The story of how I found inspiration in social policy and services for people with disabilities is detailed in the post, “To succeed… you need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.”
I was just being transferred to a new agency, where my manager asked them to meet with me on day one to discuss reasonable adjustments. I spent that first meeting detailing my conditions and how they impacted me, and the reasonable adjustments I’d had in place to help. They weren’t put in place. There isn’t a lot I can say from here, but within a month I was so stressed and ill, that one day when I was driving to work I thought I’d rather get into a car crash than go in for the day. Instead I headed to my GP, and she was shocked at the changes I’d undergone in a short term – and insisted on signing me off for a month.
Everyone wants to have a good relationship with their employee, and when you have a disability you have to fully trust they will do the right thing by you to enable you to carry out your job.
That sick leave lasted six months. I couldn’t get through a day without spending most of it sleeping. My pain levels were sky high. I stressed and worried about everything – it impacted every part of my life.
Towards the latter half of the six months I was off, I began to get back on my feet and began applying for jobs. None were really what I wanted to do. They all turned me down, all cited I was close, but not quite enough. I don’t know how much the fact I walk with a stick has to do with it, because you can never tell – but I honestly don’t think it helped.
I spent the month of January in a rehabilitation programme, detailed from here. Afterwards I saw a job being advertised and thought wow, if I had been asked to write a job description for my perfect job, it would look very similar to that.
The job was setting up and running a new community centre, particularly aimed at disabled and older people. It was all about bringing the community together, providing services they need and managing the staff already at the agency. I applied, and was offered an interview the next day. It would be a two stage process – touring the centre on the Wednesday morning, and meeting all the groups involved, and then a presentation and the interview on the Friday morning.
I was due back to work for the first time in six months on the Wednesday but not until the afternoon. The first interview at the centre began at 10.30am and I found there were just two other candidates and they were both there. I was scared of overrunning and being late for my first day, and I could see there was a lot going on and it was going to take awhile. I’d already told the manager running it I had to be at work in the afternoon, but at 11.20am I had to say look, I need to leave in ten minutes. I hated it, it made me feel like I was pushing to go and not interested.
We sat down as a group and they explained the history of the centre, that many groups were all involved and it had got very complicated. They wanted one person to come and sort it out and bring it away for the current older person usage, into something everyone could use and get something out of. The building was lovely, bright, airy and had so much potential.
There was some opportunity for questions, but one of the candidates kept jumping in. I wasn’t able to ask much, as she was much louder than me.
I left desperate for the job, it was perfect. But I worried I’d not come across right. I probably seemed quiet, and more interested in leaving, than someone passionate about the project.
I had my first afternoon back at work after the interview, and was shocked to find nothing had changed. It had taken six months to reach some kind of agreement to put adjustments in place – months filled with despair and disbelief, but it had all been for nothing. It strengthened my resolve.
I’d begun researching the second I found out about the job, and had spent every spare second I had finding out everything I could about the local area and other community centres, I’dr read the business plans of other similar community hubs and how it could work. I’d researched the Wellbeing Strategy by the County Council and looked at all kinds of partnerships that could be created in the area. I made a mind-map of all my findings (as that’s how I work) and it was the biggest mind-map I’ve ever made!
My presentation was ten minutes on how I’d prioritise my business plan for the centre. It seemed a lot at first, until I finished my research, and then it seemed an insanely small length of time.
I finished my presentation on the Tuesday night, and added some bits and pieces in Wednesday after the tour. It came to Thursday afternoon and was about to send it over when I realised it just wasn’t right. It wasn’t what I wanted to say.
I had an appointment that afternoon, and when I returned I manically re-wrote the entire thing. It felt much, much better.
I spent time researching ridiculously hard interview questions, and trying to prepare answers. I also prepared to tell them about my sick leave in the interview. It felt like I’d be removing every chance of me getting it, but felt I needed to be upfront.
My interview was at 9.30am, and it began with the presentation. I was nervous, and rushed, but it seemed to go well. They commented that I was a completely different person from the Wednesday, and asked if I’d been nervous. (Of course!)
The letter had said my interview would last an hour, but it seemed to flash by. None of those difficult interview questions came up, it seemed really basic and I was finished some time before I thought it would. At no point did an opportunity to discuss my sick leave come up, and I felt dishonest. I had prepared my list of references, but I’d only given the details of my manager before I’d been transferred, not after.
I’d only just met my fifth line manager since July on the Wednesday, which I explained to them, so felt my other references would be able to explain how I worked better. Just as I was leaving one of the interviewers said she knew the manager of the agency, and would be talking to him about me if I was offered the job. My heart dropped – he would tell her I hadn’t been there for six months, and there would go my job.
I came home and immediately tried to phone her so I could explain the situation, but I couldn’t get hold of her.
I left to go to work and spend the afternoon with butterflies beating my stomach up, never mind fluttering. I wanted the job so desperately, but I’d been incredibly nervous. The other candidates had seemed to come across better, and seemed more self-assured.
I suddenly realised she didn’t have my mobile number and being at work until 5pm, I’d probably miss the call telling me either way. At 4pm I emailed her, thanking her for the interview and gave her my mobile number in case of any questions.
I spent the next forty minutes jumping at every noise until my phone finally rang. I grabbed it and rushed out the office.
I knew from when I picked up it was bad news. Her voice was quiet, as she thanked me for having come in that morning, and for presenting to them. She sighed, and I tried to stop the tears – I had to go back into the office after all. She continued and said, “So I’m just calling to let you know… we would love to offer you the job.”
My heart soared, and she continued, apologising for being so cruel, she’d just enjoyed torturing me. She said my presentation had completely blown them away, and I had been so incredibly passionate and enthusiastic, that hadn’t needed to ask me many more questions. They had anticipated much of the interview as asking me questions about my ideas, but as I’ve covered everything already, they felt like they didn’t have to. She said if I brought even an ounce of the passion I’d shown that morning into the job she’d be thrilled.
I then told her I had to be honest, and explained about my sick leave and the reasons surrounding it. It was such a relief to tell her. She said she wanted to make sure the company offered me any support I needed straight away. She needed to contact my references and get a CRB check done, and then I’d be ready to go. She told me to go and celebrate with a drink or two.
I went back into the office shaking, trying to pull myself together. I had spent the afternoon mind-numbingly inputting data onto a computer. I was free, and had an awesome job to go to.
I just hope this is the start of fulfilment once again at work, with a purpose towards doing something I love.