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6 things we learned about resilience from our Employer Hotseat

Beth MacDougall, EY

Beth MacDougall from EY delivered a session on Resilience. Here are the top takeaways.

Its normal to be nervous

“The one thing that terrified me literally more than anything was what am I gonna do for work. How am I gonna go into the workplace with this really strange title, this really long list of symptoms? And a degree that I don’t know how to be of use anymore and no experience. I was completely shook. I was absolutely terrified because all I wanted to do was work.”

But Beth goes on to say…

“I wish that I could go back to myself six years ago and say it’s going to be okay. It’s gonna be fine.”

Challenge = Change

“I learned that it is absolutely OK to challenge things in a process or on an application form, or in a procedure that you feel like you’re going to make you feel disadvantaged or unfair. There were plenty of times in an application form that actually will ask you to disclose a disability way before the ‘do you have a disability question’…that was my first lesson that it’s okay to challenge things. And that it’s the only way that we’re going to change things, by challenging and by asking the questions.”

People’s opinions are not your reality

“I remember the first time that I spoke with someone about my disability in a workplace, they actually told me that I was a health and safety risk, and it was selfish of me to be wanting to work in a workplace environment, after speaking to me for all of 2/3 minutes. I just wanted to have a conversation and explain, you know, but I can do this! But then why do I have to explain something? Why am I defined by this label that I have attached to me?”

Beth then speaks about how working as a recruiter allows her to speak to a range of people from all works of life

“We can learn from so many different people by having those conversations and again as recruiters we are in that position where we can constantly speak to a diverse group of people and learn from every single one of them. Giving someone a voice, really means that person is going to be able to bring their true authentic best self to the workplace.”

Play to your strengths (and find out how to play to your strengths!)

“Strength-based recruitment was definitely my friend…We might not have as much experience as persons who don’t have disabilities because it’s been harder for us to get that 0r maybe we’ve needed to take a break at times”

“So strength-based recruitment for me was so powerful in terms of I knew I didn’t have the experience that probably everyone else applying for this job did. I actually had no recruitment experience. I had plenty of student experience, plenty of mental health, well-being, events, development – but it was all dotted around different areas. I could only get small different bits of experience in different ways. I didn’t really know how to combine that. Until, I spoke to someone who help me do that”

Be proud and honest of who you are

“My interview at EY was actually the first time I ever disclosed my disability in an interview, outright. First question, “what are your motivations for EY” – well I have a disability. Straight up there. I’ve heard about this and this is why I did it because EY’s brand was all about a culture of belonging – our world your way. And I really truly believe that. I could see the images I could see the stories and I could see the things EY were doing to support people like me.”

“70% of people with a disability actually have an invisible disability which brings its own challenges. You can hide that until you get into your workplace, but if without disclosing a disability it’s very hard to get the support that you might need to be able to thrive and employ yourself the way that you want to.”

Who you are will show in what you do

Beth speaks about how people with different disabilities are often overlooked for employment and workplace stigma towards those disabilities

“People with disabilities are the largest pool of untapped talent. And that is because we do have, again those natural barriers, and sometimes that natural stigma of – traditionally disabled has meant something that someone cannot do.Whereas I would challenge that… people with disabilities are nature’s greatest problem solvers. We have to learn to live in a world that isn’t actually built always for us. We have to find different ways to do things. Which kind of brings me to my final point in terms of people with disabilities are some of the most valuable workforce that you can bring into an organisation. Those qualities of resilience communication, because you’re constantly having to communicate things, and ask for things and explain. Problem solving, creativity innovation, you name it, a person with a disability has to show that every single day in their life.”

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advice Gradfest2021 motivation resilience self-motivation

‘They will be innovators’

After leaving school at 16 and sleeping rough in London, Scottish born entrepreneur Mike Stevenson turned his life around when he returned to finish his education at the age of 22.  He went on to found an award-winning marketing and design agency and has since built a reputation throughout the UK as an inspirational speaker, trainer and creative consultant through his company Thinktastic. 

As the keynote speaker at Gradfest2021 – a six-week online careers festival for graduates of Queen’s University Belfast – Mike will motivate and inspire university-leavers to persevere in the pursuit of their dreams. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way people live, work and socialise, Mike believes this will accelerate demand for innovation among today’s graduates.  

Mike says: “I really do believe we are approaching the most transformational period in human history and that means there are opportunities, particularly for graduates who are leaving university now with all the skills and attributes that they bring to the world. It won’t happen overnight; they may face pitfalls and rejections. I have been through that, so I can tell them how to make sure that each time they fall, they emerge stronger. I left school at 16, I slept out on the streets of London; I didn’t set up my own business until I was 43 and then became an award-winning entrepreneur. 

“As the pace of change accelerates, extraordinary organisations will shape the future – not play catch-up. They will be creative, fearless and collaborative. They will be the innovators.”

Trevor Johnston, Head of Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s University Belfast said: “We are delighted to welcome Mike to Gradfest2021. It goes without saying that this has been a very challenging year for our students and graduates who should be commended for completing their studies under unusual circumstances.  

“The achievements of our latest cohort of Queen’s graduates is a testament to their commitment and resilience and we are extremely proud of how they have persevered and adapted. 

“Mike’s story is one of spirit and determination and we are confident he will inspire our students to stay agile as they press forward, ultimately raising their aspirations as they continue on their career journey.”

Mike joins a line-up of speakers comprising Queen’s alumni, students, business leaders and sponsors who will stream live to students via the Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills Instagram handle @QUBCAREERS throughout Gradfest2021.

Trevor says: “Instagram is a powerful tool to connect with our student and graduate audience. By streaming live on the platform, Mike and his fellow speakers will be able to connect with the audience in real time and respond to questions via the comment box during the live stream. We hope that by using this unique live video strategy, we can show our student audience a less filtered and more human side of our speakers.”

Alongside live streamed employer Q&As, resilience coaching and alumni success stories, Queen’s graduates can search and apply for jobs via the Gradfest2021 site and access careers advice and support via the live chat function. 

Mike Stevenson will be live streaming his keynote speech via the @QUBCAREERS Instagram page on Friday 11 June at 12pm. The recorded video will also be available on demand via the Gradfest2021 site. For more information visit GO.QUB.AC.UK/GRADFEST2021

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Advent Calendar advice goals motivation self-motivation

Careers Advent Calendar: Three top tips for Self-Motivation

1.Only compete with yourself

Comparing yourself to others can leave you flat, when it comes to self-motivation, it’s much better to set your own benchmark. Set yourself daily or weekly targets that move you closer to where you want to be.

2. Back yourself

Imagine someone asked you to describe what was so great about your best friend. Now imagine they asked you the same question about yourself. Would you be as kind about yourself as you are about others? Whether it’s through daily affirmations or just by talking to yourself more kindly, positive self-talk can super charge your motivation.

3. Show the haters

There is nothing like the promise of proving the haters wrong to speed you along the path towards your goals. Next time you are lacking motivation, think about that person who said you couldn’t and aim to prove them wrong. 

For more top tips on interpersonal skills, visit the skills section of our site