In 2009 Mary O’Connell’s world was turned upside down. After being bullied at work she took the courageous step and stood up for herself only to be made redundant six weeks later. Determined to get back into the workforce she picked up herself up and dusted herself off and took a leap of faith that the next job would be different.
Q. You had the unfortunate experience of being bullied in the workplace. That must have been terrible for you to go through.
A: It was a bad experience. My whole world was turned upside down and being made redundant just felt very unfair. I was unemployed for 10 months after that.
Q. Was it worth speaking up?
A. I’m definitely happier now and if I hadn’t I would not have gone on to work where I am now and been given the opportunities I’ve had working at Family and Community Services (FACS). It’s tough to speak up though. I went to a very dark place and at the time it shook me to my core. It’s hard when the consequences are that you lose your job. It really affects your confidence. It took me about six months to get over it.
Q. Has your disability affected your job prospects?
A. Yes, I think it has. I would go to interviews and be upfront about my disability. I have a mild intellectual disability and motor dyspraxia which is where messages to and from my brain don’t get transmitted properly and affects my co-ordination. Most people would be polite but you could tell from their body language it made them feel uncomfortable and they would end the interview.
Q. How did you deal with those kinds of setbacks?
A. They only made me more determined. Even if I was feeling downhearted about it, I kept on going to interviews. Having a job is the most important thing for me. I’m lucky that I have a very supportive family and an older brother and sister who would encourage me and keep up my spirits.
Q. What is your job now?
A. I’m a Project Support Officer in the Service Delivery & Programs unit at FACS. It’s a great role. I love doing admin and feel very fortunate to be working in the department. I’ve moved around a bit too over the years and have worked in the Communications unit and also spent some time in the Minsters’ Office working on reception.
Q. What do you like about your job?
A. I trained in administration, so it’s great to be using my skills I learnt as part of the Certificate IV in Business Administration I completed at TAFE. Graduating from that course improved my confidence and made me feel like I would be able to do the tasks I’d be asked to do at work.
Q. What advice would you give to other people on the job hunt?
A. Never give up. Say to yourself: the right job is out there for me. The more you go to interviews the better you get and the more likely you are to come across someone who sees your potential.
Q. What does having a job mean to you?
A. It’s so important. It means financial independence and that you can afford to go on holidays and have a life. It also makes me feel wanted and that I’m valued for my skills and for my abilities. When I didn’t have a job I felt unwanted.