“I don’t think we can help you here…”

job application form

Let me set the stage to give you perspective on who said these words to me and how they changed the way that I think about myself and my work.

I’ve written about this before in other posts regarding the challenge that can exist for people with disabilities in finding suitable employment. There can be many reasons for this – some are societal and others are just practical and depend on the level of ability.

For many, because of the benefits received from ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Plan) they need to stay in a position where they are supported by the Government for fear of losing health benefits.

It’s complicated…

Back to the story

It was early 2012…

I hit a fairly low point personally in early 2012. I had tried a few things that hadn’t worked out in the past and I just needed to find a job – any job – to put some food on the table. I had a number of promising leads. I had positive phone interviews that turned into in-person interviews…and then it went nowhere.

This happened several times, it was discouraging and I was getting desperate.

I saw an advertisement somewhere for a program that helped people with disabilities to find jobs, so I reached out. I was contacted and we set up a time to meet.

I went into this interview with so much hope.

I thought that I had finally found something that would help me find a job. Surely they had connections that could look past my disability.

Here’s the thing – deep down inside, I didn’t want to be there, but the reality of my financial situation was dire, so I went.

And the interview started.

The interviewer was a really nice lady. I had previously sent her a copy of my cover letter and resume and we started discussing my education and job history. We talked in some detail about each position, including different entrepreneurial pursuits that I had tried.

Everyone is always so fascinated with the grocery store being my first endeavour.

All along I’m thinking – This is great!!

Finally, someone that will listen and realize that I do have some knowledge and skills that could be beneficial in finding a job.

I thought it was going pretty well, and then she stopped, put her pen down and said these words:

“I don’t think we can help you here.”

I was sort of stunned and was thinking “what did I do wrong?

And she went on to explain:

First, she explained to me that I had far too many skills and experience to need help finding a job. I didn’t really see that as a valid point because up until that time, I couldn’t find work.

She also went on to explain that the kinds of jobs that they would help me find are jobs that were a few hours per week and paid a very low rate of pay. Which to me…is very sad. They assume that all people with disabilities can only handle low-skill jobs.

The program didn’t really provide help for someone like me.

But, it was her next few words that really caught me off guard and yet provided me with a tremendous sense of freedom at the same time.

“And, even if we did help you find a job, I get the feeling that you would always be planning your exit. I think you have the natural skills of an entrepreneur” 

I had never really thought of that before. Over the years I just thought maybe I was the world’s worst employee!

I HATED working in most regular employment settings. It went beyond just not liking it though. Lots of people don’t like their job.

For me, going to a regular job caused me so much anxiety.

Every. Single. Day.

She was 100% correct!

For many years prior, I spent a lot of time feeling like something was wrong with me. How could so many of my friends and acquaintances have no problem finding a normal job, getting up every day and just going to work?

Surely there was something wrong with me.

It was something that I felt quite guilty about up until that day.

Thankfully the interviewer took some time to help me think through what this meant and I left her office feeling great! It was honestly like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

As soon as I got to the car, I called Joy.

Joy’s first question was “Did you find a job?”  which was a fair question given that we likely had $50 in the bank at the time…

“Not exactly…I will explain it to you later tonight”

That night I went home where Joy and I talked about this in detail and for whatever reason, she was OK with the outcome.

This started a change in my thinking. 

I wish I could say that life just fell into place after that day, but it didn’t.

However, what did happen was that I had more clarity on where I should be investing my time and energy and slowly, things started to come together.

Shortly after this, Joy and I got the chance to buy a small cafe, and somewhere around then, I started building websites and the business grew from there and it’s branched out into a few other projects as well.

I don’t often explain how I earn money because it’s hard to explain to people who aren’t familiar with the various ways you can make money legally, online. 🙂

Do I wish that I had the security of a regular 9 to 5 job?

Not really.

If I had a regular gig, I wouldn’t be able to be sitting in Starbucks like I am right now.  🙂

Each day I enjoy working at home for a few hours in the morning, then going to my local Starbucks, getting a coffee and working for a few more hours from there.

coffee cup and laptop in starbucks

Of course, I wish my bank account had a little more money in it on a consistent basis, but I wouldn’t take more money in exchange for a 9-5 cubicle – that’s for sure!

If you’re wired that way, that’s OK too. It’s likely a good thing that we’re not all the same!

I know for some people, knowing where their next paycheque (or next 26 paycheques) is coming from is important, but for me – that’s just not compelling enough to make me change the way I think.

I enjoy having the flexibility to explore my creativity and to turn some of my ideas into reality.

At the end of the day, the lady that told me that she couldn’t help me find a job was one of the most helpful people I have ever met. 

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