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6 Steps to employment for people living with an intellectual disability

If you’re looking for employment, you might not know where to start. There are many ways to find a job and many opportunities where you can succeed.

However, searching for work can feel stressful, especially if you’ve experienced setbacks in the past. 

If you aren’t sure how to get a job with an intellectual disability, you can talk to an employment consultant or an NDIS local area coordinator about your options.

Here are 6 steps to start looking for a job.

1. Research suitable job types

Not every job is going to be a good fit for you. Before you apply for jobs, it’s important to think about what types of jobs you will be good at and enjoy doing.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I good at doing?
  • What skills do I have?
  • What experience do I have?
  • What are my limitations and challenges?
  • What am I interested in?
  • How much work do I want to do?

If you are interested in a particular type of job, it’s important to research what tasks you will be required to do and what the work environment will be like.

It might help to talk with someone who already works in the field to get a first hand perspective.

You could ask them questions like:

  • What does your day-to-day look like?
  • What time do you start and finish?
  • What are the most important skills for the job?
  • What is the most challenging thing about the job?
  • What is the workplace environment like?
  • How much do you have to interact with other people?

You can also talk with an employment consultant about job types that might be right for you. They might be able to think of options you haven’t considered before.

2. Find out if you’re eligible for employment support

Looking for work isn’t always easy and it’s important to ask for help if you need it. 

If you’re living with an intellectual disability and looking for work, you could be eligible for support from a program like Disability Employment Services.Disability Employment Services is funded by the Australian Government. It helps find jobs for people with an injury, illness or disability. 

To be eligible for Disability Employment Services, you must be:

  • Aged between 14 to 65 years old
  • An Australian resident
  • Able to work between 8 and 30 hours a week

You must also be receiving an income support payment or disability support pension, be an NDIS participant or an eligible school leaver.

When you become a participant, you can get help with things like:

  • Finding job opportunities
  • Applying for jobs
  • Gaining skills needed for the workplace
  • Preparing for interviews
  • Accessing workplace support and accommodations

3. Gain employment skills

When you apply for a job, employers want to see that you have the skills to do well in the role. 

If you haven’t had much work experience in the past, taking an employment skills course may help you make a better impression with potential employers.

Employment skills include things like:

  • Communicating with others
  • Working in a team
  • Following instructions
  • Being responsible and reliable
  • Adapting to changes
  • Managing emotions

You might also consider volunteering in a setting similar to where you want to work later on. For example, if you want to work in retail, you could volunteer at an opportunity shop to gain valuable skills as a starting point.

4. Create your resume and cover letter

When you apply for a job, you usually have to submit a resume and cover letter. These documents show an employer why you are a great fit for the job.

A resume is a document that contains information about your personal information, skills, experience and qualifications.

When writing your resume, you should:

  • Focus on your strengths and skills
  • Use keywords that reflect what the employer is looking for
  • Make sure it is easy to read
  • Get someone to check it for spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Include references (people who can vouch for you)

A cover letter is a letter that you submit with your resume. It should explain why you’re the best candidate for the job, why you want to work for the company and what skills and strengths you can offer.

When writing your cover letter, you should:

  • Write a new letter for every job you apply for
  • Be brief and to the point (200-400 words is usually a good length)
  • Research the company beforehand
  • Use positive and upbeat language
  • Check that the spelling and grammar is correct

5. Prepare for your job interview

Getting asked to come in for a job interview is an exciting step. It’s important to prepare for your interview so that you can put your best foot forward.

Before the interview, you should:

  • Research the company, what they do and what their values are
  • Practice answering common interview questions such as “What are your strengths?” and “Why do you want to work for us?”
  • Practice with a family member or friend
  • Decide what you will wear

It’s natural to feel nervous for a job interview. If you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s ok to pause and take a deep breath.

During the interview, you should:

  • Focus on your strengths
  • Act confident, even if you don’t feel it
  • Speak in a positive and friendly tone
  • Listen to the questions carefully
  • Keep your answers brief and to the point

You may need or want to disclose your disability during the interview. The interviewer may have questions about how your disability will affect your ability to do your job.

Be prepared to explain how you will manage your challenges in the workplace and what supports you might need. 

Being honest and open with your employer from the beginning may help you start off on the right foot with them.

6. Get ready for the workplace

Getting hired for a job is a very exciting time. Don’t forget, it’s important to prepare for your new job so that you have a great start.

Learning new things and getting used to a new environment can take time. It’s important to reach out for help if you need it. 

Having the right support and workplace accommodations can help you feel more confident in your role. Wherever you are on your employment journey, support is available to help you reach your goals.


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