By Megan Fernandes
Hi, my name is Megan. I am 24 years old and I work as a student adviser for a Student’s Union at a London University.
I have been working in this role for 3 years and this was the first job I have ever had.
Much of what made me pursue this job came from experiences I had at University. At University I studied Criminology and Sociology, and although at the time I didn’t know what job I wanted or could get with this degree, I knew I wanted to work in a job alongside supporting others so was open to looking up job roles that included this.
Once I completed my degree I sought help from different organisations who were linked to helping provide career and job advice to Visually Impaired people. One organisation I found particularly useful was Blind In Business. I attended a 2-day event with them where they provided a fun activity for all those who attended which for my group was water skiing. On the 2nd day, they ran workshops to help improve our interview skills. During the day we practise talking in front of the group and then they invited different organisations to let us do mock interviews with them. We were provided feedback and useful contacts as a result of these mock interview sessions which really improved my confidence.
I was then invited back a couple of weeks later to the Blind in Business office to work on my CV and talk through any potential applications I wanted to fill in. While I was there, I was given an opportunity to take some time to apply for 2 job applications.
After not hearing back from the 2 roles I had applied for. I felt very disheartened that not only did I not get called back for an interview, but that I also didn’t get any communication from those company’s at all. I had felt like I had put a lot of effort into the applications and I started to believe that the feeling of not being chosen is enough to put me off trying to apply so quickly for any more roles. However, I came to the realisation that if it was a job I really wanted then it is always worth trying than regret not applying at all. Which led me to focus on only searching for jobs I really wanted.
This actually led me to remember a comment one of my university friends had made about the welcoming experience she had from our University’s Student’s Union. A student’s Union within a university is there to provide impartial social and academic support for the students attending the university. As it was not owned by the university it usually consists of a smaller number of staff and more flexible working practises. I knew that as most student unions strive to be inclusive for the students they encounter, it must also be an inclusive place to work.
Now, having a better understanding of what sort of jobs I wanted to look for, I had applied for a role with my university’s students union, where I was called back for an interview but unfortunately, I was not successful. I had found the task very difficult as it involved me having to put a large list of tasks into the order of importance. What I did do, however, to improve my chances of being interviewed fairly was inform the recruiters of my visual impairment before attending the interview, which then meant that for my interview I was allowed extra time on the task as well as a reader.
I had also been called back for another interview for a different organisation to which I had applied, and although I was unsuccessful in this as well. I had learnt a lot about how to control my nerves for future interviews and instead they offered me a voluntary role due to them seeing how passionate I was about the position.
My 3rd interview was for a previous role at the student’s union I am currently working at, and like the first 2 interviews, I had informed the recruiters about my visual impairment. I have always been honest in my applications and interviews about my visual impairment. I believe that if a company does not want to consider me based on my disability then it is not a company I want to work for.
I was finally offered a job as Advice Administrator, which was the role I did before I moved up to Student Adviser.
I decided to accept the job based on many factors. This included my companies esurience that my disability would not affect my ability to thrive and learn the job as they have always been open about their willingness to support me. I had specifically chosen this role based on the hours they offered, as I knew this was my first job I did not want to assume or put too much pressure on myself to work a full working day. The location was close to my house and I had found a nice simple route, which I could easily do.
My manager later told me that one of the reasons my application/interview stood out from other applicants was based on some experience I had obtained through a micro placement I had undergone at Uni. At the time, I was very reluctant to try to find any experience to add to my CV, as I believed that without any previous paid experience like I felt most other Uni students have by that age that an unpaid experience wouldn’t put me in any better position for a job. When in fact I was then informed that this one experience gave me an extra uniqueness, which many of the other applicants did not have. To my surprise, I was also told that many of the skills I picked up as a result of being a visually impaired person meant I had a new and interesting perspective on life and work which other applicants didn’t have.
One thing I learnt after starting my role was that as soon as the job position is offered to you, you and your company are meant to get in contact with Access to Work straight away. As my manager and I were not aware of the process, we ended up arranging this a little late which then cause some delay in the process. This meant my new company had to spend some of their own money on an accessible keyboard as I informed them that this was something I needed in order to do my job.
I believe one of the hardest parts of the job so far is having to rely on other people to help me with any technical issues I have which are related to my assistive technology especially my on-screen magnifier. Even with my company having a tech support team I found that if my computer was not strong enough to handle certain programs I had to use In order to read text on my screen, my computer struggled to process things and would cause the magnifier to crash. Despite these technical issues, my manager has always been supportive, ensuring that this is fixed before I continue with work and has always given me the support I need to change hours and take longer breaks to rest my eyes. I found the more I was honest with my work about what I needed and how they can support me, the better experience I had.
To sum up, even though it has not always been an easy experience, I am happy to have found a job that I enjoy and am passionate about, surrounded by people and a company that support me. I know if it was not for the support I receive as well as the time I gave myself to find a job I really wanted, I believe my experience of applying and sustaining a job would have been a lot more difficult.