? If not, why not?
No – although they do potentially have a work experience placement in the course structure. Not all degrees have this.
Many students have not yet managed to get industry related experience for various reasons. Sometimes they feel they have enough on their plate with their studies at university and living with a disability and so feel overwhelmed, are unsure of steps to take to engage with employment in their academic field, or just don’t feel competent or confident – these are all things we can work on together.
What type of concerns do students want to talk through about sharing information about their disability with employers for future graduate roles?
It’s broad – with some common themes. Students are concerned about being subject to discrimination based on their disability and employers potentially not allowing or understanding reasonable adjustments or flexibility with hours/days. Some students are concerned about their visible disability and the questions this may promote from employers and staff.
You can check if there is an active partnership in your area by visiting our registration page.
You can learn more about what types of support graduates with a disability might find helpful by learning more about our project supporting graduates with disability into work.
Griffith’s website also contains some great university specific information for their students with disability.