The transition into full-time employment: Reflections from an Expert by Experience

Bev Hardman, Lead Engagement Worker for the Inreach/ Outreach workstream with Birmingham Changing Futures Together reflects on her own recovery journey and the transition into full time employment.

I never thought that I would be able to gain and sustain full time employment. After many failed attempts including disastrous, traumatic and unsuccessful job interviews, my mind was firmly made up that this was the beginning of the end. Managing my anxiety was the barrier to me getting off benefits and into work. During this time, my anxiety was crippling and debilitating, virtually rendering me speechless.  I knew I had to put a positive spin on things and thought “what advice I would give to someone else in my position?”.

I began volunteering with Birmingham Changing Futures Together and became an Expert by Experience (EbE). This involved me sharing my own lived experience to help support systems change and change the way services are designed and delivered. I was also allocated an Engagement and Development worker who supported me with my involvement within the project and personal development.  As well as being super busy within the project this also helped me to identify what I needed to become job-ready. I was supported with mock job applications, mock interviews and began to develop my IT skills. I was also involved with recruitment panels and helped shortlisting applications. This really helped me to identify and learn what a successful application looked like.

I realised the key to my dilemma was to have faith and belief in myself which felt incredibly hard to achieve after previous knock backs and rejection. I felt like sacking off the whole idea of working, as well as my own recovery. Luckily for me, I had a strong positive support network around me that brought me back from the brink of disaster and stopped me from pushing the self-destruct button. All of the things that I was putting in place and working on began to inject some positivity and I soon began to believe that I might be able to successfully gain employment.

The big day had arrived, I’d been offered an interview for a Project Support Assistant within the Inreach/ Outreach work stream at Birmingham Changing Futures Together. Contrary to my belief, I excelled in my interview and was successful in getting appointed. That was two and a half years ago, I am now successfully sustaining employment and with various support I am exceling in my development. I have even progressed in my role which is reflected within my increased working responsibilities and new job title, Lead Engagement Worker.

Our Inreach/ Outreach team work with those experiencing multiple disadvantage at crisis points in and around Birmingham. We are currently working with West Midlands Police, schools and GP’s and supporting various Neighbourhood Policing Teams in and around Birmingham. 

All my hard work has finally paid off and most of all I feel like I have achieved another milestone in my life. So here’s to the next stage in my journey!