Achieving my 100th job outcome during a global pandemic
Written by Lynsey Cordiner, IPS Employment Adviser.
I joined Walking With The Wounded in April 2019 as an IPS Employment Advisor having worked for 14 years previously in the welfare-to-work industry. My first 10 months with the organisation was a whirlwind of meeting partner organisations, getting the word out about WWTW in the North East as we were new to the region, and building a caseload of beneficiaries from scratch from a variety of referral sources and supporting them into training, voluntary work and paid employment. My area covered from North Northumberland right down to County Durham and Teeside and most days were spent meeting beneficiaries face to face and helping them move forward in their journey towards employment. It was busy, exhilarating and no two days were the same. Up until that point I had achieved 19 job outcomes since starting for the company. Then the pandemic hit….
I still remember the day my boss Tommy Watson rang me and told me that face-to-face meetings were to be stopped and all support was to be done remotely from home for the foreseeable. It was Monday 16th March 2020, a week before we went into our first national lockdown and I had just finished an appointment with a beneficiary who was about to go for an interview and we had met for a coffee in our local McDonalds to prepare for his interview together. As I packed up my laptop I remember joking to him that I’d see him on the other side and we could meet up for a coffee in a few weeks when all this madness had blown over. Fast forward 14 months and here we are! If you had told me then that I would be spending over a year working from my kitchen table providing a remote service to my beneficiaries, I wouldn’t have seen how that could be possible.
Adapting to a new way of working wasn’t easy at first. I missed the camaraderie of the team and the face-to-face interaction with my beneficiaries. I was also worried about how I would fill my days and even more than that, how would I move my beneficiaries into work during a global pandemic where businesses for the most part were closed? My first mistake was underestimating the grit and determination that my beneficiaries would show! Whilst some were unable to look for work due to them or family members having to shield for health reasons, the majority saw the pandemic as an opportunity to mobilise and draw on their military resilience and training and get out there and help in the national fight against COVID.
I quickly adapted my way of working over the phone and by email and set up daily job alerts for the beneficiaries who were looking for work and compiled a daily jobs list of suitable vacancies that matched what they were looking for which I emailed out at the end of each day. I began to support beneficiaries with completing CVs, application forms, and funding applications over the phone and even got a few of my beneficiaries who were initially reluctant, to have calls over Facetime with me. A lot of my beneficiaries focused more on work for now rather than the long term and took up short-term agency work to pay the bills. I had two beneficiaries who had previously worked in construction taking up jobs as COVID Testers for Sodexo, several others took up jobs as HGV Drivers delivering produce to supermarkets, others stepped up to help to feed the nation working in local supermarkets and takeaways and another worked in a factory making plastic face visors for the NHS.
For those that were shielding, I made sure I checked in with them weekly just to make sure they were ok and I have to say that this interaction definitely helped me during my most difficult times through lockdown as much as I hope it helped them.
I recently achieved my 100th job outcome so since that day in March 2020 when I started working remotely back in March 2020, I have achieved 81 job outcomes. When I reflect back on how many beneficiaries and their families lives this would have positively impacted I feel proud beyond words. Proud of them for all they have achieved and proud of the wider North East team and the way we have pulled together to navigate our way through the pandemic, keeping our key values at the heart of what we do ‘client first’ t supporting our beneficiaries and we even got WWTW’s new Hub in North Shields up and running. Without the support of the team, our regular team calls and just being there to keep each other going, I don’t think I could have got through the past 14 months and it really has been a group effort. I have to say though, I can’t wait to get back into the office and away from working from my kitchen table.