Greetings, readers! Welcome to Hidden Talent’s 50th blog post! It feels like only yesterday when I first put finger to keyboard and putting Hidden Talent’s mission online for the world to see.
We have tried to go emphasizing the issues with hidden conditions every which way, including, but NOT limited to:
- Highlighting the benefits of certain conditions
- Drawing attention to the issues young people with hidden conditions in the harsh world of employment
- Reporting on events ran by Hidden Talent
- And of course, trying to steer people away from the word ‘disability’.
Now, we would like to achieve many things with this project, having acted on various principles, but ironically, the biggest thing we want to achieve is something that we can ALL relate to.
Paid work. We all need it. And Talent Match clients are no exception.
But for many young people, paid work is constantly elusive. Getting paid work is like trying to catch a Road Runner – although, believe me, catching the Road Runner feels like a much more reachable goal.
It feels unattanable, not on the same level as the Holy Grail… although if you were fortunate enough to get it, I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard a choir in the background.
One big barrier to paid work that many people with hidden conditions face is the social exclusion. They don’t often have a lot of the typical day-to-day experiences as everyone else, partly down to social anxieties and partly down to finances. As such, they aren’t going to have stored up much experience with certain aspects of the working life, most notably the job-seeking process. In fact, scratch that, good chances are that that they have likely stored up NO experience.
That inexperience doesn’t always sit well with an employer, who may feel more comfortable with taking on someone with an established working history.
And whenever a young person walks away from an interview for whatever reason – be it inexperienced or under-qualified – it’s not just the paid work they’re walking away from.
It’s the opportunity to develop.
The opportunity to develop new skills, to gain new experiences and to grow as a person.
I have been working with Talent Match for nearly two years at the time of writing and have been in my current contract for just over a year. Before I came into this role, I had given up all hope for finding paid work. I felt that it was going to be something constantly out of reach, like a museum exhibit, staring out at you, luring you in, but denying you the opportunity to reach out and sample it yourself. For many young people, that paid work is almost always a fantasy and seldom a reality.
And that’s the biggest casualty of prolonged unemployment. Your development becomes stunted. You can’t move forwards, or backwards. It’s as if your lifetime process had a button and some unseen hand pressed it.
If you wanted to paint a mental picture of unemployed life, imagine being adrift at sea, struggling to stay afloat and waiting for someone to come along to throw you a lifeline until you just get tired of trying to stay afloat. You end up sinking into despair of the invisible restrictions life is placing on you. And believe me, for people with hidden conditions who are more prone to anxiety than others, that pit of depression can feel quite inviting after a while.
Now, I know we live in a society of apprenticeships and internships. But let’s be honest, neither of these things are known for their longevity. It’s often a case where you come in, do your work and leave with the expectation that you will go on to pastures new, revitalized by your brief experiences, those short, but sweet months the key to opening many doors of life…
…at least that’s how life would work if we lived in a fantasy world. The reality? Not so much. That brief taste of paid work was your much-needed lifeline. And you’ve got to let it go. And at that time in your life, it’s not as if you’ve got opportunities dropping off a conveyor belt. Apprenticeships, internships and volunteering might work well as a temporary solution and look good on your CV, it doesn’t really allow you the opportunity to plan for the future…
And therein lies the problem. YP need permanent contracts to sustain themselves in the long run, but the contracts are seldom permanent. How is anyone supposed to prepare for the future if their best (and in some cases, only option) is a shelf life?
There are even further consequences from moving on at what feels like the speed of light. Young people like to feel integrated with the workplace, to be able to be accepted by the staff for who they are, and know that there’s a mutual understanding between yourself and your colleagues. But YP are only going to be able to gain that confidence if they are embedded into the team on a permanent basis. These skills take time to develop, varying depending on the YP. And with hidden conditions, yes, this does involve nurturing them and helping them to overcome social anxieties. And believe me, our generation is riddled with them.
But they can overcome them. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they can overcome them. They just need a stable, permanent platform on which to do it.
When I first started working with Workvine, I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that I had to go to the extreme just to justify sitting in the same room as everyone else, but
But this job has given me a much greater awareness both of life and myself. It has done wonders for my social skills and emotional development (although I still give the impression of having been born with my foot in my mouth). I feel much more confident in my abilities and a lot of that is because Emma Southern and Adrian Hobbs of Talent Match and Workvine.
Workvine has engaged me and helped me to bring the best in myself. It hasn’t always been easy, but at least I haven’t stressed Adrian out to the point where he’s hired an exorcist on retainer, although I do feel mildly edgy about being seated next to a window (Adrian, if you’re reading this, don’t get any ideas!). And believe me, my peace of mind is a lot more intact knowing that I’m not operating on a countdown.
All it takes is a decent employer willing to give you a chance to grow and come into your own.
And that is how far the hidden condition population is from where I am. Just one open-minded employer.
And once YP have that stepping stone they can start moving forward, developing new skills, lining their pockets, improving their prospects, overcoming any emotional or social barriers they have faced previously, now in the right environment to attain these things. A very wise man once told me that young people who struggle with aspects of mental health benefit from paid work because it gives them a sense of structure to their lives and it makes them feel like they belong somewhere. But most importantly of all, paid work doesn’t just help them plan for the future.
It gives them a future to plan for.
Confidence is like a plant. Granted, it doesn’t need water or sunlight, but it requires something to help it grow. And paid work and the stability that comes with it help a YP’s confidence blossom and they will gain the confidence to take on new challenges, experiences new experiences, and achieve great things in their lives, just like everyone else.
And it’s all part of the booster provided by paid work.