4 May 2016

We've got talent

I spent a couple of months unemployed earlier this year and became very despondent at the initial lack of response to my job applications.

On reflection, it's likely that this was because I was targeting administrative positions in schools, for which competition is fierce and where preference is, naturally, given to those with past experience in that environment. 

My job centre advisor, however, asked me if I thought age discrimination was at play. Although that hadn't occurred to me, I had been speculating as to whether my mental health status was to blame.

I mention both my blog and my novel on my CV and in applications, as I feel my writing achievements demonstrate some good skills and personal qualities. Anybody checking out my website or my book would quickly get an insight into my 'issues'.

Eventually, I began receiving invitations to interview and I made reference to having OCD at all three that I attended; later I wondered if that contributed to the first two rejections. However, these were also for school jobs and feedback on one second place outcome was that it was due to my lack of experience within education.

It would, in fact, be hard for me to conceal the truth of my situation. An internet search of my name - a common practice amongst employers these days - would soon throw up the same information as I choose to share.

Given my relatively high profile online, an employer would inevitably find out about my background sooner or later, and if they don't like it, then we're probably not the right fit for each other anyway.

All kinds of health conditions can lead to talented people being overlooked, as the BBC programme Employable Me demonstrated. This three-part documentary series focussed on five men and one woman, who all had disorders that were impossible to hide face to face: Tourette syndrome, autism and Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism.

For these individuals, job-hunting had proved a soul-destroying experience and most had failed ever to secure an interview. 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
Yet tests revealed they all had astonishing talents that could easily be put to good use in the right setting. Happily there was a positive outcome for each of them, either in terms of identifying a suitable career direction or in finding work.

Many of us have great skills to offer because our brains are wired differently, whether these skills are directly related to our condition or not. 

In my case, I'm extremely well organised and have an excellent eye for detail, which may have developed as a result of my OCD - which is focussed on order and symmetry - or vice versa. Either way, these abilities are part and parcel of my slightly unusual make-up.

For others, simply experiencing a mental illness - or any other challenging health condition - gives them a greater empathy for their fellow human beings, which can be helpful in a variety of work environments.

Employers will never know what they're missing unless they give a chance to those of us who are a little different.


Unknown said...

Great blog Helen. Ik feel the same and agree to it

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks for your lovely comment, Ineke!