What happens when you’re born with a disadvantage that puts you at a severe risk of unemployment and underemployment?
What happens when potential employers misjudge your abilities before they even give you a chance to prove how good you are?
This was the position that Jessica was in, as a Deaf person, in a job market that overemphasizes verbal communication. Jessica is here to share today how she used her disadvantage to her advantage to launch a business that supports and empowers the community of Deaf entrepreneurs.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Jessica.
Imagine living your life in a soundless world.
The beep of the alarm goes unheard.
A friendly voice saying, “Hello, how are you?” does not quite go through.
A video online plays, resembling the popular silent films from back in the 1910s, except there is no text to explain what’s happening on screen. Education and wisdom carried by sound waves fly by undetected due to missing hair cells in the cochlea of the ear.
This is the life I live daily as a Deaf person.
Hi, I’m Jessica, and I’m the founder of Bellewood Virtual Assistant. I was born Deaf, and I communicate with American Sign Language.
I completed the 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success course [2021 update – now known as VA Foundations and included in our VA training program, The #FullyBookedVA System] in December 2017, and built my business from scratch. I developed and created my logo, website and service packages in less than 30 days, and launched on January 1st, 2018. I landed a total of four clients in the first month of my business, and am already past halfway to my goal of working full-time.
But, as a Deaf person, I have a major “disadvantage” in career opportunities.
Deaf people struggle with finding jobs due to communication barriers, which contributes to the 70% unemployment and underemployment rate among the community. Skills and intelligence are often overlooked in the face of communication challenges.
Finding the right career opportunities is a major challenge for a Deaf person. The majority of the job positions available require verbal communication.
If a job position does not require verbal communication, it is most likely an isolating position. Too much isolation creates a breeding ground for depression and a host of other mental health issues. The several disadvantages that Deaf people face daily are more than enough to tempt them to run and hide under a rock.
I decided that I did not want to allow my deafness to hold me back.
Figuring Out What Road to Take
I had to figure out how to turn my disadvantages into an advantage for me.
Constant problem-solving to access the world throughout my life taught me to persevere in finding solutions.
For the past several years, I was a stay-at-home mom to two adorable boy-tornadoes. My attempt to transition into career life was rocky.
Even though I had a Bachelor’s degree, I bounced around a few different part-time jobs. It took me three years to find and receive a #Deaffriendly full-time job opportunity in my area. Unfortunately, I still had to turn it down due to the inflexibility of the job position.
I wanted a flexible job to allow for travel to visit relatives and friends, and to work around my family’s schedule. In my search for a flexible job, I stumbled onto the Horkey HandBook Virtual Assistant program.
I was surprised and delighted that the foundational course happened to be much more “accessible” than many available online. The majority of the course was in text, so I could easily read and zip through it – a huge benefit as a Deaf person. And the Facebook group for Gina’s students was completely accessible since all of the posts and comments were in text.
Disadvantages Are My Opportunity to Empathize and Pioneer
I realized that my disadvantages as a Deaf person gave me a huge advantage to serve and support the new emerging Deaf entrepreneurs. My struggles in navigating the lack of Deaf-friendly career opportunities formed a deep sense of empathetic determination to find a way to impact the Deaf community.
As a Virtual Assistant and #DeafEntrepreneur, I would be able to support the growth of Deaf-owned businesses, which in turn will open more doors and create more Deaf-friendly job opportunities.
When I announced on social media about the launch of my business, I was genuinely surprised that three clients immediately came forward from my circle within the Deaf community on Facebook.
My fourth client came through applying for a social media specialist position at DeafMade.com. I am in awe of the opportunities I now have to work with incredible Deaf mountain-movers.
I never thought that I would love running my own virtual business, and have been stunned by how it brought incredible opportunities that I wouldn’t have had in my own geographical location.
At this moment, the Deaf people are living in a history-making time.
The online world and social media now provide a much more even playing ground for Deaf people to find and create job opportunities.
Deaf entrepreneurs and #DeafTalent are finally emerging to catch this digital tsunami of opportunities.
Also, the pioneering Deaf entrepreneurs are now forming what is called a #DeafEcosystem in which a private economy is developing to support the Deaf community at large, financially and vocationally.
Together, we are overcoming our disadvantages by creating job opportunities by the Deaf, for the Deaf.
Turning a Disadvantage into a Catalyst That Propels You
What if the very disadvantage you may be facing is actually an opportunity in disguise?
Disadvantages are painful and frustrating, but if channeled properly, they can create a deep sense of empathy and passion for seeking out a solution.
You know and live with your disadvantage. You may be living it out daily, most likely unnoticed by others.
But, as I’m discovering, you are not alone with your unique set of disadvantages. Most likely, there are others that live with the same disadvantages as you. And who else would be better to team up with and form a strong alliance to innovate and build solutions?
My deafness may have held me back in life, but I realized that it was actually a good thing. You know how archery works? An arrow has to be held back to build tension and create energy to be launched, and the bow provides a channel for maximum accuracy and impact.
My frustration with the lack of opportunities built up the energy for the launchof my business. Gina’s Virtual Assistant training program became the channel, like a bow, for the launch.
Upon completion of the program, I launched my own Virtual Assistant business.
Jessica Belwood is Deaf from birth and the founder of Bellewood Virtual Assistant. She is passionate about serving, helping grow and impacting Deaf-owned businesses and organizations to bring prosperity to the Deaf community.