Hidden Talent was on a roll. On May 9th, we had travelled to Wellingborough to deliver an hour-long presentation, before returning to Leicester to deliver a 10 minute presentation alongside Alex George (I felt like those 12 hours aged me by 12 years). All in all, that was a very successful Tuesday…
…but when it comes to spreading the message of Hidden Talent, we try to take the same approach as an alien invasion, and tackle areas beyond Leicestershire and reaching out to many non-Leicestershire souls…
By the way, that does NOT mean we’re going to go all Independence Day on every area we visit. We really don’t have the budget for that.
Anyway, the day after what may become known as Presentation Day, I boarded a train to Leicester, meeting up with the illustrious chairman of Talent Match, Paul Marriot, who I would be presenting alongside. Again, another 10-minute slot, which was mildly saddening because if I was left to my own devices, my chronic lecturing would equate to letting a dog off the leash… rest assured, a Cavelier Spaniel type, not the Pitbull type.
We got off the train with me dreading the long and exhausting walk to meet Zoe Atkins, getting lost in the labyrinth that is Nottingham, my appalling geography only serving to throw us even further into the unnavigated abyss…
…so imagine my surprise when we found out our destination was literally right next to the train station.
Zoe Atkins was waiting outside what I presumed to be the Nottingham equivalent of DWP, guiding into the building where I ended up having a brief altercation with a revolving door that made me feel like I was navigating an Indiana Jones death-trap. We entered the building where we witnessed several prominent employers seated, waiting for the session to begin.
I was tempted to sit in front of the employers, but didn’t want to be known as a Bobbing Head for the next 30 minutes and so took a seat by a table on the side of the room.
Unfortunately, the enigmatic Alex George was unable to make the presentation alongside me that day… not that it stopped the lead presenter from briefly calling me Alex(!)
When it came to Hidden Talent’s session, Paul and I discussed our usual pointers; working to identify support structures for people with hidden conditions like autism, dyslexia, etc, adjusting the public’s perception of hidden conditions rather than hidden disabilities, and the foundation for a legacy for the project. I will say, that still feeling the effects of sleep deprivation, I did get occasionally tongue-tied, especially when discussing my usual mantra, “all diseases are conditions, but all conditions need not necessarily be diseases.” Believe me, I had to really work to illustrate that particular point lest I come across as self-contradicting.
Luckily for us, a few questions were sent buzzing around the room, of the nature of the work we were doing with employers, which to my frustration, is still very much a work in progress. We talked about complications in getting a diagnosis, and how it could be difficult to attain the necessary support. Seriously, we cannot emphasize that point enough. For a young person with a hidden condition they don’t entirely understand, going through life without support can be the equivalent of being marooned on a deserted island… granted, not quite on the same level as Tom Hanks in Cast Away, but the principle still applies.
In hindsight, it helped that Paul was on hand to lend his in-depth knowledge of Talent Match to the audience, illustrating the wider goals of the project and his role in it.
Some of the people in the room were already supporting people with hidden conditions and our talk gave them a bit of perspective on the wider scale of the issue.
We also took the time to emphasize Talent Match’s shelf-life, ending in December 2018 and talking about wanting to achieve enough by that point to warrant a legacy, with employers poised to play a key part in that.
Ironically, the most rewarding part of the session came after it had ended. People were coming up to me and asking for advice on how to support their own clients and even family members with hidden conditions. As someone who is NOT a medical practitioner and relies on much of his knowledge from online case studies, the internet and his own experiences, it was both a privilege and a worry. It was a major sign that the audience was invested in our mission, but I wanted to make sure I gave them the right advice.
Luckily, I had arranged with Zoe to send out some handouts of my 7 Tips Guide to give them a basic idea for support.
With two batches of Business Mentors reached, we are moving even closer to our goal of getting into an employment organization and working our magic…
…said magic does not include waving a wand shouting, “Wingardium Leviosa!”, by the way. We’re not wizards. Be nice to magic up some solutions, but we can’t all be Harry Potter…