Rather a lot has happened since I finished university so I thought I’d do a life update post for you all. I don’t share that much of my personal life on my blog, but I have something to tell you…
As many of you know, I graduated from university earlier on this year and had my graduation ceremony last month, you can read my graduation post here.
I’ve wanted to work with disabled people for a while now but there isn’t much on offer in that field where I live so I knew that getting a job was going to be a challenge. I wanted to put my degree to good use and I also have a passion for helping others, which was something I’ve had experience of doing in various voluntary roles.
People kept telling me to take a break and have some time off for a while once I’d finished my degree but I didn’t want to do that, I like to be doing things and keeping busy so I knew that I’d get bored.
Luckily, I had been working for LOOK-UK for a few hours a month for around a year which kept me busy. However, this job was home based as the charity is based in Hereford and I live up North, I really wanted to be in more of a work environment. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my job but knew that working from home wasn’t for me in the long run.
As I previously said, I knew that getting my first graduate job was going to be a challenge, like it is for any graduate in today’s society, plus there was the fact that I have a disability which would obviously add extra barriers. I didn’t want to not be in work because of my visual impairment, so finding a job was so important to me.
I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I don’t think I would have ever been prepared for how hard it was actually going to be.
Looking through job websites and knowing that you have skills and qualifications for a lot of the jobs but not actually being able to do them because of your disability is rather disheartening. I don’t know how long I spent searching through job websites, communicating with people I knew to see if they knew of any jobs, but it took most of my time up.
I was very lucky though as I was offered interviews at the jobs that I applied for, and consequently gained many skills and good interview technique.
At each interview, I was told that I had the relevant skills to be able to do the job and did really well, but someone with more experience got the position.
This left me wondering, what did I need to do in order to be able to stand out from the other candidates and secure myself a job? I realised that having a degree is a fantastic achievement and equips you with many skills, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a brilliant job at the end of it all, there’s a lot more work to be done.
I’m not going to lie, there were times when I often thought to myself was three years of solid hard work even worthwhile? Obviously, it was, but when you’ve had knock-backs, you really start to wonder and overthink everything. There were also times where I looked at doing a Masters and even looked at other options such as other career paths, but my heart wasn’t set on those.
One morning, I received a job alert for a vacancy as an Assistive Technology Officer at York St John University, which was the university that I had just graduated from. The job involved teaching students how to use assistive technology, something which I had a keen interest in, and also promoting it to staff and students.
After talking it over with my Mum and Dad, and after a lot of consideration, I decided to apply for the job…after all, what did I have to lose?
A week or so later, I received an email which said that I had been invited for an interview. I couldn’t quite believe it!
I spent the next few days preparing for the interview and also the demonstration of a piece of assistive technology that I had to give. At the end of the day, I had to prove why I was worthy of being offered the job, and also had to show that my disability wouldn’t be a barrier, I had to stand out and impress them.
The interview day soon came around and although I was rather nervous, I tried to remain calm and have a positive mindset. I dressed in a smart outfit and made sure that I looked presentable.
I arrived at the university with plenty of time to spare, and waited until my name was called where I was then sighted guided to the interview room.
At the start of the interview I had to give a demonstration of a piece of assistive technology software, I was going to use the internet for this but it was just my luck, it wasn’t working. I remained calm, and went on to my second plan instead which didn’t require the internet.
It was definitely the longest interview that I’ve had but I thought it went well. They told me that I would find out later that day if I had got the job or not, which I was very impressed by.
Later on that day, I received a call and I was offered the job!!!! After the call, I was so shocked/happy that I cried! The last few months had been very hard and I was starting to wonder if any employer would ever give me a chance but York St John University did!
I was given a start date which was mid-November so I only had a couple of weeks to prepare. I spent the next couple of weeks preparing for the world of work and putting everything in place such as applying for Access to Work so that I could get the equipment that I needed to be able to do my job, sorting travel which would be a taxi and these costs would also be covered by Access to Work, having some orientation and mobility training so that I was familiar with the routes that I would need to do on a regular basis and obviously buying new work clothes because why not?
I wanted to start my new job being prepared as much as possible.
I started my new job on 20 November 2017, I was extremely nervous but I was made very welcome by everyone which made me feel a lot better. I took a lot of information in on the first day and was exhausted by the end of it but nevertheless, I really enjoyed it.
My first week flew by but I absolutely loved it and was looking forward to going back to work the following week.
During my second week, I had my assessment to determine which equipment Access to Work would pay for. I thought the assessment would be rather intense, but it turned out to just be a general chat as I pretty much knew what equipment I would need. The fact that you can’t have an assessment until you start is quite frustrating as I haven’t been able to use any of the software on the PC’s and have had to use my own personal laptop but that will all hopefully change after the Christmas break as I should have my equipment by then.
I’m now approaching the end of my third week and the Christmas break is in sight. Although the first few weeks have been mostly office based and shadowing other members of staff, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s given me time to get to grips with the environment and learn a lot from the other members of staff. I can’t wait to start the job properly in the not too distant future!
I know that I am incredibly lucky as I have a part-time job and an employer has looked passed my visual impairment and seen my potential, I am fully aware that things could have been so much harder for me and that things could have been completely different, I may not have even written this post, who knows. It took me 6 months to find my first graduate job which I know is good going, but I think it’s important to raise awareness of the reality of finding a job when you have a disability.
I also know that I have worked incredibly hard to get to where I am today, it’s taken a lot of effort and determination and I am forever grateful for the support from people around me but I have never given up without a fight and that was no different when finding a job.
There are thousands of disabled people who are not in work, desperately wishing that they were given a chance so I’m not taking it for granted. I know that having a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job, but it can go a long way in you getting to where you want to be and getting a job, you so deserve.
I also know that having a disability can make it extremely difficult for disabled people to get a job, but it’s important to keep trying, no matter how hard it gets and do not let your disability hold you back.
So that concludes today’s life update post, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.
A huge thank you for your support!
If you would like more posts on how I’m finding the world of work then let me know in the comments.