I’m coming to the end of my university studies so I am finally in the position where I can start applying for what I am calling ‘my first adult job’. I’m really excited. It may make me sound boring but the idea of having a steady job and routine is so appealing to me. I can’t wait to get out into the work force and use the skills I have learned at university to make a difference. But I am different to most uni students as I live with complex mental illness. This makes the job search for me all the more complicated and stressful. I have specific needs. Here are the things I want from a job.
To use my degree
Like most uni students I am acutely aware of how much my degree(s) cost me. I want a job in which I can use my skills and education. I don’t want to take a step backwards.
Develop skills for my future career
Also like most uni students, I want a job that is going to help me grow into the person and worker I am meant to be. I have big dreams. Dreams of developing my own mental health service programs in sporting clubs and community settings. I want a job today that is eventually going to help me get to that version of myself.
Help me make my decision about my future
Once again, like most uni students I am very confused right now. Since I was nine years old I have dreamed of becoming a Psychologist. However, my Honours studies have shown me that Psychology might not be for me, but perhaps Social Work or Policy Work might be. I need to get out into the workforce to help me decide what it is I actually like and want to dedicate future study to.
Part time hours
Now here is where myself and other uni students begin to diverge. I don’t want to work full time. I’ll rephrase that, I can’t work full time. My mental illnesses are disabling. I know for a fact working full time would be bad for my mental health and trigger my Bipolar disorder. Work-life balance is important for everyone but it is especially important for me. I need a job that fulfils the above requirements but is only 2-4 days per week.
Good (sick) pay
Money is also a stressor. If I’m only going to be working 2-4 days a week the job in question needs to be well paid so that I can afford to live. Affording to live also means being able to pay for my appointments and medications. The job in question must also have a fair sick pay arrangement that recognises ‘mental health days’ as sick days. Otherwise I will really struggle, especially if I take a day off only working 2-4 days a week.
Flexible working arrangements
Relating to sick pay, it is just inevitable that there will be days where I wont be able to come into work due to mental illness. That’s where I am really interested in a work arrangement where working from home sometimes is an option. Or where I could change the days I work a particular week if I need to. This would be really great for those days where getting out of bed just feels impossible.
Safe work environment
I want to feel comfortable at work. I want to be able to go to my boss and say ‘I’m not feeling great, I think I might need some time off’ and not fear platitudes and stigmatising responses. I want to be able to be open about my mental illness (in a professional way of course) so that my co-workers can understand. Really, I would love for my mental illness to be respected as an important part of who I am as a person and as an employee.
To help people
When it comes down to it, this is all I have ever wanted. When people ask me how I want to spend my life; what I want to do; what my ‘why’ is, the answer is always that I want to help people. That is what makes me happy and gives my life meaning.
When you take out all the jobs I’m not yet qualified for and the ones that don’t fulfil these requirements the pool is very small. You might think I’m being picky but these are legitimate requirements that I need to be happy and healthy at work. In fact, I’ve not applied for jobs I would have loved and been perfect for because I knew ultimately they would be bad for my mental health. Which really sucks. The employment system really isn’t set up for people with mental illnesses to flourish. It’s no surprise so many people with mental illness are unemployed. But I am trying not to get discouraged. It’s taking me a long time to find the right fit but I am hopeful that the holy grail will reveal itself soon enough.
I have an interview on Tuesday. Wish me luck!