Just keep going – even when things feel hard…

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Martin had been employed for over 30 years but COVID forced him to stop working for the safety of his son.  This break in his career led to him experiencing some very dark thoughts, and the situation was only made worse by a decline in his physical health, and income.  After receiving some immediate psychological support from his local NHS mental health team, Martin was recommended Twining Enterprise, and met Oliver, his dedicated Employment Specialist.  Oliver worked closely with Martin to support him in the search for a job that was right for him.  As an older job candidate, Martin felt his options were limited, but with hard work, tenacity and Twining’s support, Martin has now secured the job of his dreams!  What’s more – his mental and physical ailments are both improving as his life has begun to flourish again!  Martin was kind enough to share his story with us, and you can read it here…

It all started with COVID… prior to the pandemic I had been employed for more than 30 years, but when COVID happened, I needed to stay at home to protect the health of my son.  That first year at home was really difficult, but it was the second year when things became really bad for me.  I started to feel really depressed, so much so, my wife told me I had to get help from the doctor.  The doctor explained that I’d been through so much loss – my job, having an income, the life I once knew – that it was causing my mental health to rapidly deteriorate.  The doctor immediately put me on a high dose of medication; I hadn’t ever taken medication for my mental health before, so it felt very hard starting.  The doctor also put me in touch with my local NHS mental health crisis team and I started seeing one of their psychotherapists who supported me with cognitive behavioural therapy.

Money was becoming increasingly tight, so I had to sign up to Universal Credit to help make ends meet.  This also felt really difficult as I’d worked all my life and never claimed benefits before.  I was also still experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress, which is when my psychotherapist told me about Twining Enterprise.  He said Twining was there to provide employment support with things like CVs and job application forms – all the things which made my anxiety even worse as I have terrible dyslexia – so the thought of all that paperwork to find a new job was really stress inducing.  However, going back to my old job wasn’t an option for me anymore, my mental health would not have been able to cope with the pressure in my old role.

I started speaking to an Employment Specialist at Twining, Oliver, who initially helped me consider getting back into education.  I enrolled for a couple of courses which got me out of the house, and I met some people around my age who were going through similar things, which really helped.  The different course tutors and examiners were also reassuring and supportive and even got me enrolled in some more short courses to get me out of the house that bit more.  However, I still wasn’t eating or sleeping properly, and my doctor and family were all becoming increasingly worried.

Finding the right job was still proving difficult.  Due to the severe anxiety I was experiencing I was also suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which made it really hard for me to get out too early in the mornings, which also restricted me on what jobs would be suitable.  More medication helped to manage these physical symptoms.

I also sought help from Haringey Works, which provided another insight into my situation and what work might be suitable.  It was good to hear the opinions of people outside of my family to give more perspective on my own situation.  I’m over 55 years old and I was worried that I wouldn’t find a company that would be willing to employ someone of my age, but they supported me to look for jobs specifically in my age category and this helped me to feel more confident to continue my job search.

During this time Oliver at Twining continued helping by encouraging me to not just accept any job opportunity that came my way, without really thinking about it.  He helped me evaluate whether job opportunities were right for me in my own personal situation and therefore whether they would be sustainable in the longer term.  He also suggested I think about part time employment – something that made lots of sense, but something I hadn’t really considered before.

Oliver’s advice on some of the work situations I was considering accepting was spot on.  It turned out Twining Enterprise wasn’t just about form filling – because even when I fell off track more generally – Oliver was still there supporting me.  He was very calm with me, and he was really good about everything.  He checked my CV and even offered to come to an interview with me!  He also offered to talk to the firms on my behalf about my medical issues.  I felt very supported by him.

I went on to do more courses, including a forklift drivers’ course, the construction industry competence scheme, a health and safety course and lots more – all of which helped to boost my confidence and my CV.

Then I suddenly then got a call out of the blue from a company that said they had found a job for me!  My wife told me to stay calm, as she’d seen me get excited about opportunities in the past that hadn’t worked out.  But this time, the company came straight over and interviewed me.  They looked over all the training I had done at college and were really impressed at my work ethic and my appetite to learn new skills.

Then they offered me the job!  I was delighted!  It’s 4-days per week and I can get out and meet other people.  They offered me a vehicle and fuel card, and I’m also allowed to use it for my own personal use so I can take my family out.  I even have a uniform!  I’m also getting used to working on a tablet so I can get the support I need when I’m out and about.  Everyone has been so supportive!

The job has made all the difference to me.  It’s 100% what I wanted. I wish I’d done it 20 years ago!  I’m not completely back to where I was mentally, but I’m getting there.  It feels good to get in a position where I feel like me again.  I think I’d stay in this job even if I won the lottery!  I’m already one of the best workers in my region and the Area Manager has talked about me eventually taking the first step on the rung of the management ladder.

I interviewed for this job in my late fifties, but the company made it very clear that there is no age limit to this role, as long as I’m physically fit, I can keep working as long as I want to.  This is something else that has made the role really appealing to me.  I know I’ve got 15 or more years of working yet, rather than just a couple.  It’s a job I can really grow into. 

From the lowest I’ve ever been in my life, to getting excited about silly jobs that were never going to work out, I ended up getting this job that I really love – plus it comes without stress and with a whole heap of understanding and support.  Because I’ve been feeling better mentally, I’ve also found my physical ailments have improved.  I’m even talking to my doctor about reducing my anti-anxiety tablets.

For anyone who finds themselves in the position I was in, I’d say, just keep going – even if things feel very hard.  I went down the road a few times where I thought I was going to call it quits.  But to have everyone around you – wanting to help – and thinking about what’s best for you – means you can get through the darkness.  Use all of the resources offered and don’t turn down any help – listen to family and friends and help from industry – these people are all there to help you – and they want to help you – so let them.  I never knew about these dark places and these thoughts before COVID.  The experience has made me a more empathic person.  I’ve seen a different part of life.  I also hope if just one person reads this and changes their minds about job searching at an older age, then this has helped.

I’m now looking forward to the next few years of work.  I’ve been lucky enough to find an employer that appreciates what I have to offer even though I’m in an older age category.  Older folk are reliable and want to work and good employers are changing attitudes towards age, and opening minds.  If you think you can change your life and do a job, then you almost certainly can!

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