I started my journey as a student looking for an internship. And I wanted to find something that suited my interests and would allow me to make many new and exciting experiences – just like every other intern. What is so special about it that I am writing an entry for this blog? I am a student and I have cerebral palsy (a walking impairment). Over the years, I have made the experience that people tend to be uncertain when it comes to disabilities, unless they know someone or have a disability themselves. So, I would like to share the experiences I made at Continental to show what an open mind can do.
The position in Corporate Employer Branding I found online was exactly what I was looking for: It required English skills and would be an exciting challenge holding lots of new insights. Whenever I apply to a position, I do so with the possibility in mind that my disability might make it even more difficult than it already is. Before I sent my application, I wanted to inform myself about Continental, of course. I really liked that topics like diversity, teamwork and flat hierarchies are reflected in the corporate culture.
But I could not find anything about employees with a disability. Therefore, I could only hope that it would not be a knock-out criterion. In retrospect I can say that my fears were completely unnecessary. What mattered was my fit for the company and not the disability. It was addressed only once during my telephone interview when my supervisor asked if I had any special requirements. In fact, all my colleagues were very sympathetic and always ready to help if necessary – what proves that For One Another, one of Continental’s corporate values, is actually lived in everyday work. For example, I was excused from usual intern tasks like going to the post office or kitchen duty to prevent extra walks. But generally, my disability did not play any role at all. No strange looks or inappropriate comments, which I sometimes get when I am out with friends, for instance. I was simply accepted as an equal colleague. This made me feel valued for my skills and not reduced to any impairment.
I think it is important to better communicate this particular aspect of diversity Continental places such importance on. On the one hand, this includes internal communication to raise awareness for the topic and to sensitize colleagues. On the other hand, Continental can become an attractive employer for people with a disability. Hence, I sat down with a few colleagues to get started on some ideas. This blog entry is one of them. 😉 Unfortunately, my internship is almost over, but I am looking forward to seeing how things will further develop in the future.
Looking back, the past six months have been an exceptional experience which exceeded my expectations by far. All the amazing colleagues who welcomed me so warmly will make it hard to leave! I am also hoping that reporting my experiences will encourage others to share their stories.