If you read my blog regularly, then you’ll know that in January 2019, I started volunteering for a neurodivergent recruitment agency called Exceptional Individuals. This became a part time paid role for a probationary period for six months in June 2019 and it’s my first part time paid job in three years (I worked as an Avon representative from 2011 to 2016 alongside college and university, although my Avon job was both self-employed and part time).
Here are some lessons I have learnt along the way both as a volunteer and a part time paid employee:
- You might not have time for everything outside of work. When I started volunteering for Exceptional Individuals, I worked on two days a week. This still gave me time for my YouTube and my blog; however when I started working three days a week on a paid basis, I found that I had less time to edit YouTube videos (I take a long time to edit them) and write my blog. I ended up taking a break from YouTube throughout the month of June 2019 so I could focus more on my role and I even went on holiday to South Shields with my parents in the last full week of June. Hopefully as my paid role continues, I can find time to edit a backlog of videos that I filmed from as early as last year on my days off.
- Christmas Eve needs to be booked for annual leave. As a part time employee for six months to begin with, I am entitled to eight days of paid annual leave for this period. I have taken three days off so far as part of my South Shields trip and decided to take some days off over Christmas because my parents have booked another Christmas break at Warner Leisure Hotels Holme Lacy House Hotel. When I contacted one of my fellow team members about Christmas annual leave, I assumed that Christmas Eve was a bank holiday until she told me it wasn’t and I needed to book it as a day off. I have since booked this day off as well as a few other days over Christmas.
- You can work from home if you think working in the office would be more difficult on some days. At the time of writing this post, I work two days in the office and one day at home. There was one day of my paid role where I decided to work from home instead of the office because it was the anniversary of my grandma’s passing and I was worried that certain things would trigger me to or from work, such as people talking aggressively on the bus whether on the phone or to fellow passengers (I have had the misfortune to put up with this twice, which led me to get off the bus and catch another on one occasion and move seats when I could on another). When one of my friends died nine years ago, I decided to take the day off my part time art class because I was also worried about things triggering me on my way to and from the class and I needed to come to terms with her loss. Another good time to work from home instead of in the office would be when a tube strike takes place because it would make travelling to and from work very difficult and stressful. Working from home if needed is one of the best reasonable adjustments as part of my job.
- Staying awake in meetings means being respectful and attentive towards others. Every Monday morning at 10.30am, a team meeting takes place. I took part in a few meetings during my volunteering phase, but in May 2019 I decided not to take part in them anymore because I found it hard to stay awake in one of them. After that particular meeting, the founder of the agency said he noticed I was drifting off during the meeting and he advised me that had I tried to stay awake, I would have come across as more respectful towards other team members because it would have shown that I was listening to them or getting as much out of the meetings as I could. I still take part in other kinds of meetings occasionally, especially those about the progress of my current project because they tend to take place later on in the day when I am more likely to stay awake.
- Great minds think (and work) alike. One of the best things about working for a neurodivergent recruitment agency is that I get to work with like-minded people. Quite a few people I work with have some form of neurodiversity (one team member has both autism and dyslexia for example) and they have taught me about reasonable adjustments that work for them (for example, reading things on coloured backgrounds makes it a lot easier for those with dyslexia as opposed to reading them on white backgrounds – a project board on Monday.com has project stages such as, “Working on it,” in different colours for instance). People of neurodivergence make ideal emoloyees due to their creativity and superb problem-solving or observational skills. My fellow team members have been very understanding towards my needs such as wanting to have the scripts for a series of videos about autism projected onto the wall during filming so I don’t have to worry about memorising the scripts word for word (although I have a good memory for the most part, I worry about having to memorise large chunks of text off by heart), even though I know I can have the script in front of me when I record the voiceover for an illustrated whiteboard story about my life with autism.
- Volunteering could lead to permanent employment. While I started out as a volunteer, I heard that I could work for Exceptional Individuals on a paid basis through a scheme called ACE (Able, Capable, Employed) by Groundwork London for up to six months. When that probationary period is over, I might be able to continue working for the agency as a part time paid role. One of my fellow teammates also started out as a volunteer, but now he is working for the agency in a permanent role, so he taught me that I have potential to continue working for the agency in the not too distant future.
- If one project falls through, there is always the opportunity for another. When I began volunteering for the agency, my first project that was assigned to me was in collaboration with Aldi where I had to create an animation of talking vegetables that explain the recruitment process to neurodivergent people who are interested in working for them. Although I did some preparatory work for the project, the project itself was eventually called off. This is when I learnt I could move on and start working on another project to create an animated explainer video that explains what Exceptional Individuals do and how they were founded.
- Money is an object. You most likely would have heard the saying, “If money were no object…” several times already, which to me sounds like receiving an infinite amount of money. Even though I have started earning money on top of what I already receive on a weekly basis, I have learnt that I still need to be watchful of it and I should learn to put some money aside as emergency cash or to save it for something special. Therefore, money is still an object to me.
Exceptional Individuals: https://exceptionalindividuals.com
ACE (Able, Capable, Employed)/Groundwork London: https://www.groundwork.org.uk/Sites/london/pages/bbo-ace
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.