Navigating the ins and outs of the workplace can be tough for any college student. But for American University junior Yazan Khalaf, professional life will entail extra challenges because he relies on an electric scooter for mobility.
Khalaf was one of many students with disabilities who attended a disability job fair on Monday at the Marriott Metro Center, which was co-hosted by the GW Career Center, the GW Office of Disability Support Services, the F. David Fowler School of Business Career Center and Lime Connect, a nonprofit organization.
The junior was looking for an internship in the legal field at the fair. He said he is most concerned about taking business trips when a company hires him after college.
“If I have to travel to Las Vegas for a convention, will I be able to get (the scooter) on the plane? Khalaf said. “You must prepare so much more.”
He said there is also a greater need to prove oneself if the applicant is a disabled employee. Khalaf said he must fight the misconception that disabled people may not be able to perform in the workplace or may need more help than others.
During the fair, students asked a panel of recruiters from Merrill Lynch, PepsiCo, Goldman Sachs and Google what they were looking for in potential employees, as well as questions concerning accessibility.
John Delpino, director of executive staffing for PepsiCo, said it is important for companies to address the specific needs of workers with disabilities.
“Many talented individuals with disabilities will go home with their degree and work for a friend at home or teach in a university setting,” Delpino said. “We as a company must ask, ‘What is it you as a person need to be successful?’ “
Denis Baranov, a GW junior, said he is interested in a production management position at Google – a popular company with students in attendance. He said he hopes this event will give him an advantage over the general pool of applicants.