Jasmine, a young autistic woman, describes her journey from an anxious employability service user to becoming a more optimistic and confident Daisy Chain employee.
When I first joined Daisy Chain’s employability service in 2019 I has just finished university. My whole purpose of going to university in the first place was to avoid the world of work – I just wasn’t ready for it yet. I joined the employability service because I was looking for work experience but without the pressure of a regular job.
In the past, whenever I was talking to people who were trying to help me with my CV they always told me to hide a certain aspect of my autism until after I had been employed. It felt like I couldn’t be honest, and I didn’t feel like that was fair to me or to them. Yes, I do have anxiety – and I felt like it would be helpful for employers to know that, but I was worried that if I told people in an interview then it would make people less likely to hire me.
At the point when I first joined the employability service my self-esteem and mental health was very low. I only had a small group of friends. I couldn’t go for any interviews because I would just have a breakdown. It was very intimidating. I didn’t know how to talk to anyone and I had pretty much no social skills. So, if it were someone that I didn’t know then I couldn’t really talk to them, which isn’t helpful when you are going for an interview! At this point in my life, I was not optimistic about the future. In fact, I think I was just dreading the future. I didn’t feel mature enough to get a job, I didn’t feel like an adult. I had just come out of the education system and within education you just get told what to do. Yes, in a paid job you also get told what to do but there is a lot more pressure because you are getting paid. I felt like I would never be good enough to work a job and do it to the standard that my boss would want me to do it.
When I first started with Daisy Chain, I thought that maybe I would be there a couple of weeks – I would get a bit of help with CV skills and then I would go back home and just worry about things more! But the team helped me a lot – they made me feel comfortable and I didn’t feel like I was under any pressure to perform. They worked with me on my CV skills, interview skills and the more I got to know them the easier it got. They helped me prepare for talking to strangers and they also helped me with my social skills and interpersonal skills. They introduced me to new people and supported me to do work experience in the Superstore. It was a whole bunch of little things that added up to a big thing and they really helped me to build my confidence.
I think it is so important to have specific support for autistic adults, from professionals who understand autism. It can be very intimidating in the workplace to hide certain aspects of your autism so if there is someone there who understands it you feel like you can be more yourself and you don’t feel as much pressure to pretend to be someone you are not.
And now, fast forward two years and Jasmine is employed by Daisy Chain as an Ecommerce Assistant.
I work in the Ecommerce team primarily doing Ebay listings. We get a lot of donations of goods that are higher price items and it is my job to list them which includes writing descriptions, pricing, taking the pictures and things like that. There are quite a few elements to the job but I would say it is pretty fun!
I never would have imagined two years ago that I was going to be able to get work. I just thought I was going to continue to wallow in a hole of self-pity because my anxiety was so bad at that time. I definitely think that the support and experience of the employability service has had a positive impact on my mental health. I have gained a lot of confidence since I have started coming to Daisy Chain. I have met new friends and co-workers as well. I feel that I have gained a lot of social skills and I don’t have as many issues as I did back in 2019. Back then I had a lot of dark thoughts which I thought I would never get over, but I have actually overcome a lot of challenges that I had when I first started coming to Daisy Chain. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the employability team.
I definitely feel more optimistic about the future. This is my first proper job! I always thought that when I got a job it would be such a drag – going into work every morning and then waiting for the end of the day, over and over again for the next 40 years! But working here – this is something I actually find enjoyable and that makes me happy. It really helps to find a job that is related to my area of interests. I do like working here and I would like to continue working here in the future. But if I do end up moving on, I feel more confident about looking for and seeking other types of work.
I would recommend Daisy Chain’s employability service to other autistic adults. The team are very patient and if you are struggling, they will give you as much time as you need. Being a part of this service has helped me to grow as an adult and as an autistic person. I have learned to understand myself a lot more.
Just 16% of people on the autistic spectrum are in full-time work, demonstrating the vital need to offer more opportunities to get a start on the career ladder.
Daisy Chain works with businesses and organisations to organise supported work placements to give young people on the autism spectrum more skills and experience of the workplace to help them gain employment.
Macks solicitors, part of Watson Woodhouse law firm is one company which stepped in to help and offered a placement to 21-year-old Rory Anderson to help him build up employment experience in a real workplace.
And Rory’s work with them has spoken for itself, for Watson Woodhouse has now offered him a contract giving him paid employment.
Martin Pout, marketing director of Watson Woodhouse, began to do some fundraising for Daisy Chain and discovered the employability programme.
Martin said: “Watson Woodhouse, as a company, started working with Daisy Chain on a number of projects and we found out about the scheme. It offers the opportunity to source quality students and with the support of the charity, we can offer quality opportunities in return.
“Our solicitors and staff work with many different vulnerable clients and we pride ourselves on having an in-depth understanding of conditions such as autism.”
Rory is a whizz when it comes to updating databases and he was delighted to have been able to demonstrate his abilities which have now landed him paid employment.
The placement in Middlesbrough was organised and supported by Daisy Chain through the employability scheme with regular visits to the placement site to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Martin said: “We were delighted to take our relationship with Daisy Chain a step further and Rory is a fantastic worker. His work on the database allows us to analyse business needs and inform our business planning.
“It couldn’t be easier to work with Daisy Chain and the support is second to none. We were able to work out what role we could offer and the skills needed to fulfil it then we were matched with the ideal student. We started off with a visit to make sure everyone was comfortable with the match. It’s a two-way process.”
Staff at the company have also undertaken autism awareness training with Daisy Chain. “It’s all been extremely useful in dismissing any myths around autism. Rory is a brilliant worker that we may not have discovered without the charity’s help and there must be lots of talent out there for businesses to tap into. I would recommend the scheme to anyone.”
Rory added: “I just wanted to be able to get work experience and prove what I can do. I am loving doing the work and I am really excited to now be given a contract for paid work.”
Hayley Matthews, education and employability manager at Daisy Chain, said: “We need companies and organisations to come forward and offer work experience placements to our students who are on the autism spectrum. Such valuable opportunities allow our service users to demonstrate their skills as well as building their confidence and helping them getting a foot on the employment ladder.
“Companies can offer this knowing they will receive training and ongoing support from the Daisy Chain employability team as well as reassurance that placements are carefully matched with businesses to ensure an appropriate fit. Such opportunities can be life changing as in the case of Rory and his newly achieved employment. We are absolutely delighted for Rory and so proud of what he has achieved.”
George works at Cummins Business Services in Darlington as an employee benefits administrator in the HR Shared Services Department, where he sorts invoices for various employee benefits, such as checking and approving cycle to work schemes and processing the invoices for payment.
George said: “With Cummins and Daisy Chain working together, as charity partners, as they have done for a number of years now support has been put in place to enable me to prove I am able to work comfortably and socially within the workplace environment.”
The 19-year-old added: “All I want is to feel accepted and to have a future career in a workplace that will accept me. I am intelligent and a hard worker and just want the opportunity to show what I can do. Cummins, with the help of Daisy Chain, has enabled me to do this.”
Tony Waters, manager of the team George works on, said: “As an organisation, it is very important to us that we are inclusive and offer opportunities to everyone. Being able to offer George a year-long work placement with us was something we were very passionate about, and are thankful for Daisy Chain’s help and support along the way.
“George is a valued member of our team and does a great job each day. George’s commitment to his role has also inspired us to explore other opportunities to offer employment to young adults on the spectrum and we couldn’t have done with without Daisy Chain’s knowledge and guidance.
“As a responsible employer, we wanted to create a level playing field in our organisation in which autism talent is given the platform to shine. These candidates have a great work ethic, are dedicated to their role, and have a wonderful variety of skills. We are thrilled with the service provided by Daisy Chain, and the commitment shown by George, and are looking forward to offering new opportunities when we can”