My time at the 2022 ACB Conference and Convention has been way too short. I’ve met many amazing blind people, but Monday I attended the best convention session I’ve ever heard. Titled, “Selling Yourself: How to Put Your Best Foot Forward in the Evolving Employment World.”, and presented by the ACB employment committee, Independent Visually Impaired Entrepreneurs (IVIE), and ACB Next Generation, it featured a set of blind panelists with diverse perspectives as job seekers, hiring professionals, and business owners.
Finding a job or starting a business are the best ways I know of to make money, and selling yourself is critical no matter what. The panelists did a great job of talking about what works for them and shared practical tips any of us can use to sell ourselves more effectively. The most profound takeaway I got from the session, though, is that selling yourself takes constant practice.
Prospective customers or hiring managers want to hear confidence in your voice when you speak. It makes them feel better about taking the risk of using your business or bringing you on as an employee. Elevator pitches, short rehearsed speeches you can use to quickly tell someone who you are and what you do, are a good start, but you need to Taylor them to your audience. It feels uncomfortable at first, but practicing your elevator pitch over and over again makes it feel more natural.
These days, many job interviews are conducted online via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or something similar. Being on camera can be uncomfortable for blind people because we’re not able to see how we look. Are we making eye contact? Is the top of our head cut off? Does our background look appropriate? Being on camera may never be completely natural to us, but with practice, we can minimize the discomfort. All of the panelists talked about how they practice being on camera to stay confident during job interviews and other presentations. Being vulnerable, though, can be a way to show confidence. When I begin a presentation, I often explain that I’m blind and ask my audience to help me to confirm that my camera setup is right. No matter what you do, practicing will help you find ways to make yourself and your audience more comfortable.
Finally, the panelists talked about how to discuss blindness during the hiring process. Rather than trying to hide your blindness, the panelists suggest openly discussing it and how you’ll use team work to get the job done. Document formatting, for example, can be a very visual process and while screen readers can tell us a lot about how a document looks, there may still be things screen readers miss. Spelling and grammar checks can be configured to detect some of these things, and there are some advanced screen reader settings that can tell us about font and color changes, but ultimately all of the panelists suggest having a trusted team member do a final check on your most important documents. This starts with your resume, which, for most people, is your first introduction to a prospective employer or customer. Constant practice with the technology you use will make this easier over time as well.
Most of the convention sessions have been recorded and will be made available through a podcast after the convention concludes. I strongly encourage you to check this one out and I’ll post again when I know where you can listen to it.