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Top Tips For Job Seekers Experiencing Mental Ill-Health

05 June 2017
For those living with common mental health conditions, being employed can be a vital step to recovery. It has been proven that being in work improves self-esteem and helps to build confidence.

Conversely, being unemployed increases the risk of developing mental health problems and is associated with increased rates of depression.

According to the mental health foundation 85% of those who are out of work experience mental ill health. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

In short, working is good for you, it is good for your mental health.

But we recognise that trying to find a job is not easy, especially if you have had a period of unemployment. Even harder if you are living with a common mental health condition, so we have put these 10 practical tips together to help you stay mentally healthy and motivated until you reach your final destination- employment.

Top tips for job seekers experiencing mental ill health
  1. Look after yourself
  2. Manage your expectations
  3. Talk about your job seeking. Don’t underestimate the power of who you know
  4. Be proactive. Take the initiative when job seeking
  5. Celebrate your successes
  6. Know how to explain any gaps in your CV
  7. Be prepared
  8. Don’t disclose your condition without knowing your rights
  9. Ask for workplace adjustments
  10. Access in-work support
 
  1. Look after yourself
You and your mental wellbeing should be your number 1 priority.

Looking for the right job can be really tough. It can be frustrating, it can take a really long time, it can be lonely and if you are living with a common mental health condition it can seem 100 times worse.

That is why you need to focus on your own mental health. Your own well-being. One way to do this is to continue to do the activities that make you feel good. And don’t feel guilty about doing them.

It is important to take some time away from job seeking, you need a break. It is hard work. Taking a break will put you in a better frame of mind when you go back to searching for a job.

And keep things in perspective, don’t let looking for a job overwhelm you. It is one aspect of your life and undoubtedly a very important part of it but it is not everything.

So allow yourself to take time out. Do something you enjoy.

Having hobbies will give you something to talk about at the interview- employers will always be interested in hearing what you do in your spare time, what hobbies you have that might be relevant to the jobs you are applying for.

And eat well.

Maintaining a healthy diet will make you feel better, it will make you look better and will give you more energy. Try for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day and drink plenty of water.  You will be amazed at how much better you will feel.

The NHS has a great website called One you with really useful tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou#oc8Dchy9oJOJilJt.97

And sleep well. Don’t underestimate the power of sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to your mental wellbeing and a healthy existence.

It plays a huge role in making your brain work properly.

A good night’s sleep safeguards against stress, mood swings and depression.

The sleep council have a fantastic website with great practical tips on how to get a good night’s sleep, from removing technology and devices like phones and ipads from your bedroom to relaxation techniques. Check it out. www.sleepcouncil.org.uk

And manage your time. It’s quality not quantity.

Looking for a job can be overwhelming. The most common mistake people make is to think they must spend every minute of every day looking for a job. This is not productive. You need to take time out.

It is not the number of hours you spend looking that will get you results, it will be the quality of the job seeking activities you do. And the way to the best quality job seeking is to maintain a healthy mind.

You need to be sensible about managing your time. You need to continue to do stuff that you enjoy, activities that will make you feel good.

So, just like the 5 fruit and veg a day that medical professionals recommend, it is important to think about 5 things you can do in a day that will help you manage your mental ill health.

Try scheduling 5 activities every day that you enjoy. Drawing up timetables help some people.

Or try listening to some new music or an interesting podcast. Baking a cake, watching YouTube videos- Time to Change is a great website with really inspiring videos from people with first-hand experience of mental health conditions and how they found and maintained work. https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

Go for a walk outside, sign up for a free exercise class, go to the library, meet a friend for coffee, take a nice relaxing bath.

Anything that you know will help you maintain a healthy mind.

And don’t be too hard on yourself. You are doing your best.
 
  1. Manage your expectations
You need to manage your expectations. Be realistic about the job seeking process.

Finding a job will not happen overnight and it’s not easy.

Things often take a lot longer than you expect them to, it’s a competitive market place, you might not even get an interview, or you might get an interview but not get the job, at worst the employer might not even respond to your application.

All of these factors can make it even harder if you are living with a mental health condition.

But don’t get disheartened and remember, it is a journey. There will be ups and downs but ultimately, if the destination is a job, then it’s been worthwhile.

Think about things you can do to fill the gaps in your CV, that would help you look more attractive to potential employers. Look at your strengths but look also look at your “weaknesses”, gaps in your experience. Are there any free online courses you can take to improve your skills? Project management, digital marketing, there are a lot of resources on-line.

Are there any volunteering opportunities you could be doing while you are looking for a job? This will both help you build your confidence, it will give you new skills and will give you something to talk about during your interview. Employers like this. It will show you have taken initiative and will demonstrate your motivation.

And believe that you will get there. It just takes time.
 
  1. Talk about your job seeking. Don’t underestimate the power of who you know.
Talk to as many people as possible about your dreams and aspirations, tell them that you are looking for a job, about your skills and experience.

You never know who will be able help you, or who might have an opportunity for you.

One of your friends may know someone who knows someone who is looking for someone just like you but unless they know that you are looking for a job, unless they know what experience you have or they won’t think of you.

So, keep in touch with your friends, talk to them, tell them you are looking for work. Generally people are really interested and happy to listen.

Talk about your skills, your strengths.

And talk about your barriers, talk about yourself. The more you talk about your barriers, the more confident and comfortable you will be in an interview setting. See it as practice.

And if you find it difficult to make friends or don’t have a social network, start building one. Some ways to do this can be:
  • Sign up for an adult education class, or go to a free exercise class.
  • See what events your local community has on offer- be proactive. It can be difficult but once you have done it once, it becomes much easier the next time.
And remember, everyone feels shyness, everyone feels scared to do new things sometimes. You are not alone.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-friendship-doctor/201610/tips-making-friends-when-youre-depressed
 
  1. Be proactive. Take the initiative when job seeking.
 
Jobs won’t come to you. You need to go and find them.

A lot of jobs are advertised on Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, on company websites.

But not all jobs are advertised online. 

Local Jobs Fairs are an excellent way to meet with employers face to face.  It makes the perfect opportunity to talk about yourself. This can help build confidence, it can help with interview practice and more importantly, you might get a job!

Look for companies who are Mindful Employers or who are Disability Confident. They will be more open and understanding and crucially will have more experience of employing people with common mental health conditions. You can find this information by visiting www.mindfulemployer.net or https://disabilityconfident.campaign.gov.uk/

But above all, keep trying. Persistence is important to job search success.
 
  1. Celebrate your successes
It is so important to celebrate your successes however small they may be. Give yourself a pat on the back for every activity you undertake on your journey towards employment.

Job seeking is not easy. Rejection is tough, even tougher for people living with common mental health conditions. That is why it is so important to recognise the importance of each achievement, each step, however small you might see it. 

So, congratulate yourself on applying for jobs, for updating your CV, for speaking to someone about your job seeking activity. Congratulate yourself on taking the initiative.

Celebrate making a list of job fairs to attend, contacting people who could act as your referees, researching interview techniques.

Pat yourself on the back for going out for a walk, maintaining a healthy diet, meeting a friend for coffee.
You may not have got the job, you may not have an interview, but you may have been in the top 400 applicants which is a massive achievement.

Remember, finding a job is journey, everything you do will count towards the final destination, so see every little step as a success to be celebrated.
 
  1. Know how to explain any gaps in your CV
If you have been out of work for some time, perhaps as a result of your mental ill health, you may have gaps in your CV. This is OK. Do not see this as a barrier to future employment.

Lots of people have gaps in their employment history. People take time out to have children, people take time out to look after elderly parents, long term ill health, redundancy etc. there are lots of things that create gaps.

The key is knowing how to talk confidently about the gaps and what experiences you gained during the gaps.  Did you volunteer? Did you go on any courses? Did you do any DIY in the house? Gardening?

Moving forward, to make sure you are presenting your best self, look for local volunteering opportunities, sign up for free courses on the internet, look for ways to upskill or learn new skills. Get involved in your local community. Expand your network, meet new friends.

Employers are understanding and understand that people have gaps but will be more attracted to you/ or your CV if they see that you have motivation, determination and perseverance.

And above all don’t lie about your experiences. It is important you don’t fabricate information for your CV. Employers will know or will pick these up at interview.
 
  1. Be prepared. 
Be prepared at all times. This is not something new but is crucial to presenting your best self at all times.
  • Make sure your CV is as good as it can be
  • Make sure you have referees, have made contact and you have confirmation that they are happy for you to use them
  • Make sure you have rehearsed your interview questions so you are very confident talking about yourself, your experiences, your strengths, your ambitions. There are lots of video examples of interviews on Youtube you can watch in preparation.
  • Make sure you have an interview outfit, you look presentable, you know what is expected of you in an interview setting. Get practice.  Role play with friends and family.
  • Recruiters will google you so make sure your on-line profile (ie Facebook account, twitter etc.) is “clean” and would not put any future employers off.  Be sensible about what you post or who can see your posts.
Being prepared will help build your self- confidence. This self-confidence will help you across all aspects of your life and will help you manage your mental well-being.

You want to know that when you have an opportunity to interview you have given 100% of yourself. That you have given the best you possibly can.
 
  1. Don’t disclose your condition without knowing your rights
Disclosing your mental health condition is a personal choice- you don’t have to.

Get advice before you do.

A lot of people say it has helped them and most employers will be understanding but some may not be.

A lot of employers don’t have any experience or enough education about common mental health conditions and the simple adjustments they can make. Or even the support available to them.

Legally, under the Equality Act https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance, employers cannot discriminate against people experiencing long-term mental ill-health, however some employers are less aware than others so it is important you have the right advice and information before doing anything.

Our Aim4Work employment advisors are able to offer you advice on disclosing.

For some useful examples of disclosure statements for job applications or to use with employers visit www.shaw-trust.org.uk/aim4work

We have also created a guide to help you to create positive conversations about mental health at work with a very helpful worksheet to help guide you through the process. https://www.shaw-trust.org.uk/en-GB/Media-policy/Blog/April-2017/How-to-Positively-Disclose-Mental-Ill-Health-at-Wo

So, do your research, know your rights. There is lots of good information on the internet.

There are also useful links on the Aim4Work website. www.shaw-trust.org.uk/aim4work
 
  1. Once you have disclosed, ask for workplace adjustments
Once you have your job, it is OK to ask for workplace adjustments.

Please note, in order to be eligible for workplace adjustments you will need to have disclosed, so as to the point above, get some advice before doing anything.

Do some research, familiarise yourself with what workplace adjustments are available for people living with common mental health conditions.

The government website Access to Work provides information on reasonable adjustments as well as other really useful information for people living with mental ill health.

The web address is www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview

Really understand what you need at minimum to be able to do your job and to avoid the job having a negative impact on your mental wellbeing.

Examples could be starting later to avoid rush hour traffic, taking more regular breaks, wearing headphones, working from home. The more the employers understand about your condition, the more understanding they will be.

But be prepared to take the lead. Everyone is different, every condition manifests itself in different ways, everyone has individual requirements and needs.

Your employer will not know these unless you tell them.

Be confident and be bold about asking for what you need.

But at the same time, be realistic.
 
  1. Access in-work support
In work support is a free and confidential service run by Remploy http://www.remploy.co.uk/info/20137/partners_and_programmes/227/workplace_mental_health_support_service_wmhss  and is supported through the government’s Access to Work programme and is designed for anyone starting employment that is experiencing mental health problems. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-factsheet/access-to-work-factsheet-for-customers
It includes:
- Return to Work Plans
- Communication techniques
- Confidence building
- Implementing reasonable adjustments or actions
- Mediation between employer and employee
- Using the parachute tool to help pinpoint the issues 
- Signposting to appropriate services such as counselling

In addition, if you are eligible, our Aim4Work programme provides in-work support and advice and guidance.

Access the wider Shaw Trust Health & Wellbeing services

Shaw Trust provides a range of services to help people improve their mental and physical health and wellbeing. We work in partnership with local health services, charities and businesses to connect people with the services they need, when they need them. 

For more information visit https://www.shaw-trust.org.uk/en-GB/Services/Health-and-Wellbeing where you will find useful links to our different services and signposting to services in other areas of the country.
 
 

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