BEGINNING THE SEARCH AT THE START OF MY SECOND YEAR
The first challenge and, in many ways, obstacle for me this year was to find and select two new Personal Assistants/ Carers to help me with: my studies, my basic needs and my social life when joining clubs and societies.
Unfortunately, I was saddened to hear that my PA from first year was going to pursue other career opportunities and would not return to assist my second year. However, I was lucky to hear that my morning carer that assisted in my first year would return to assist me in my second year.
We set to work, looking for new personal assistants and carers to assist me in my second year at university. Using last year and my year at Southampton Solent as food for thought, we decided to recruit two live-in personal assistants/carers to work on alternate weeks.
While constructing the advertisement, I described my disability—Congenital Cerebral Palsy; triplegia—and the needs I have as a result of my disability.
Next I described my choice of course that I am studying as a degree and the type of support I would need in that area in terms of note taker and study support to assist me with my coursework.
Once I outlined the job requirements from the harder side of things, I detailed the lighter end of what was required.
Though I appreciated that the care and study parts were vital, it was also important for me to express traits of my personality and what I like to do in my spare time. It is vital that me and the carer are able to get on because of the amount of time we would have to spend together in and out of classes. But it can’t all be work, it had to be fun for both of us.
I felt by including my hobbies and interests, I could show that I am not just a soulless person, who needed help with her studies, I have interests and hobbies too and I wanted to reach out to people with similar interests and hobbies who might be interested in this particular job role.
I expressed my passion for blogging and writing my own fantasy fiction as well as writing in other genres. I also described my party side, going out with friends for a few drinks and dancing to my favourite music. Something people usually struggle to believe a disabled person is interested in.
On the lighter side of personality, I love going to the cinema, to coffee shops, I am also an avid shopper who loves to go out for a bite to eat with friends.
Though I love going out and do all of these activities, I also love a night in with my favourite films. I am a big Twilight and Harry Potter fan. I also love the Hunger Games and Divergent films. As well as this, I am a big follower of the Friends TV series.
THE FIRST ROUND
Applying the final touches on the job description, we officially commenced the search.
After an anxious wait, I finally heard back from Ask Jules, the organisation who agreed to help us again this year in recruiting this new team. They informed my parents and myself, that many people had applied to the job and they had narrowed it down to six applicants who were ready to be interviewed.
Once we organised the interviews with these six applicants, I received each of their CV’s to review and process in order to interview the applicants more effectively. We wanted the successful applicant to be:
- Social, Patient
- Forward Thinking
- Open To Try New Things
- Easy Going
- A Good Time Keeper
- Problem Solving
- Creative Thinker
- Good Listener
- Have A Sense Of Humour!
After reading their CV’s, we ‘stalked’ them via social media to find out more about them! I know this sounds weird to do this but we wanted to get a feel of the applicant and their personalities and hobbies and interests which we couldn’t grasp from the applicants’ CV’s.
Many places hiring do this, that is why your online presence is considered just as important as your offline presence. It was also a great way to put a face to a name before we interviewed them.
Unfortunately, before the interviews took place, one of the applicants dropped out, leaving with five applicants to interview for the job role. Not long after, another two of the applicants dropped out, leaving us with three applicants.
The first applicant, which we are going to call Bellatrix for the purpose of this blog to avoid confusion, had journalism experience and knowledge which would benefit me in my degree.
From first impression, Bellatrix was great. She had experience in aspects of journalism that my course would cover this academic year; my second year. We both felt this would be an added bonus benefit for me.
I can’t explain the full impact of her personality but I felt a connection and friendliness straight away. I had an instinctive feeling that we would have a good laugh and good times, creating memories as well as the support she would give me with my studies and daily needs. I also felt she would encourage me to try new things and have new experiences, which would help me build me as a person.
Bellatrix was very nice and I felt I would really get on with her, she was clearly eager for the role and we shared interests.
The second applicant, who we shall call Ginny, was slightly older than me and was entering her third year at De Montfort University—studying fine art .
This caused us to be concerned as we were worried about her ability to balance her own studies. Third year requires a lot of commitment and we feared that she would struggle to prioritise her study and assist me. Ginny reassured me that she would fit her coursework on the weeks she was not working. Although we had our concerns, we still decided to consider her for the role.
Through the interview, we discovered she had similar interests and hobbies as me, along with her love for the Harry Potter franchise.
The third applicant, Luna, also had journalism experience and knowledge like Bellatrix. While interviewing Luna, we saw she was very bright and outspoken. One who knew her mind. I liked this as well as her background and knowledge in journalism.
Luna was also efficient, organised and focused which would help with my studies and for the role requirements. She had already got a strong media influence, including the knowledge of different blogging websites and the ability to VLOG, which I felt would help me on a personal level; to develop my blog.
I have contemplated with the idea of adding a vlog to my blog. Being able to include videos on my blog would allow me to vent my frustration through the use of video and express my feelings and thoughts in a way that words cannot. And as already said, like Bellatrix, she had a background in journalism but also the added element of knowledge in the computer software that we would be using, especially in my second year.
Having these skills, I felt it would be beneficial. I believed that as Bellatrix, Luna and I have an interest in journalism, we would have a good eye for stories which would work in the world of journalism. This in turn would help me build my confidence and would benefit me in my overall studies.
After all the interviews and the applicants left, my parents and I sat down with the Ask Jules representative and discussed the three applicants that we had just interviewed.
We did like Ginny very much but our concerns for her ability to prioritise her studies and work outweighed the good aspects and benefits she could offer. It was too much of a risk, both for me and Ginny.
Having reflected on this, we decided that Bellatrix and Luna were the best candidates for the two vacancies. What I really liked about the two applicants that I selected was each had a similar butdifferent personality to the other. This showed me I could have different weeks with each of them. Making uni life interesting.
So, I now had Luna and Bellatrix, joining Sabrina, my morning carer.
A BUMP IN THE ROAD
When I restarted university after Christmas, I was sad to hear that both my carers had officially handed in their notices.
Having just started back after Christmas, this was a shock and put me at a disadvantage as I now only had Sabrina, my morning carer to help out. On borrowed time, we franticly searched for suitable replacements.
While the search was on, Ask Jules arranged for temporary carers to assisted me in the evening and night and Sabrina would help me in the day, while I was classes. This was difficult for me as I didn’t know who I would have support me from one night to the next.
Another one of my anxieties was these temporary carers wouldn’t be briefed on my complex needs and would feel comfortable on helping me. But when I actually found out that these temporary carers had assisted students with similar needs before and knew what to do, it put me at ease.
All they needed was to be made aware of my routine.
With this barrier broken down, I was able to form bonds with the carers that came to assist me. Though this was a good, I must say it was difficult to juggle everything happening around my course with the coursework.
Though I was working my very hardest to keep up, it had to take somewhat of a back seat. I was speaking with Ask Jules on a regular basis as well as speaking and conducting interviews with various potential candidates to fill the roles. The challenge intensified by candidates rearranging or cancelling their interviews at the last minute.
My coursework taking a back seat to all of this caused me to work until the very last second and this didn’t always work out. I have had to get deferrals on pieces of coursework, which I am still catching up on now.
Everything began to start to take its toll on me and defiantly affected my confidence and I was reconsidering staying at university for the remainder of my degree.
Finally, and much to my relief, Ask Jules managed to secure three interviews for the same day. Although this was great, I did feel pleasured into finding two applicants as we were getting insanity desperate to find people to start straight away and I felt anxious as I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as last time and just have a repeat of what already happened. My anxiety grew when I found out that my parents would not be able to travel to Leicester on the day of the interviews, so I was the only one from my angle to interview the candidates.
This was nerve-wracking, but it did allow me to take charge and responsibility in choosing who I thought fitted the requirements I needed for the roles. Considering this, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful and I was set on doing everything in my power to make this time a success.
On the day of the three interviews, I had a new, focused mind set.
The first applicant of the three, (Minerva) was very cheerful and friendly. She gave me the answers I wanted to all of the basic questions I asked which made me slowly feel more at ease and hopeful.
We chatted a lot during the interview and this to me was better than getting the right answers to the questions I asked as I was able to get a feel for the person’s personality more than if it was just a question and answer session.
We would be spending a lot of time together outside of classes so it’s important we get on at a person level. During the interview, I learned that she also studied at De Montfort University – an added bonus. At the end of the interview, I was really happy with how well it went. I didn’t feel it was like an interview but a friendly chit-chat amongst friends.
The second (Narcissa) and the third applicant (Lavender) were quite different to one another.
While Narcissa was also friendly and understood the caring aspects of the job, I felt that our personalities were vastly different and didn’t work well together.
On the other hand, Lavender was like Minerva. She had a very good understanding of the job role and was quite open about everything and I could tell that she was willing to try new things.
I found her to be very friendly and she was chatty and open. We talked about ourselves and our hobbies and likes and dislikes. Also, like the first candidate we interviewed, the third applicant and I had a really good chin wag, which put me at ease.
Once all of the interviews were finished, I thought long and hard and, in the end,, I decided to hire Minerva and Lavender. I was very happy with my decision.
Making my own decision at this level, gave me a real sense of pride at being able to do it on my own. Following this decision, I was so pleased that they accepted the jobs and upon meeting the two girls, my parents were pleased with my choice.