Finding the right fit: Maria's story

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Photo of Champions Career Centre client Maria. We helped her to find a job in CalgaryChampions focuses on matching the right person to the right job. 

Today, Maria has the right fit for her at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Student Association (SAITSA), but when we first met her, she had been laid off from a busy, downtown office job and she was depressed. 

"It was a really painful experience for me, I feel like I lost my job because of my disability.  They said I was too slow; but I didn't know how to talk about my situation and how it was affecting my job.  If I had known, maybe I'd still be there.  Champions showed me how."

With one-on-one support from her Case Manager Mat, Maria progressed through each stage of Champions’ services.  She attended numerous workshops and began to feel more empowered.  In hindsight, she notes that the self-awareness and self-motivation she gained was equally important as brushing up on hard skills, such as resume and cover letter development and interview techniques.  With our support, Maria discovered that her learning disability and challenges relating to anxiety and stress were common. 

In fact, learning disabilities are very common with over 59,000 Albertans over the age of 15 reporting a learning disability in 2012.  Learning disabilities impact each individual differently and vary in severity, so it is possible that this number could be even higher.  There are positives and negatives surrounding our perception of learning disabilities today.  On one hand, learning disabilities are now well-documented and there is a heightened awareness of disabilities like Dyslexia.  On the other hand, this awareness has resulted in some unintended effects.  It’s not uncommon to hear people without a learning disability say, “I’m having an ADD moment” or “Oh I’m so Dyslexic today” when they make a mistake. Comments like these can worsen stigmas and make disclosure more difficult for a person who genuinely has the disability.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), now commonly considered as a learning disability, is further stigmatized by the fact it is often treated with stimulant medications such as Ritalin and there have been documented cases  of "academic doping" where Ritalin has been misused as a study aid by people who don’t have ADHD. 

Stigmas surrounding those with real learning disabilities, as Maria experienced, are that they are simply, ‘too slow’, lazy or not trying hard enough.  However, learning about disclosure, developing more self-awareness and self-confidence can help those with learning disabilities to speak up.  This helps to set the record straight and find the right workplace strategies and supports to help them be successful. 

After spending some time thinking and talking about disclosure in our workshop, Maria was able to make an informed decision about talking about her disability with her boss. 
“In the end, my disclosure was very casual.  I just told her that I have a learning disability, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

So how does Maria know that this is the right fit for her?
"How would people describe me? I’m crazy! I like having fun, the people I work with know that I like singing and dancing at work and they're OK with it.  I feel so comfortable there, even when it gets busy. It’s really a low-stress job for me and somewhere I can be myself." Maria says.

Great news, since we spoke to Maria she has been promoted to Senior Staff and Events Coordinator at SAITSA.  

Congratulations Maria, your hard work has really paid off and we are so glad Champions was able to help you find the right job for you!

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