Alex’s story: Finding my first job

Alex’s story: Finding my first job

I’ve never had a job before.

I was in formal education until 2014 when I graduated from University, and since then I have been unemployed. I studied Interdisciplinary Science for my Bachelors degree, and then Global Environmental Change for my Masters.

After I left university, I kind of felt that I didn’t want to work in the science sector, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I also didn’t know what I physically could do because I was involved in a car crash in 1995 which left me with me a high level spinal cord injury.

In March this year, I attended the Back Up to Work course in London. I wanted to attend the course in order to help me improve my CV, help me identify my skills and get some tips about how to be more successful in applying for jobs. I thought the course was ideal because it was run by Back Up, and they know all about what it is like to be a disabled person looking for a job. They know the difficulties that are involved so they are in a great position to help people like me to overcome those difficulties.

The course was held at the head offices of Savills, a leading real estate company, in London. It was a two-day course packed with tips and exercises which helped us to build our CVs, identify our skills, practice interview techniques and gain confidence when applying for jobs.

As well as this, we got the chance to speak to current Savills employees about their job hunting experiences. This gave us a good opportunity to learn from people who had already been successful in the job market, and we could then improve our CVs based on their advice which was very useful.

I think the most valuable part of the course for me was the exercises where we had to identify what we had to offer employers. Before the course I had always struggled to think of what to put on my CV. But the exercises during the course highlighted that there were wide range of different skills and competencies that would be attractive to employers. Not just ’hard’ skills like computing, but also ’soft’ skills like teamwork or communication. So now that I have added a wider range of different skills on my CV, I think it will give me a better chance of being successful in the job hunt.

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Alex and the Back Up to Work London team

The Back Up to Work course also gave me a chance to experience what it’s like to be interviewed for a job. I’ve never had an interview before so it was a very valuable experience. We each did speed interviews which seemed to me like a interesting twist on speed dating. We got interviewed by 7 different employees, each lasting 7 minutes. Afterwards we were given feedback on how well we answered the questions and where we can improve, which was helpful.

Overall, the course has given me more confidence in applying for jobs as I now feel that my CV better reflects my skills and abilities. I now have good experience of what a job interview is like, so I feel better prepared for when I face a real one. I applied for two internships after the course, unfortunately I didn’t get one of them but I am still waiting to hear about the second one. So fingers crossed!

If you’d like to attend our next Back Up to Work course July 23-25 in Manchester, please apply online or email our courses team at courses@backuptrust.org.uk or call us on 020 8875 1805.

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Jacques’s story: Being able to walk

Jacques’s story: Being able to walk

When most people think about spinal cord injury, they imagine someone in a wheelchair. But spinal cord injury affects everyone differently. Some people are able to walk, either unaided or with sticks, and don’t use a wheelchair, or might feel the need to use it some of the time.

Spinal cord injured people who can walk frequently experience a lack of recognition and understanding from others. Feelings of guilt are common and many feel excluded from the spinal cord injured community.

Jacques is one of the many people living with spinal cord injury who can walk. He became injured while doing his national service for the South African Army.

“I was about one month into it when I went with a group of friends on a fishing trip. It was on this trip that I was involved in a freak accident where I fell off a Land Rover into a sitting position, which resulted in me fracturing my pelvis and crushing my spine,” Jacques says.

Jacques’s injury was classed as incomplete, which means he has sensation and movement below his injury level. For Jacques this means he is able to walk.

During his rehabilitation, feelings of guilt started to take over. He felt guilty not only because he was able to walk while other patients couldn’t, but also because people expected him to walk more than he was actually able to.

“In some ways it made me feel like I did not fit in with other patients in the hospitals.”

Research from Back Up found that a number of people who can walk experience pain and fatigue and have difficulties managing it, impacting on their day-to-day lives. “My walking was and to this day is quite slow and unsteady. I have no balance when standing up so I need to use two crutches to stand and walk,” Jacques says.

“Walking is also quite painful for me after short distances and finding a place to sit down becomes a priority so I opted to use a wheelchair most of the time.”

Jacques’s experience meant he was invited to join a working group with other people who can walk to develop a brand new Back Up course – Next Steps. This course will help people like Jacques to rebuild confidence and independence.

It will take place over a long weekend and it will cover life skills, such as accessing public transport, making a meal and getting around a busy city.

“As a person who is able to walk there are always questions around why you don’t do certain things and some people think you are being lazy without knowing all the other things that happen to people with spinal cord injury.”

The course will also give people the opportunity to share experiences and talk about different issues, such as ‘invisible disability’, pain, fatigue management and guilt.

Jacques has faced many challenges because of his injury, but he has also made the best out of life. “Since my injury I have travelled to many different places in the world and have tried so many different activities, some that I never thought I would be able to do due to living with spinal cord injury,” he says.

Jacques hopes that this new course will help people in a similar situation to revive their zest for life. “This course is all about what you want to learn and what would improve your independence. The aim is to give you the confidence to lead a more active life,” he says.

Do you have a spinal cord injury and are able to walk? Apply now for our Next Steps course taking place in September 2017.