A bad but motivating experience

From a very young age, I had grand ideas of what my career would hold.  At one point, I wanted to be a teacher and then, mimicking my best friend, I had ambitions to become a vet. (even though at the time I had a fear of dogs!)  Nonetheless, creating a successful career was always a priority.  I was determined to work hard at school – after all, good qualifications guaranteed me a good career, didn’t it?

Of course, as a fairly niave little girl who had plans to conquer the world, I hadn’t even considered the challenges I would face as a result of having Cerebral Palsy!  Discrimination didn’t yet exist in my little world.  As I progressed through school and into further education, my life experiences had matured me a little and as I began thinking about my career, I realised I’d need more than qualifications to prove my worth to an employer.

I decided to do a 4 year sandwich degree at Oxford Brookes – my third year would be spent on a paid work experience placement.  I reasoned that with some real experience behind me, I would be much more attractive to an employer upon graduation and I could prove that my disability didn’t equal inability.  My next challenge would be to secure the placement.

Along with my fellow students, I began sending off my CV and filling out applications – I spent my days studying and my evenings job hunting.  During this time I faced an important dilemma – when to tell the employer I had a disability?  If I told them straight away, it might distract them from assessing my skills but if I didn’t mention it, it may be perceived as being dishonest.  It’s a dilemma many disabled people face and there’s no right or wrong answer.  (More advice on this to come in my “FlyingStart Toolkit” – coming soon!)

I eventually started securing some interviews and was quite confident when I secured one for a marketing agency near Oxford.  The interview went really well and I secretly left thinking I had the job in the bag.  My confidence was shattered a few days later when the employer emailed me to say I hadn’t got the job.  His reason?  His clients wouldn’t be able to understand my speech on the phone.  I was gutted and could hardly believe what I was reading.

After some reflection, I constructed a polite reply stating that I strongly disagreed with him – there were many ways in which I could successfully communicate including email, letters and with some client patience, on the phone.  At this point, I didn’t want the job, I wasn’t aiming to change his mind but I had to make my point.  I think I even told him he had just missed out on a great asset to his team!  Confidence which I didn’t feel at the time.

I went on to secure a position supporting disabled people into employment – perfect for me as I could emphasise with the clients.  Despite this and many other bad experiences, I’m grateful for them.  If it wasn’t for that employer, I might not have the drive and passion that I have now to help other businesses to embrace diversity and also to support individuals to overcome similiar barriers.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be starting to develop the “FlyingStart Toolkit” – a free resource for anyone looking for work.  I plan to bring together everything you need to find employment – watch this space!

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