Tuesday 6 September 2016

Deaf Girly's and the world of work

The fab peeps over on Twitter will know that since I quit my job to write a book and be an au pair, then got a permanent job for one year and then left it again, I've been going it alone in the world of employment. With varying degrees of success.

But this morning as I was walking to one of the offices I am working at, I suddenly realised I should in fact feel incredibly proud of myself.

When I first started out working in London many many moons ago, I used to look at the freelancers who came into our office on a regular basis and wonder how they did it. How they slotted into a different team, got to know different people and different ways of working and didn't panic about it.

I mean, me getting a job in the big bad world was the reason I started this blog. Learning how to be deaf in a professional environment sent my head into a spin, I cried every day - in a cupboard where I did much of my work. I loved that cupboard, it was my safe haven away from the people who could use the phone and be efficient in the world of new millennial media.

In my 20s, I clung to every job like my life depended on it. My food and rent certainly did depend on it. I was terrified of redundancy and so eager to climb the ladder that I think I lost perspective of what made me good at what I do in the first place.

And then in 2013, I had that brainwave to quit my job, rent out my flat, write a book and be an au pair. All of which were varying degrees of successful... But all of which taught me an awful lot about myself and my capabilities as a deaf person.

And then I finished the first of many drafts of the book, got a job while being an au pair (RESPECT TO WORKING MOTHERS HERE BECAUSE THIS WAS A MENTAL TIME IN MY LIFE), then stopped being an au pair, left my job, continued to rent my flat, and had to rent another one...

You still following?

So what does a thirty-something deaf girl with a patchwork CV and an unpublished book with bills to pay do?

I did something I'd never thought I could do... I went freelance.

To be fair, at the start I kept it local. I contacted former colleagues who gave me work and gradually built up my confidence again. But then - because I really did need a bit more money - I sent my CV out to random places to see what happened.

And that had varying degrees of success.

There was the company who contacted me and were really interested having seen my
CV but then on finding out I was deaf, told me I wouldn't be suitable for the job and they needed a hearing person who could communicate well... All without finding out whether I can communicate well and dismissing the fact I have a CV showing 13 years of communicating well. *scowls

Then there was the office who gave me chance but was so frantic I swear I only peed once the whole time I was there...

Shortly after the 'you're too deaf to do this job' rejection, I got an email from another company I'd sent my CV to. They offered me some work – a trial. I accepted. But as the dates drew nearer I found myself getting more and more anxious.

What if my deafness let me down? What if I was required to use the phone and there was no other alternative? Should I have told them in advance about my disability? What if they had a problem with me not telling them about my disability? The worry list went on... and on... and on... I almost talked myself out of doing the work.

On my first day, I went through all the possible disaster scenarios before shooing myself out of the door reminding myself that the need to earn money was greater than my anxieties about being deaf.

On arrival, I discovered my lovely manager had a Scottish accent, which meant revealing my deafness in the first second of our meeting. And he didn't bat an eyelid. Not even a tiny flinch. He just accepted the information. I passed my trial.

And since then, in the three months that I have worked at this office, my manager has continued to accept the information I give him about my deafness. He's made phone calls for me, repeated things without any issue, reminded me of people's names and he always, always comes over to speak to me rather than shouting.

It's amazing.

I am lucky. I know I am. Not all offices are like this. But I think quite a few are. And now, when I realise that freelancing is going OK, and I'm not falling apart in a deaf-related anxious heap, I can't help but beam to myself.

It's made me realise that some of the things I've avoided in the past because of my deafness are do-able... and it's made me wonder what else is...

I'm just off to make a list!

Happy Tuesday peeps


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