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Career Tool

Nip discrimination in the bub

By: Donald Patrick Lim          

A reader wrote:

Three years ago, at 28, I graduated with a BS ECE degree. I am currently looking for a job. It has been six months of no work since the last contract I had, and I am now shifting my career from technician to safety officer. Even when I have finished most of the training required to be a safety practitioner, I am filled with doubts and have little confidence. See, I was born with a cleft palate, and I’ve always felt my disability affects my applications. I feel discriminated whenever I go to interviews, as my prospective employers would always limit their questions even when I am able to answer all their questions properly. Is there hope for me?
The world is indeed a harsh place and I sympathize with you. While we are already living in an advanced age where discrimination is frowned upon (and in some countries, carry legal implications) and not encouraged by top management, the reality is, physical appearance still matters. I cannot speak for our human resource industry here, but it is only human that people will naturally gravitate towards those without evident birth defects like a cleft palate. However, all is not lost. Accept the reality that you will go into the interview with an unfair disadvantage—it’s the same sentiment as when graduates of a lowertiered lesser-known school would tell me they are always overlooked for interviews in favor of the perceived elite schools. Accept the disadvantage and just go in and tell your interviewer why they should consider you. Highlight your strengths and the things you really do well.
Confidence matters
How you answer questions and how you project yourself can spell the difference between getting the job and getting a short interview without any response after. Look enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and dress for success. Tell them your past experiences, and change your disability to an advantage by telling them how you were able to survive your disability. Given how old you are now, I can imagine that it is no joke to have lived with a cleft palate for more than 20 years. I am sure even when you were a kid, you were ridiculed and poked fun at. However, I hope this has strengthened your spirit and resolve to succeed and show the world that nothing can stop you if you put your mind to it.
I do not know if you need speech therapy given you have a cleft palate. I hope you try hard to overcome any speech problems you may have, and invest in a good speech therapist and teacher. At the very least, you should be able to be converse and talk to your peers with a clear and understandable voice.
For the long-term, plastic surgery may be something you should consider. I do not have any idea how you look, so it is a bit hard for me to make any solid recommendations. For plastic surgeries, it may be hard for adults to heal completely as your physical characteristics are already fully developed. However, if you do intend to pursue this, and budget is an issue, try looking up Operation Smile Philippines. They operate on people with cleft lip and palate for free, and they have missions in Manila and cities outside Manila many times a year.
Regardless of your decision, let me reiterate that nothing beats a confident person, a good heart, and a strong and noble spirit to face life’s challenges. I admire your efforts for writing me and I believe you will do well in life. Disabilities, while on one hand may slow us down, may also be used as a good source of motivation that will allow you to focus and project your strengths. Good luck.