To the Director of Residence Life at [insert] College/University,
I have a passion for helping others and am looking for a position in student affairs in higher education. I am a recent graduate with a BS in Elementary/Special Education and a minor in Drama. I graduated magna cum laude and spent three years working in Residential Life on my campus (two years as an RA, one year in an advanced undergraduate position). I developed a theater based peer education group on my campus that is educating the community on tough social issues such as sexual assault and partner violence. This group has performed twice since its creation (for first year students and then Greek life) and has been asked to perform again for the entire university prior to spring fling 2015.
I have worked with individuals with disabilities for a large portion of my life. This has taught me patience, problem solving skills and given me the ability to see the amazing potential every person has to excel.
My time in theater has taught me the importance of breaking down tasks and working thoroughly and quickly. Additionally, I have learned how to manage and work with limited budgets to accomplish goals and have successful productions. As it can often be with theater, I have also gained the ability to take things as they come and work on the fly when things don’t go as planned.
All of these skills could be seen as an asset to your school but I fear you will not hear them. I fear that you will disregard me as strong candidate for the position I am applying the moment I walk in for an interview. You will no longer remember my resume and the conversation we had but instead my service dog.
I understand the law perfectly well. You cannot discriminate against me because of my service dog (furthermore referred to as Chantey) or my hearing loss. You might say that Chantey is not the reason you turned me away; there was simply a more qualified candidate. Maybe there was but we both know the truth. We both know that Chantey likely played a critical role in your hiring decision.
You see the negative aspects of Chantey. You wonder why I need a service dog for my hearing loss when my speech appears unaffected. You worry that Chantey will be a distraction to others even though you comment that you completely forgot she was under the chair during the interview. You wonder how Chantey would be able to stay up dealing with a situation overnight. You wonder how I am going to move about the campus easily and quickly. You wonder how I would be able to deal with an emergency situation with a dog by my side.
I wish you wouldn’t wonder.
I wish you would see me as a competent individual who would know whether or not I could do the job with my disability; if I didn’t think I could do the job I would not have applied for the position. I wish you would not be afraid of asking me these wondering questions if you are really concerned about their answers. I know the law says you can’t but if I say I am willing to answer any questions, take me up on my offer. If it is something I’m uncomfortable answering or inappropriate I will tell you.
Finally, I wish you would see Chantey for all of the positive things she and I (as the team we are) can bring to the position. Know that Chantey allows me to be sure that party down the hall is actually happening. She is my security that I’ll wake up to the fire alarm, not only for my own safety but also so that I can do my job and ensure the safety of the rest of the building’s residents. She’ll ensure that I wake up to the ringing duty phone, instead of potentially sleeping through it during a long night on call. She makes me more approachable because there are only a few people who would not want to say hello to the dog by my side. She can provide comfort to students and individuals in crisis by petting her (not something that she is fully trained to do but if the situation called for it, it can be utilized).
This list could go on. All you need to do is look at the two of us as a capable team ready to thrive at your university. Any struggle we run into can and will be overcome with your support and my perseverance.
I have never let my disability stop me from doing what I am passionate about and I hope you will not be the barrier that does. Forget I have a service dog and only take into account my resume, my skills and our conversation.
I look forward to working with you in the future and please do not hesitate to ask me anything as I will likely be more than happy to give you a response.
The Job Candidate with a Service Dog