20032060_1782233905422077_5784528351254063141_nRight from the beginning, Hidden Talent has been looking to get into the Job Centres.

Having consulted with young people, members of the public and employers and gathered a lot of research to support us with our project, Job Coaches were our next target… audience! Target audience, need to get that across before anyone starts mistaking us as assassins.

However, it has been a bit of an uphill struggle to get Hidden Talent into a Job Centre. At times, Tom Cruise breaking into the Kremlin in Mission Impossible felt like a breeze compared to getting into a Job Centre. But finally, we got our wish.

On Monday 10th July 2017, the team gathered together to set out on a long, audacious journey that could test our limits… basically, we all just bundled into a car and drove to Coalville.

The Hidden Talent team consisted of Talent Match Leicestershire Manager Emma Southern and myself, as well as two new presenters; my younger brother Chris, who would be talking alongside us, and Kate, one of the originators of the Hidden Talent project and who first helped to get it off the ground.

We arrived at Coalville Job Centre where we were taken up to the room we’d be presenting in. We had some time to prepare before our audience arrived.

Now, we had initially planned a presentation to show the audience, taking them through the in’s and out’s of Hidden Talent with a swift PowerPoint showing the project in all its visually-captured glory… at least we would have done if we had access to an actual projector. The projector was being used in another room, and since commandeering it was not on the cards, we had to rely on the printed renditions I had bought with me… it felt like going back to the Stone Age(!)

The audience of 10 Job coaches arrived, settling into the room, and we were off.

Emma commenced the session with an overview of Hidden Talent, which was a part of Talent Match Leicestershire, which was a part of The Prince’s Trust, or vice versa. It felt like describing a Russian nesting doll in reverse order.

I then kicked off the presentation with a run-through of Hidden Talent’s goals before showing them how ‘hidden’ some conditions actually are with an activity based around films featuring hidden conditions.

Now, unfortunately, three years spent studying Film Studies can leave you with the presumption that everyone else is equally tuned into the film trends. So, featuring Take Shelter, an independent sci-fi film featuring schizophrenia and expecting everyone to be familiar with it, probably wasn’t my smartest move. Luckily, the group faired better with examples like Shrek, Percy Jackson and Rain Man. I even found the time to fit in my endless endorsement of Silver Linings Playbook.

We moved onto the damage done by the word ‘disability’ and how the overuse of it had clouded people’s judgment and a major part of our work was moving towards highlighting the skills and capabilitles people possess regardless of hidden conditions and the difficulties that may come with them.

We emphasized the three categories in which hidden conditions typically affect people:

  • People who had hidden conditions, but could still function with day-to-day life.
  • People who benefit from traits emphasized by their conditions.
  • People whose hidden conditions make it difficult for them to lead an independent life.

We were trying to show people Door Number 4: people who had talents but were hampered by a lack of support.

We also took the opportunity to shed some light on issues surrounding mental health and how that can also impact people in ways not to dissimilar to hidden conditions.

And we had the perfect speakers on the subject in the form of Kate and Chris.

Kate had been diagnosed with autism and borderline personality disorder (BPD), which impacts how people interact with others. Common traits of BPD can include is bouts of emotional instability, feelings of isolation and emptiness, and impulsive behavior. Kate had spent many years struggling with her mental health and admitted that at times she had found it difficult to imagine a job where she would be supported, and yearned to be accepted for who she was. And yet, Kate has made many remarkable achievements in her life. She is studying for a degree which has allowed her to capitalize on her passion and skill for photography, demonstrating a key visual eye and insight. She was also instrumental in getting the early renditions of Hidden Talent in place.

Chris, had struggled with anxiety and depression for the better part of five years, and hadn’t necessarily received the support he’d needed. And yet, he has a lot to offer a company, with an incredible talent for graphic design that was completely self-taught.

The coaches were quite taken in with Kate and Chris’ stories and it was also a major insight boost for Hidden Talent given our desire to branch even further into the mental health impact. These two were the perfect examples of people had struggled and yet could still thrive as well as anybody else if given the chance.

To cap off the session, we concluded with the Condition Support Challenge: five scenarios focusing on a different hidden condition with the intention of gauging potential support. Since the last time I had ran the Challenge, I had learned not to leave myself to the mercy of Post-Its and ensured that I had had some spare paper with me.

The Challenge produced its best results yet, with a number of ideas for careers the case studies could attend and the support they would benefit from.

The session was a hit with the job coaches, who took onboard all that we were saying and appreciated the angle we were coming from. I had also taken the liberty of putting together a guide for the coaches with a few general support tips on hand. There was a shaking of hands, an exchanging of contact details, testaments to a productive and successful session. Having waited a long time to get into a job centre, this is probably how Frodo and Sam felt when they finally reached Mordor. Finally, a big thank you to Vicky Barnes for hosting us for the day and making a much-desired target of our project a reality.

And so concludes Hidden Talent’s first visit to a job centre.

The first, but definitely not the last…

Click here for Part 2

(photos provided by Emma Southern)


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