March 25, 2023

  • Samarah Cohen had only a second grade education and a GED when he started his job search.
  • She struggled at first, but found success after learning how to stand out to potential employers.
  • Cohen is now a freelance writer, working in a coffee shop to help support himself and his wife.

In the past few years, finding a job has become bigger challenge for the unemployed. I remember when my current wife was fired early in our relationship and how she struggled to find a new job despite her higher education and several years of work experience. After witnessing her job search, I thought it would be hard for me to get a job.

At the time, I had recently left an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community with no professional work experience, just a second-grade education and a GED. When I started applying for jobs, I realized that I had grossly underestimated the difficulty of finding a job as someone with a physical disability who lacked traditional education and work experience.

Many companies judge intelligence and ability based on your education or the work experience you have. I send out so many job applications but rarely get a response, even though I’m perfectly capable of doing well in the position I’m applying for.

My application was ignored as my resume was mostly empty. A year and a half ago, I started looking for a job. Today, I’m employed by a local coffee shop and an online freelance writer. As I built my career, three things made me successful:

1. I focus on writing strong cover letters

When I started looking for a secular job, I never knew what to put in a cover letter because I didn’t have any of the qualifying work experience that employers asked for. As a result, my cover letters are mostly empty, and an empty cover letter next to an empty resume is almost always ignored.

One day, I decided to write a cover letter explaining why my resume was so blank. I explained my story and wrote about every skill I acquired in my life that made me fit for the position I applied for. Immediately after I submitted this application, I received a call about the position.

I didn’t end up getting it, but the feedback I received has dramatically changed the way I approach my career. The person on the phone told me that while a resume is great, a cover letter is what really sells one’s app. It’s the first look at a potential employee’s personality and work ethic that can make hiring managers want to reach out.

I took this advice to heart and noticed a huge change in the way my employers approached me since then.

2. I try to be flexible, but I always set boundaries

It’s hard to be picky about the kinds of jobs you’re applying for when you don’t have work experience. When I first started, I applied for a lot of manual labor jobs – working in daycares, baristas or bakeries. As a physically handicapped person, this kind of work was physically detrimental to me, and in hindsight, I should never have applied for those jobs.

By applying and accepting jobs that are too physically demanding for me, I am doing myself more harm than good. Often, I lose my job as fast as I get it. I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of putting your own needs first, even when you’re in between.

If you suffer and are unable to perform certain tasks that need to be done, you are doing yourself or your employer no favors. The more you know about yourself, the better you can pave the way for your future career.

3. I am patient

This is a big question. I know, because I’m often told to be patient, which I think is useless advice. I feel anxious and overwhelmed every time I get rejected for a position or when I don’t receive a response to my hard-working application. This anxiety made me reluctant to submit job applications because the stress and guilt were too much to bear.

I have to remind myself that while things may seem bleak at the moment, they will get better. Someone will read my cover letter and take my chance. It was my patience that got me where I am today.

I started writing as a freelance writer about my experiences growing up as an Orthodox Jewish woman. I looked for local businesses and talked face-to-face with business owners about my work experience, which ultimately led me to the job I have today. By being kind to myself and standing up for myself when needed, I was able to start generating a second income for myself and my wife.

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