Job Hunting – Part One

“There must be something you could do”
“You’re bright and articulate, surely you can find a job”

“Employers will want you even with your impairments” 

“Disability shouldn’t be a barrier to work” 

“If you can manage voluntary work you can manage paid employment” 

The above is just a tiny taste of what I hear when I explain to someone that I’m not employed. I explain that there are some pretty big barriers to work which I face. Barriers I have tried to overcome quite few time to no avail. It seems that people don’t want to hear that though, maybe it’s that all too human desire to deny that sickness and impairment’s can have long lasting effects, maybe it’s supposed to be friendly encouragement or maybe, just maybe it’s a sign that I’ve just been unlucky in my attempt to find work so far.

I’d like to work, a life on benefits isn’t fabulous. Being poor, vilified as a scrounger and constantly cold isn’t something most people aspire to be when they grow up after all. Until 2009 I had gone 11 years* without a break in employment which tells me I was employable once upon a time at least. As it stands most people, myself included, think that when I’m well I could be a very productive (employed) member of society. It transpires that people aren’t so keen on you being a productive member of society if you are doing it voluntarily… but that’s another blog post.

Still, I’ve decided that as I’m in a place where my health has stabilised that it’s time to have another go at finding work. As I mentioned before there are some barriers that I face when it comes to finding paid employment and these are going to need over coming, or at least worked around if I’m going to find something permanent. I’ll list the three biggest;

  1. Hours/Schedule – my condition varies over the course of a day, I tend to spend at least 12 waking hours of every 48 in a state where I really cannot work. Really. I don’t tend to know when those hours are going to be either. This makes committing to a schedule extremely difficult and long term means I will probably have to miss a lot of shifts through sickness. It also means that I probably won’t be able to make up missed hours at a later date.
  2. Direct Access – I need to use a wheelchair if I’m going to move without being in severe pain. New Street in Birmingham is one of the busiest high streets in the UK but I can’t access a lot of the businesses on it with a wheelchair as a consumer. Most small-medium sized businesses have poor access, and even when they have wheelchair access for customers they do not have it for staff. If the job means going up or down a flight of stairs to use the loo or clock in then I’m going to really struggle. 
  3. Indirect Access/Environment – I have a mental health condition that can be easily triggered when interacting with strangers or in stressful situations. When it is triggered I do not have control over my actions, I may become ‘unprofessional’ quite quickly if I can’t get away. I wish it wasn’t the case but it is and there is no point trying to pretend otherwise; PTSD and dissociative disorders are like that.
There are other things but those three (I think) are the biggest barriers I need to overcome. I don’t think I’m alone in being in this situation so I thought it would be interesting to have a go at finding work and to write about my experiences.
I have spent over 3 years thinking long and hard about work that I ‘could do’ and coming up with nothing that isn’t doesn’t involve either not getting paid or learning a craft and struggling to make £3 a week on websites like folksy.com. As a result it’s become very clear to me that if I’m going to look for work I’m going to need help. 
The First Step.
Once upon a time when I needed help finding work I’d use a recruitment agency. Sadly a quick trip around Birmingham in my wheelchair taught me that you need to be able to climb steps if you want to use a recruitment agency in this city. Excuse me if I sound overly cynical but I doubt that companies who choose inaccessible offices will be particularly well versed in helping people with access needs find work. Hitching up my wheelchair blanket I resolved to think of another way to do things and I that’s when I remembered Igneus. When I was in the WRAG (work related activity group for ESA) I was referred by the Job Centre to a group who were initially called Work Directions, then later changed it their name to Ingeus. I was invited to about six meetings then told that I clearly wasn’t currently well enough to work and that I should come back if I started feeling better/more stable. I’m feeling more stable and wanting to give hunting for a job another try so I thought they’d be a great first step. Sadly when I arrived it was explained to me that I needed to be re-referred by the Job Centre before they’d help me. I was less than impressed given what they’d said when I last saw them. My local Job Centre was too busy to see me so I went home and hit the internet to see if I could find any help there.
I eventually found a group working in partnership with Birmingham City Council called Forward 4 Work and I decided to get in contact. They’ve sent me an application form (with a very very tiny space to list impairments & medication much to my irritation) which I’m currently filling in and dusting off a copy of my CV to send back with it.
As of yet I don’t have any more to add but I will keep updating my progress on this blog. Wish me luck!

* not that it was enough to get contributions based ESA grumble-grumble-grumble

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  1. Brief Q – What sort of work are you looking for – could you work from home to get some 'recent' experience if a desk or research type job?

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