Tag Archives: Mentor

Diary of a job hunter with cerebral palsy: interviews

Self-confessed ‘geek’ Jessica Talbott has three degrees in maths. She’s just finished a short contract for a great company where she could work from home, but now she’s on the hunt for a permanent job again. 

She’s writing a series of blogs for us about her search for work: job applications, interviews, rejections, warts and all. Here she talks about her experience of taking her dad along to interviews as her interpreter. 

Growing up with unclear speech

I used to filter friends according to whether they took the time to listen that bit more carefully to what I wanted to say. Children do everything at 100 miles an hour, so I never blamed the ones who wanted to move on to the next game. Now, my partner understands every word, and I realise that I took people not understanding the odd mutter for granted, because he knows when I’m being rude – it’s very unfair!

Preparing companies ahead of my interview

Jess smiling, and sitting in front of her desktop computerI don’t need an understanding friend when I go for a job interview; I just need a person who sees enthusiasm, intellect and commitment. As I mentioned in my last blog, I’m a bit of a stalker. In my experience, it’s better to email companies directly to offer assistance and to explain about my disability. If they want to meet, I clearly reiterate that my speech is unclear, and that I need an assistant to accompany me in case they struggle to understand at first. It’s important it shows I care about making it easier for them, and not that I’m special and need some kind of entourage. My dad or stepmum help out on these occasions – they are both professionals and are really supportive. I try to keep it from the company they are my mum and dad,  but dad sometimes slips! Besides, the chances of me having a 60-year-old male carer are quite slim, so I’m sure they guess.

Getting ready to impress

My voice is negatively affected by fatigue, anxiety and stress. Interviews clearly stir up the latter two to a great degree if I’m not careful. And if I’m anxious and stressed I don’t get much sleep, so it’s really important I keep calm. The day before the interview is about relaxing; I try to do all preparation before then and get a lot of rest and sleep.

Overcoming obstacles

You learn tricks over the years when you have speaking problems; if people don’t understand something, you re-phrase the statement or use more simple words. In an interview, ideally you don’t want to simplify things, as you want to demonstrate you know the technical language of the business.

I tend to brief my dad on words or concepts that I might want to bring up, but sometimes even he finds it hard if it’s a word unfamiliar to him. One time I was determined to ask an intelligent question using various buzz words, but was forced to simplify due to the interviewers knowing the word, but not understanding my voice, and dad knowing my voice but not the word!

Be flexible and resourceful

Each interview is different. Some ask about the practicalities of you working with them, so it’s important to know what you’ll need and where to get it. Reassure them it’ll all be possible and their company will take on you, not a headache of sorting support out for you.

If luck isn’t on my side and I don’t get the job, I ask for feedback and make it clear I’d still be available for work. This takes a little bit of cheek, but I’m so glad my step-mum encouraged me, as it got me two short-term contracts this year. It’s good to take the feedback and brush up on skills they feel you lack, as it shows you’ve listened.

My four month contract that just ended was great. Lots of people worked from home, so practicalities were never an issue. I could take part in conferences and meetings via phone or messenger. Yes calls were hard but being so junior didn’t really need to speak up at meetings! Over time my colleagues got used to my voice and were good at using email rather than the phone when communicating with me. Once my foot was in the door, my work spoke for me and I was just another colleague. In fact, due to staff leaving, I pretty much had my own project.

Enjoy it!

Above all, enjoy it! I love what I do, so I get in the zone and show them Jess the mathematician, not Jess with cerebral palsy and dad in the corner.

If you would like to chat to Jess, you can join her on our online community. 

And if you’re disabled and looking for work, check out these great employment tips.

To volunteer or not to volunteer – that is the question

A guest blog from a volunteer at Scope’s Our Generation project.

I became a volunteer Mentor over 4 years ago after being made redundant from my job as a sales manager for a construction company. I had been doing this for over 23 years and loved it, so being made redundant was tough.

I have always felt I should try to embrace change as I have found good things can often come out of bad. I felt I needed to do something to keep my mind active so I decided to give volunteering a try.

Even though I have spent most of my adult working life being in front of people, I was quite daunted at the prospect of going to meet total strangers.

As it turned out I really enjoyed the training and met some really lovely people. My Mentees have been so varied, people from all walks of life, facing a diversity of challenges many of which I had never considered.

I do believe that the people I have encountered have made as much of a difference to me as I hope I have made to them.

I still keep in touch with several of them and meet up with them as time permits as for some strange reason they want to keep in touch with me!

So if you are in any sort of doubt, give it a try. Realise what you can give with your time and see how much you get out of volunteering!

Sue’s story

Guest post from Sue who is a mentor at Scope’s Our Generation project.

I became involved with the Our Generation Project after being with the mentoring scheme through Scope for about three years. After I lost my husband I needed to fill my time. Initially it was to help me stop thinking about my loss but I also realised that I could use my experiences to help others. 

I would soon meet my first mentee. We went shopping one week and on alternate weeks we met at the office to improve his reading and writing skills. Eventually, he decided to go on to college which was very pleasing to me. I felt I had helped a little on his path to improving his life.

Then I met two people who had suffered breakdowns and who were not coping so well. One became a close friend; we still meet every week to chat and shop. The other liked to walk, so we would walk around the local lake.

My latest mentee has been house-bound after suffering a stroke. We enjoy a chat every other week. We are now looking into what we can do to help him get out and about.

We talk a lot, something I have always been good at, and I hope I give him something to look forward to when we meet. He usually seems more cheerful when I leave. That may be because he is glad of a break from my talking, but I hope not!

I have really enjoyed meeting new people through the Our Generation Project. It’s been really rewarding for me knowing that, in a small way, I can support people to feel more confident in achieving their goals and improving their lives.

Our Generation is a free mentoring and befriending service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over the age of 50.

A question of confidence

A guest blog from a volunteer at Scope’s Our Generation project. 

After two bouts of illness earlier in the year, I found I had lost my confidence and was struggling with anxiety and depression. The Health and Wellbeing visitor called and referred me to Our Generation Mentoring and Befriending Service. I hadn’t heard of the service and to be honest, I didn’t know what mentoring was. The Scope Co-ordinator called and explained everything. They matched me with my Mentor and we met at the office, which felt safe for our first meeting.

The meeting went very well and my Mentor really made me feel at ease. One of the things which we discussed was that I should like help to become more computer literate as my daughter is living overseas and it would help us to keep in touch. I made such good progress I surprised myself and have even bought an i-pad! My confidence in using it increases with each meeting. I have found that this increased confidence has permeated other areas of my life and I am now able to meet my Mentor in town.

Every two years I visit my daughter. I am due to go next year but the anxiety and depression I have experienced has made the lone journey seem incredibly daunting. However, since working with the Our Generation Mentor I can feel my confidence returning and I’m beginning to really look forward to this years visit.

I recently attended the Our Generation Xmas party which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have believed that I could have the confidence to go along on my own.

The Co-ordinator has suggested I attend the Mentoring Skills Training Course at the office as my next challenge and I surprised myself by saying that I’ll think about it!

Fabienne’s Story

Guest post from Fabienne who is a mentor at Scope’s Our Generation project.

A few years ago, I made the brave decision to leave my job of many years as a classroom teacher. Without realising it, I had gradually developed a range of negative and self-destructive thoughts and feelings about different aspects of my work. It took time and effort to acknowledge the outcome of my decision. I was unable to see my situation clearly and I found myself engulfed in a storm of unhealthy emotions: anxiety, fear of the future, guilt, worthlessness, an overwhelming feeling of failure and my inability to find any good, positive achievements in my life.

I knew deep down that I had to try to be proactive, so I requested from my GP, and received some outside support, which showed me some positive ways to start moving forward. One of the professionals told me about the work that the Our Generation Project and suggested paying them a visit.

After talking to one of the coordinators, I decided to register with the service as mentee. I felt that this was an opportunity not to be missed, something I had not tried before, and something which fitted well with my aim of keeping an open mind.

Over the course of year, I received regular support from two different mentors. They both gave me a listening, understanding and empathetic ear. Every meeting, I was encouraged to talk freely and at my own pace, without judgement or pressure. I was encouraged to develop my own coping strategies and to acknowledge my on-going progress. I received support in identifying my short-term and long term-goals, as well as workable ideas for self-development and relaxation techniques, run by the WEA, and both courses played an important part in my progress. I was able to practice and apply a range of the techniques in my daily life.

As I write this, I have managed to continue to develop some private tuition and to rebuild my confidence in teaching. I am working as a church volunteer in the community café in the village where I live and have really enjoyed being involved in something entirely new while meeting new people and making new friends. And I am currently in the process of completing a mentoring/befriending training course for Scope’s new project called Silver Dreams – Our Generation.

I would like to be able to give something back to a wonderful service and I would like to express my grateful thanks for all the guidance and support I have received from my mentors and from the coordinators who have helped me to start believing in myself.

Our Generation is a free mentoring and befriending service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over the age of 50.