Equal opportunities in the workplace

If you're not the 'typical' job-seeking graduate, equality legislation in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is on your side.

Equality legislation in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is on your side. In the ROI, the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004 have clearly defined nine areas of discrimination (gender, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, travelling community). The Northern Ireland Act 1998 has brought equality and fair employment under one umbrella. There is also specific legislation about disability discrimination and since 2006 it has been unlawful for employers to discriminate on grounds of age.

With high profile legislation in place, few employers will be unaware of their responsibilities in terms of recruitment. The best will have well-established procedures and policies, which will be clear from their job adverts and recruitment literature. And it makes good business sense too. Marina Lennon, careers adviser with the Open University, says, 'All employers have clients and customers, and it's not in the interest of an organisation or employer to be seen as discriminatory'.

You can help yourself by convincing an employer that it also makes business sense to employ you. Marina advises, 'Try and think about the organisation you are applying to, their culture and their customers. How would employing someone who is more mature than the average graduate or culturally different be seen as bringing "added value" to the organisation?'

She adds, 'Most graduate recruiters want employees who are willing to learn, can adapt to new situations and can apply knowledge to the "real world". Consider what evidence you can produce to demonstrate these attributes, and provide concrete examples to support your case. Taking time to research your chosen career and market yourself effectively should pay dividends.'