Mild mental illness and work – am I better off temping?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 - career coaching, career management, Employment, health


Mental Illness and Work

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Helen asks: I am currently working in the NHS as a permanent member of staff. I have been here 5 weeks. I thought I had a hold over my anxiety but its still there and being on reception is making it worse for me. I have been to Occupational Health and my counsellor told me to wait at least 3 months before making a decision. I have also been to a psychiatrist who has suggested Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. One month has already passed in my new job. I have never lasted in a job for more than 6 months. I always feel like I need to start a fresh after a few months. Its like I keep feeling like I’ve screwed up with people and I need to get out and start again.

In answer:
I think you need to concentrate on you first, but I also think this particular job can wholly help you in this.

Firstly, go and chat with your therapist to ask about tactics and strategies which look at your behaviours and views of relationship forming. It sounds like you are magnifying small operational issues – normal in learning and getting used to a new job for the first six months – into large reflections of dislike of you personally by others.

Here is what happens in most permanent jobs. You get picked/hired because you have the functional skills to do the job (a combination of training and experience), and will fit in socially with the team. On joining, you need to firstly fit in socially and then functionally to perform, and that takes at least the first 6months, probably a year. Most HR studies prove that new hires won’t be at maximum operational capability until 18months in the job; which is kind of crazy when you consider that most people move jobs every two years!

If you go temping, you will be expected to totally perform functionally – ignore the social side, they couldn’t care less if you fit in the team, you are only there for a week or two and then gone: so just do the job! The means you would always be in a circle of learning new office procedures and performing at maximum as quickly as possible – before having to do the same thing again next week.

As most temps are treated a little bit better than a piece of furniture, I can’t see this as a good career choice for you – if you don’t perform, they will replace you with another temp that day/week; which from what you describe you will read as rejection. Keep repeating the pattern every two weeks, and the only thing you have is yourself and the word “rejected” multiplied

Chat to your therapist about – she what they say. I personally think that as this team choose you because they fully believed you do fit, leaving them is a route to a path which has more possible downsides than gains.

Oh, and PS: temping won’t look bad on your CV, as employment and experience always looks good! Temping = potentially good experience gained quickly, and enables you when you apply for permanent positions to know what you want to do and prove social fit ability

Good Luck!

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