Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Tagged: disclosure

Living Successfully with Psychosis

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📥  Diversity, Tips & Hints, Uncategorized

This year I had the privilege of providing career support for Neal who has just completed his MA in International Security. It's not easy to live with a condition like psychosis and yet despite setbacks in his life, Neal recently started as a consultant for Alten. He kindly agreed to be interviewed and this is his story.

From the age of 14, I had started to feel unwell and then one day I found myself climbing on the school roof – I was completely deluded and didn’t know where I was. It was like watching the TV programme Quantam Leap or The Truman Show film with Jim Carey. Medics had no idea what caused this as I had never taken drugs, or alcohol and I was diagnosed as having psychosis. Fortunately, I didn’t suffer from any hallucinations, but I ended up being hospitalised for the next six months. I found myself being one of the first people to try Risperidone – an anti-psychotic drug which had great success. I guess during this time I was incredibly lucky and had a great childhood. I was one of seven children with very supportive parents but it was really hard for my parents to see me so ill. I was taken off the medications but then relapsed again at 16 and then 18. But despite everything, I still achieved 4 A levels ABCC from a State School. I somehow knew that Maths would open doors for the future. It was my best subject and I thought it would impress people. I was really happy to get to University of Bath to study Mathematics and Computing from 1998-2002. I spent my year placement at Motorola and then they sponsored me for my second year and final year which was excellent. Somehow, I had managed to get through university without telling anyone about my psychosis. I didn’t tell anyone because I was so worried about the stigma and how I would be received. I survived because I had the support of a long-term girlfriend and by getting a lot of sleep as the drugs made me feel so tired. I wasn’t sporty so didn’t do much exercise, but looking back realised that probably would have helped me. Anyway, I just paced myself and was glad to have got a 2:2. I was also very fortunate that I didn’t have any psychotic episodes during this time.

It wasn’t until the final week of my final year that I told my personal tutor about my mental health as I had asked him to be my referee for MBDA.  The tutor actually put on the reference – “this student is extremely good at keeping secrets!” MBDA (part of BAE Systems) offered me a job on their graduate scheme and I worked my way up to principal engineer on their missile systems. I had disclosed my disability when I joined and it had taken 11 months to get my clearance which came with certain restrictions on how I could work, but the organisation was always very supportive and wanted me to do well. I worked on some really interesting and diverse projects including an internship for RUSI (a big think tank).

Suddenly out of the blue in 2006 I had another psychotic episode and this time diagnosed as having Schizo-affective disorder with manic type, now labelled as Recurring Psychosis. I guess it may have been kicked started by the fact I had been under a lot of stress outside of work, and also my drug dosage had been reduced yet again. This time I was so bad that I couldn’t even look after myself and I was eventually sectioned 24/7 for six months. In this breakdown and other later breakdowns, I suffered with hallucinations and delusions.  It wasn’t a great time in my life and it was hard for my family who visited me regularly. I have never taken drugs (other than my medication), never smoked and never drank and yet here I was again.

My company were great and they paid me for those six months and then I went back to work. I worked successfully for another five years and I was still on medication but I hardly had any time off. Then in December 2011, I fell ill again and I just couldn’t get well and was sectioned three or four times and by October 2014 I lost my MOD clearance which was devastating as it meant I lost my job. Looking back this time, the doctors believe that I ended up with a chemical imbalance, as I was now exercising a lot and spending a lot of time in the gym and somehow this had diluted how the drug worked.

I was finally put on a new drug which is working really well and appealed to the MOD on my clearance but I couldn’t get it back. So in 2015/16, I decided to take some time out and went travelling.

I thought about what I wanted to do and realised that I had always had an interest in military science and I think my time at RUSI had inspired me on that as I would often attend lectures. I had always enjoyed reading magazines such as Foreign Affairs. It was a friend who recommended the Masters in International Security at University of Bath and so I thought “why not!”. I mainly did it out of interest and really enjoyed it although I found the essays hard though because with my STEM background I didn’t have that much experience. My dissertation was on The Ethical Mandate of Autonomous weapon systems in a UK context. If I ever manage to go back into the Defence industry, then I think my Masters will prove to be extremely useful.

What’s different about being at the University of Bath again for a Masters? Well, this time I decided to disclose my disability and it’s been really great to have support. I saw a Counsellor from Student Services every week who helped me to deal with any stress/anxiety I may have had on the course, although I do know that stress is not related to any relapse I might have in the future. I also used the Skills Centre and had my essays checked. As well as this I have used the Careers Service - a lot! I attended a workshop on Developing Resilience to Support your Career run by Careers and Student Services and found this particularly useful. I attended a webinar on To Disclose or Not to Disclose your disability which included information on where to find disability friendly employers. My personal view from having a mental health issue is to disclose after you get a job offer! However, I appreciate that for every individual this will be different. I also had several one to one appointments with a careers adviser. This was useful as I had thought about going on another graduate training scheme but realised through the guidance interviews that I had a load of experience and needed to find a higher-level role. As well as discussing career options, I used the career meeting to seek advice on improving my CV which was actually a challenge to do as a mature student and so the advice was useful. I eventually decided that my career goal was to be a consultant or chief engineer with a particular technical specialism. My longer-term career goals, well I have even thought about going into politics! I really admire those people going into politics later in life even if I might not agree with their political views. I’ve even thought about doing another degree in my spare time.

So, my advice to anyone who has a disability is to get the support you need but also get involved. This time round I joined the Debating Society and the Philosophy Club as well as took part in activities within POLIS attending extracurricular seminars on campus and also at BRLSI in Queen Square.  Don’t be secretive either about your condition. I don’t publicise my disability but I will talk about it if asked. The way people view mental health conditions is changing and I think high profile people like Stephen Fry help to do this. It’s really important when things get tough to look back at your previous achievements and remember what you have accomplished. Despite my condition, I have achieved a lot – a 2:1 for my final year project and I am very proud of my French GCSE. And just remember there is nothing wrong in being ill for a year – sometimes that just happens, or taking a gap year to recover. Don’t see these things as a fail – it will in the long term help you to do better grade wise. Repeat a year too if that’s the best thing for you. Most importantly, stick to your medication.

After CV checks/applications checks, and support I ended up with two job offers and had to book another careers appointment to help me with deciding which job! I have just started working with Alten – a multi-national software engineering consultancy and currently working for Rolls Royce designing engines for private jets – really interesting work. So as I start on another career journey, I hope my story will encourage you to do the same!

(For information on support offered by Student Services visit the Welfare and Wellbeing Advice Team. Drop in sessions run daily.) 

 

Being Transgender and Applying For Jobs and Placements

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📥  Advice, Applications, Diversity, Uncategorized

The other week I attended an excellent Equality and Diversity Forum that included a workshop delivered by a final year student on issues that can arise for transgender* students during their time at University. This student’s experience highlighted the stress of telling not only family and friends but also university staff, being concerned how she would be viewed, the difficulties of expressing how she was feeling and the support she would have liked. When asked about applying for jobs, this was seen as yet another hurdle to be taken at a later date. So I thought it might be useful to look at what help is out there, and what are the key issues for transgender students when applying for jobs, the protections you have legally and the choices you have. I have only touched on some issues but there are signposts to further reading and support available. (more…)

 

Should you disclose your sexuality?

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📥  Advice, Diversity, Tips & Hints

Within the careers service we understand just how difficult it can be to embark on your first internship, placement or graduate job. This anxiety can be amplified even further, if you're also worried about having to hide your sexual orientation or gender identity. I often find myself talking to students who aren't sure whether to disclose their sexuality or not. First and foremost, only you can decide whether or not to reveal your sexuality; it’s your personal life, and you have every right to keep it that way if you wish.

The main law relating to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is the Equality Act 2010. It provides the right not to be disadvantaged nor treated badly at work nor in education because of your sexual orientation. Therefore it is worth bearing in mind that you don't have to disclose your sexual orientation at any point during the recruitment process so don't feel like you need to include it in your CV, covering letter or application form. Much the same applies with interviews as with the application process.

You may also want to take your time and research the right employer, an excellent source of information and help when looking for positive employers is Stonewall. You may want to look at the 'Starting Out: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Careers Guide' and 'The Workplace Equality Index' which Stonewall publishes annually.

You may decide once you're settled in your new place of work that you'd like to be open and share your sexual orientation with your colleagues. Please do take a moment to read this excellent article by the Huffington Post on Coming out of the Closet. If you do decide to share your sexuality, these tips may help:

  • Make sure you’re emotionally ready to be known as your genuine self.
  • If there are other people “out” in your workplace already, maybe seek their confidential guidance in how they approached their own announcement.
  • Know your employer’s diversity policies. Do they have an LGBT group for example? May be worth contacting your HR department.
  • Do think about how others at work may react and your emotional response to their reaction.

 

How to interview well when discussing a disability

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📥  Advice, Diversity

GUEST BLOG: City Disabilities is a charity set up to provide support and advice for students and professionals with disabilities, as well as employers. Liz Dawes has very kindly written a guest blog post which contains excellent advice on how you discuss your disability at an interview.

For more information about City Disabilities and how they can support you and details of their excellent mentoring programme, please visit their website.

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There is no legal obligation to disclose a disability at interview, and many people choose not to. For people whose disability is either obvious, or affects how they do their job, this choice is not available. That being the case, how do you discuss a disability at interview in a positive way, ensuring you are fairly assessed?

Focus on the job
Job adverts come with a person specification. The purpose of an interview is to discover if you fulfil that specification. Like any other candidate, concentrate on showing, through your answers, that you meet the person spec as advertised. If you don’t show how you fulfil the person spec, you won’t be offered the job.

How does your disability impact your work?
If you are going to discuss a disability, keep it in the context of how you will do your job. If you are asked about skills you have that are impacted by your disability, explain this in your reply. So to use a simple example, let’s imagine a person has some hearing loss, and the person spec requires them to use the telephone frequently. When asked about those skills, a candidate can say: “Because I have partial hearing loss, it can be difficult for me to hear conversations over the telephone.” They can then go on to explain what practical solutions will work best for them.

What solutions work for you?
Think through the ways an employer can offer you reasonable adjustments at work, and explain this to them once you have raised your disability. Demonstrate that you have thought through what you need to do at work, and have found solutions to any issues. Consider advances in technology, practical matters of access, and the kind of support you might need. If an employer can see how adjustments can be made, they are more likely to consider you as a candidate. You will also be demonstrating that you are proactive, understand the job requirements, and have a practical approach.

No headlines
Try not to highlight disability as a big deal if you don’t need to. Put it into the context of the job you are being asked to do, and show how it is a practical issue that can be dealt with. There is no need to give the impression that it is an issue, when it isn’t. Ask yourself: What part of the job does your disability affect, how does it affect it, and how do you propose to overcome this issue? This approach reassures an employer that you have thought about the job, thought about the person spec, are clear how you can fulfil the spec and so do the job, and will be a reliable employee.

Accentuate the positive
Employers often ask questions designed to show a candidates resilience, resourcefulness and dedication. Remember that candidates with disabilities have very often faced more hurdles and shown more determination that non-disabled candidates. Do not be afraid of pointing out the issues you have dealt with while still achieving the academic and personal success that has got you to the interview stage.

Beware of inappropriate reactions
Unfortunately some employers are not as good as they should be on these matters. If you encounter a negative reaction to your discussions, think carefully about the employer. If they see disability as a big issue you may find them hard to work for. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t work there, but if you do not believe the culture of an employer is the best for you, then you may not be happy.

 

Careers support for disabled students

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📥  Advice, Diversity

The careers team are mindful this is a really hectic time for a lot of you - some of you may be considering placements, applying for graduate jobs where as some of you may be trying to clarify your thinking about what you want to do. All this can sometimes feel really overwhelming... and more so if you have additional needs arising from disabilities and health conditions. You may be worrying about whether you disclose your disability and how employers may view this in the selection process.

Please let me assure you - there are lots of good, inclusive employers out there who will take on board individual circumstances, and will view your disability positively. My role in the careers service is to support you and I can help you in a number of ways such as:

  • discussing when to disclose
  • clarifying reasonable adjustments and helping you to explain these to potential employers
  • helping you to identify inclusive employers

To book an appointment  please contact the Careers Service or email me, Saiyada Fazal, directly at s.fazal@bath.ac.uk. Our conversation is confidential. Do also keep an eye on our events programme; for example next Wednesday, 28th October, City Disabilities will be delivering a webinar on disclosing your disability from 1.15-2.05pm. We also blog useful advice and opportunities so keep checking back.

 

 

Dyslexia is Richard Branson's greatest business advantage!

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📥  Advice, Diversity

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This morning I came across this article, in which Richard Branson explains why he considers dyslexia his greatest business advantage. He says having dyslexia strengthened his communication skills and credits it with another of his signature management techniques: the habit of always taking notes. He writes in his 2014 book "The Virgin Way" that he learned as a child that if he ever had a chance at remembering anything, he'd need to jot it down. To this day, he says he carries a notebook everywhere.

He goes on to say, "if you are dyslexic, it is important that you do not allow yourself to feel inferior just because you can't spell every word in the dictionary. Vary your activities and interests so that you can uncover your strengths". According to the NHS, approximately 10% of the British population has dyslexia, to some extent, making it one of the most common learning difficulties. Yet students and graduates with dyslexia often worry about informing potential employers of their condition. In a blog post a few months ago, we talked about how you can harness dyslexia to give you an advantage when job hunting.

If you would like to discuss the pros and cons of disclosing dyslexia to potential employers or would like help with any aspect of job hunting, please book a quick query and chat to one of our expert careers advisers.

 

Disclosing your disability to employers

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📥  Diversity

This afternoon we delivered our first Webinar as part of the Enable Careers Programme. We talked about whether you should disclose your disability, long term health issue or mental condition to an employer.

We understand whether you want to disclose a disability to a potential or current employer can be a difficult decision and is a very real worry for a lot of students looking to enter the workplace .  Whilst concerns exist about how disclosing an illness or disability may affect chances of a job offer, the landscape is slowly changing. The Equality Act 2010 seeks to protect candidates as it prevents employers from discriminating on the basis of a disability.

In regards to disclosure, we shared the following advice this afternoon:

  • Its your choice: you are under no obligation to disclose! It is your choice and you can chose to disclose when you want (at application stage, before or during an interview, when an offer is made or before starting work). Worth remembering, once you've told an employer about your disability, you’re protected by the Equality Act 2010. This means your employer must take all reasonable steps to provide the necessary adjustments and mustn't discriminate against you because of your disability.
  • Be prepared to discuss your disability: once you have disclosed you must be prepared to give the details of your disability and discuss the adjustments you require. Our advice is to be positive and offer employers guidance around the support you need.
  • Talk through the pros and cons: if you are unsure, please talk to Saiyada Fazal, our careers adviser who supports disabled students at Bath.
  • Be positive: when discussing your disability, emphasise the skills you have gained and ways you manage your disability.

You may want to explore the very comprehensive advice on the Target Jobs website.

Job hunting advice for dyslexic students and graduates

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📥  Advice, Diversity, Tips & Hints

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According to the NHS, approximately 10% of the British population has dyslexia to some extent, making it one of the most common learning difficulties. Yet students and graduates with dyslexia often worry about informing potential employers of their condition. According to TargetJobs,  you are not obliged to disclose dyslexia, especially if you feel it won’t affect your ability to do the job. ‘Disclosure is a personal choice and you have to decide what feels right for you.’ The equal opportunities section of application forms usually asks about ‘a long-term condition that affects you on a day-to-day basis’. If you’re applying for a job where your dyslexia won’t affect your ability to do the tasks every day, you might not feel that it is relevant.

I came across a really good blog post on Graduate Fog: Dyslexic Graduates: 6 job hunting tips you need to know about.  The writer acknowledges that “Being a dyslexic graduate can make a tough job market feel even tougher. Graduate applications, CVs, covering letters, assessment days and interviews are all more stressful if words swim on the page in front of you and reading, writing and spelling aren’t your strong suit.” But adds that “in some cases, having dyslexia can actually be an asset when job hunting – if you handle the situation correctly.”

The author then gives lots of useful advice on playing to your strengths in the job hunting process:

  • Be proud: Use experiences of managing dyslexia to demonstrate persistence
  • Help yourself: Keep exploring tools that can help you, talk to the Disability Advice Team at Bath for more information.
  • Present your disability as a positive: Don’t apologise, talk about your dyslexia with confidence
  • Know your rights: check out this super guide which has been produced by the Equality & Human Rights Commission. 
  • Play to your strengths: For example lots of dyslexics are creative, visual thinkers which are invaluable skills in the workplace.

Scott Bryan shares his personal experience of job hunting with dyslexia and offers some helpful solutions. You may also want to explore the advice and support available through the following organisations:

Adult Dyslexia Association
British Dyslexia Association
Dyslexia Action

 

Disclosure – Do you tell an employer about your disability?

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📥  Advice, Diversity

Disability Rights UK have put together a handy guide for students on how you tell people about your disability. However we understand that disclosing your disability to an employer is a cause for concern for many of our students. It is worth knowing that if you have a disability you are protected by the Equality Act 2010 which states that employers must not treat an applicant less favorably because of their disability.  The act also means that applicants can decide whether or not to disclose a disability on application for a job*.

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The Careers Service is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, 18th February  from 1-1.45pm.  This session will provide an opportunity for participants to consider the pro’s and con’s of disclosing a disability to an employer. We will also discuss the different stages of the selection process and provide guidance on when to disclose. The session will conclude with tips and advice so you feel confident discussing your disability. To sign up for webinar, please book through MyFuture

You may also wish to view this excellent video on disclosure which provides an employers perspective on how they view disabled applicants and employees.

*The exception to this where you must disclose is if  the job will involve putting you in situations where your disability could present a risk to the health and safety of you or your colleagues.