I once acknowledged the bizarrity of launching a blog to go support project a whole year after the project launch. It was quite an engaging and defining first year for Hidden Talent that got us to where we are today. Thus, we shall be taking a step back in time looking back on the humble beginnings of Hidden Talent. This is the first of our Retrospective series, chronicling the early events of Hidden Talent.
It’s hard to believe that back in September 2015, Hidden Talent was little more than an idea with a catchy title. We knew our focus was on hidden conditions like autism, bipolar, dyslexia and ADD and the issues surrounding unemployment, but the content and fine-tuning was yet to come. We needed to get our name out to the public, and short of taking to the rooftops with a loudspeaker – which probably would have seen us declared as public menaces – we weren’t sure how to go about it.
Luckily, the Leicester Business Festival was just around the corner, and our illustrious leader Emma Southern insisted we hop on the LBF band wagon and host an event of some sort.
So, we began planning a presentation outlining a few highlights of problems that people with HCs face when looking for work. Essentially, we were treating the session as an intro to the positive side of hidden conditions, which is practically uncharted territory for some.
I planned out the slides over the week leading up to it and the weekend while Emma invited employers from around Leicester to the event. Obviously, first impressions are important. You want to get it right first time round. As such, you end up feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders… in my case, that weight was on my chest as a result of my asthma choosing those particular weeks to play up.
And the big day rolled around on the 2nd November 2015 where we all gathered at De Montfort University and began setting up the room. One by one, the employers arrived and once we thought everyone was there (and that we were running out of space), we began.
To get the ball rolling, Emma and myself introduced Talent Match as a whole before zeroing in on the Hidden Talent aspect, in regards to the benefits of certain traits and more specifically, how that person may benefit a business.
Now, when you’re explaining the concept of hidden conditions before, typical rule is assume that they have never heard of hidden condition. On the map of the human brain, autism and dyslexia are continents that have yet to be explored… like wading through an Amazon rainforest, only without the constant death traps.
At the time, I was fairly untested in the art of public speaking, so I had to hope they were not expecting some academic know-it-all. It was at this point I mentally called on the memory of one of sarcasm’s greatest heroes… Chandler from Friends.
I came at it with a humorous, often self-deprecating angle on my own eccentricities, hoping to keep them interested. I figured that at the very least, they wouldn’t peg me as a pompous malcontent.
It wasn’t until after the session that I realized that line of thought can go a long way towards putting people at ease. It’s not that employers can’t be bothered to ask these questions. It’s that they’re worried that if they open their mouths they’ll insert their foot in the process. And they seemed more comfortable with asking us questions knowing we were unlikely to take offense and were willing to take a dig at our own antics.
So that’s a bit of advice to everyone out there with hidden conditions; next time you’re openly discussing your condition with a group of strangers, try to come across as a poor man’s Keith Lemon and the rest will follow… ideally without the helium-induced voice.
To get a sense of how in-tuned the employers were with hidden conditions, we moved onto ‘Danny’s Game’, in which they had guess which celebrities had which conditions. And just because I’m mildly evil, I threw in a few ‘normals’ in there to get them thinking. You’d be surprised by the results. It confirmed our point that while there was some familiarity with the names, the in’s and out’s were another story.
We then moved onto the best part of the event; a group of young people with various hidden conditions, who had, for whatever reasons struggled to gain some form of employment despite showing every willingness to do so. The stories really struck a chord with the employers who were moved by what the YP had to say. The strength these people showed in expressing themselves and what they are able and willing to do has to be commended. Especially considering none of us knew how to play a violin.
Finally, we then turned our attention to the riddle that is job applications. Some people, myself included, often find that many job descriptions consist of streams and streams of paragraph that paint the role in an unnecessarily complicated light. Seriously, it’s like trying to decipher a puzzle in a Dan Brown novel. But working with the employers we were able to address these issues and restructure the job description in a way that doesn’t feel like a lobotomy.
The positive response from the employers took my breath away… or whatever breath hadn’t already been taken by my asthma, having spent nearly two hours alternating between talking, taking inhaler puffs and guzzling water. If that doesn’t prove my capacity to multitask, I don’t know what will. As it turns out, the management of Leicester Highcross was in the audience and was quite taken with our presentation… but that’s another story.
The LBF stands out as the first major success for the Hidden Talent project, and the opening chapter to an incredible story… OK, not on the same level of JK Rowling or Alan Moore, but still fairly good.
The first success, but certainly not the last…