Tackling challenges in a new job

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Our guest blogger, Jonathan Caldeira, was a recent graduate when he first had coaching with us. He was undertaking a internship in central Government and the coaching, commissioned by his department, was aimed as supporting him to develop personal confidence as a neurodiverse member of the team. Jonathan recently had an interim role at a busy Job Centre. We caught up with him recently to see how he had handled the challenges of that role and how coaching had helped him develop. 

What were the main challenges for you working as a staff member on the autistic spectrum at the Job Centre? 

I was thrust into an office with 50 new colleagues, on a steep learning curve and with responsibility which directly affected the members of the public that I engaged with. It was daunting!

Most people who have started a new job will empathise with these feelings, however, being autistic meant additional challenges: 

  • Explaining my way of communicating with both staff and the public, so that we could understand each other
  • Pacing myself in an environment which could be noisy, bright and emotional in a way that both protected my well-being and ensured I could work well; e.g. taking breaks away from the main room and checking if my face was showing the ‘right emotion’ for the moment. 
  • Developing a way of working to minimise the inevitable confrontations which could occur and respond accordingly

How, I wondered, as an autistic and change-shy civil servant would I manage in such an alien environment? The solution lay with a special interest of mine of which anyone who knows me would be aware: my intense passion for stationery and notebooks.

How did the coaching help you shift your attitude to these challenges?

Mindset adjustment in short. An advantage of being autistic is having a unique outlook and attitude to work, challenges and situations. However, like everything, attitude and focus needs to be tuned tothe specific situation.. 

Before coaching, I saw myself as at a structural disadvantage. I expected to experience the challenges starting a new role and istarting work in general,;They felt like an insurmountable obstacle  that I had to somehow tackle.  

Coaching helped me by encouraging me to identify the specific challenges I faced and formulating a solution, rather than merely staring at the problem. Like an unsolved Rubix cube the challenge of succeeding and excelling in my role at the job centre did have a solution. It was just a case of finding it!

How did your response to this challenge (the Red Book) help other team members at the Job Centre?

The Red Book was inspired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Red Despatch box which I love. I created a centralised resource for myself and my colleagues, taking on their feedback and my anticipating challenges we needed address. 

I have always loved manuals, indeed I sometimes wish that there was a manual for everyday life, something many of you - whether neuro divergent and neurotypical - may empathise with. I also have the habit of creating my own little manuals for different interests.

The Red Book is my manual for working well in my role. It contains: 

  • An index of desk numbers, the colleagues who sat there, their names, preferred form of address and their role (a god-send for someone like me who has an awful habit of forgetting names)
  • A FAQ section of frequently asked questions, common situations that arise and a comprehensive list of responses to those
  • A compendium of important phone numbers that the public may require, full address of the job centre and general information that is useful to have to hand
  • A map of the general area, which was helpful to have a visual cue to direct members of the public in the right direction and to essential services in the city
  • A few pages of key phrases in different languages to check if an interpreter were required and in what language
  • A centralised timetable of the appointments for the day, cross-referenced with the desk numbers of the relevant staff.

 The Job Centre is a busy place and you are often working on your own, in a high-pressure environment. It is not always possible nor ideal to defer to another colleague or to wait for certain information. By having all these resources in one place, in an accessible format , acts as boon not only for myself, but also for my colleagues. 

 Time is saved, as colleagues don’t have to walk to the other side of the office to find an answer, now helpfully in their handbook. Confrontations and difficult situations are far more easily managed, with additional resources, guidance and best practice at one’s fingertips. New starters can quickly induct themselves into the office, with the confidence that they know where key personnel are and who to speak to. 

What has been the longer-term/broader impact of the Red Book project?

My managers asked me to develop the Red Book so that staff could continue to use it after I left my role.  This was my legacy. 

Any final thoughts on the impact of the coaching you had?

Coaching has taught me an important lesson: Many challenges at work are a matter of perspective. Our perceived weaknesses and challenges are very often hiding the very real strengths we possess. Difference in thinking, in understanding and perceiving is an inherent competitive advantage, not a failure to fit in.

A coach who ‘gets you’

Result specialises in providing coaching by experienced coaches who have lived experience of being marginalised. Several of our coaches are neurodiverse themselves. If you are interested in accessing coaching for and by neurodiverse people, why not get in touch?



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