For any of you who read my first installment on Mailbox Monday earlier in the week, you might remember me mentioning that I had a job interview coming up this week. As I currently work part-time, I have been taking a lot of time to think about moving into full-time work within my current organization. For someone with any kind of disability, such a transition can be a big step and it was definitely something that I had spent a lot of time thinking about. Would I be able to cope with working full-time due to fibromyalgia? Would we be able to make alternate arrangements for Achilles as I’m currently his primary carer? Would full-time work actually help improve my health rather than negatively affect it? Would both me and my partner work full-time or would he have to leave his job?
There were lots and lots of questions to consider. For some people applying for full-time jobs is just a run of the mill thing for them but there are lots of people who have lots of other things to factor into their decision such as a disability or care arrangements. And of course, there is also the what if of not getting the job. After all of that time spent carefully arranging things, sorting out your own thoughts and preparing yourself for actually starting full-time work, it can be easy to overlook the potential for a negative outcome.
In the end, I did decide to apply for a full-time role for the job that I currently do as a part-time worker. I felt confident in my ability to do the job, supported by my colleagues and really looking forward to actually being able to get stuck into “normal” working life. Unfortunately, not only did I not get the job but my interviewers expressed “concerns” over some of my answers. During the phone conversation, I could barely hold it together enough to not break down on the phone or hang up so when I received my interview feedback I couldn’t even corral my brain or mouth into responding.
- Both of the pieces of feedback were a misinterpretation of what I had said during the interview – as someone with anxiety I can’t always give well-thought-out answers on the spot even if I do know the answer to the question
- I was told that there were candidates who were stronger than I was in the interview and who were more experienced than me in both aspects of the job (the job I already do)
- The only positive piece of feedback I received was about my customer service skills rather than anything to do with my work with dogs
- I was offered no other encouragement, no training plan going forward or encouraged to apply again for the role in the future when we’ve been able to get me some experience in the areas I wasn’t as strong in
Translation in my brain = not only are you not good enough to ever work full-time but you’re crap at the job you already do. And that also means that you’re a crap person who is useless, never going to get anywhere in life and should just give up and stop embaressing yourself.
I already have very low self-esteem so to hear unconstructive criticism with no follow-up support is a sure fire way to absolutely shatter any confidence I’ve worked hard at building up. Following that phone call, I spent the entire day crying, hardly moving from my bed, not eating properly, unable to leave the house and having to play video games all evening just to try and slow down my thoughts from their very steep decline. I struggled with thoughts of suicide, self-harm, paranoia… ultimately, I turned the entire thing in on myself.
This is a very common reaction for people with mental illness’. Everything feels personal and every feeling is amplified. I know that it can difficult for employers when providing feedback post-interview to unsuccessful candidates but it’s soul destroying for disabled candidates to not receive any support when being given bad news. This is the third time now that I have been rejected for a full-time position in jobs where I do actually have enough experience to do the job but each time I am turned down based on “concerns” which are almost always related to my compassion, empathy, and honesty – all three of which are traits associated with my autism.
I know that there will be other opportunities in the future, that I did the best that I could have done and it’s not my fault that I didn’t get the job but I am having a very hard time recognizing these things right now. It would just be really great if I could actually find an employer who is fully committed to diversity and supporting disabled employees.