19959417_1783188515326616_434667666338886138_nClick here for Part 1

Hidden Talent had finally managed to break into the Job Centre. And no, we didn’t steal anything… unless you consider inside knowledge… but NOT along the lines of corporate espionage.

I digress. Two days after our first and VERY successful Job Centre session, we had a second session lined up, with a fresh batch of Job Coaches prepped as our audience.

We rode for Coalville on 12th July 2017, filled with anticipation and an energy that could barely be contained… although for my part, that might have been down to the sugar rush.

The team this time round consisted of Emma Southern, myself and my brother Chris. It was like having Thor and Loki in the same room… only without trying to kill each other.

We arrived at Coalville Job Centre around half 10 to have a discussion with Vicky Barnes, who had thankfully been able to procure us a projector this time round.

Of course, this meant we had to partake in an unexpected game; the Seating Switcheroo.

We had to spend a fair bit of time pondering whether we wanted to style the seating as in-house cinema or group therapy.

Once the group was finally settled, we kicked off. We worked through the same format as we did the day before, eg, the nesting doll that was Hidden Talent that was Talent Match Leicestershire, our mission to bring hidden conditions into the workplace, be it in terms of awareness or actual employees.

With the addition of the slides, we were able to paint a more diverse picture of the various hidden conditions and their most recurring traits. But we tried to get across that these traits are not typical of EVERY person with a hidden condition. The last thing we needed was the Job Coaches thinking of autistics as some undiscovered number cruncher or a bipolar as an emotional time bomb constantly going off or an ADHD individual having more bounce than a pogo stick.

Given that we were trying to provide the most diverse image of hidden conditions, we felt we needed to include the positives and break down any stereotypes before they could set in. A key method of achieving this was through Danny’s Game, in which the Coaches would guess which celebrities had which conditions and what was the odd one out. We managed to get across the notion that despite the stereotypes circling these conditions, these people had gone on to achieve great things with their lives. And at some point in their careers, the Coaches could come across an equally capable and talented individual.

Which led into our next point about finding the right job for people with hidden conditions. Before they would have specific skillsets and even more specific support needs, they would benefit from a job tailored to their needs and talents as opposed to going for a random job. For many young people with hidden conditions, chasing after in-work support almost starts to feel like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. If a young person went for the first job they see that wasn’t matched to their abilities and wasn’t properly equipped to support them, then you’d probably have a maximum of a month before they crash and burn back to Square 1. Which is why if they’re going to enter the workplace and start a potential career, they NEED the right job. I’d say that was the biggest thing we tried to get across in our presentation.

Chris’ presence meant that we were also able to touch upon the subject of mental health NOT illness. Chris emphasized that because mental health is such a vast subject, it doesn’t always make it easy to describe in simpler terms or provide structured support, an issue that he was all too aware of based on his own experiences, having previously received minimal support for his anxiety episodes when trying to break into the workplace.

Given that he has had minimal experience in this area before, Chris was a subliminal speaker, drawing the audience’s attention to an issue that has seldom received notice, heralding a major step forward for Hidden Talent’s championing of positive mental health. It was a real joy to be presenting alongside my brother. We both came at the topic from different angles, never yin and yang, able to enrich each other’s points.

Of course, when you’re throwing a load of info in someone’s direction, you should normally know when to tone it down a little… unfortunately, I don’t possess such a filter, and thus moved onto the 7 Tips for Supporting Hidden Conditions Through the Job Seeking Process:

  • Ask About Conditions, NOT Disabilities
  • Bring in an Accomplice to Articulate
  • Find Out About Support
  • Find Out How Skills and Traits Go Hand in Hand
  • Support Them Through Online Job Browsing
  • Understand Possible Limitations
  • Support AND Develop Them

Once again, we capped off the session with the Condition Support Challenge. I imagine it might have been a bit bewildering that we had gone from providing information to seeking it. But, we emphasized, that as always, Hidden Talent is as much a learning curve for us as it is for the people we speak to. And even the supposed Fountain of Knowledge needs the occasional top-up.

These two sessions have been a major breakthrough for Hidden Talent. The session prompted some insightful discussions with the Job Coaches about awareness, potential support and finding jobs suited to their talents. Our research has been enriched by the feedback we have received and will be able to channel our approach for future events. Coalville’s Job Centre was for us, the epitome of what a Job Centre should be and Vicky Barnes and her team are a real credit to their profession.

A big thank you to Vicky and all of her team for accommodating us throughout those two days… and of course, for not chasing us out of the building with torches and pitchforks to the tune of some cheesy getaway music…

Click here for Part 1

(photos provided by Emma Southern)



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