At Purple Co, we often are referred clients who, before their injury or illness, would have been classed as executives, C-suite professionals, or senior managers. These are people who typically have decades of experience and a significant amount of subject matter expertise. Placing these clients in new roles can be difficult, because it’s really hard to go from being sick or unwell right back into the same high-paced, high-pressure type of role that they were in before they became ill. And sometimes, it’s totally unfeasible, because clients typically come to us with reduced capacity and tolerance – which means that they can’t realistically meet the functional requirements of their pre-injury/illness job.
This means that we’re presented with a conundrum – someone with experience in a significantly higher-level role than they’re currently able to perform. If they have a resume, it’s normally outdated and totally not appropriate for the new types of roles they’re trying to source. Helping highly-skilled and highly-experienced clients re-enter the workforce is exceptionally difficult – which means it requires a different approach.
Our consultant Ross has recently worked with a client who fits the description above. *Peter* [not the client’s real name] had held a senior position in a communications role – it was a very fast paced job that involved a significant amount of communication with other professionals, and countless meetings, obligations, commitments and presentations on a weekly or daily basis. Peter left his job due to substance dependence, which had developed gradually until it reached a point where he was no longer able to work.
Peter was a very motivated person who wanted to get better. Before being referred to Purple Co, he had participated in a number of in-house treatment programs and several outpatient programs, too. Both Peter and his treating doctor felt ready to consider returning to work – in fact, he had already been applying for roles, but with no success.
Ross met with Peter to get a clearer understanding of his situation. Ross found that while Peter had been actively applying for roles, his approach was way off. His resume and CV spoke of a skillset and background that was totally irrelevant to the semi-skilled jobs he was currently applying for. Ross helped him figure out how to tailor his new marketing documents to fit the job at hand, as well as how to approach disclosing his background to potential employers.
To help Peter get moving, Ross also began canvassing for contacts and potential job opportunities. It’s important to note that at no point did Ross “do” all the heavy lifting and job seeking for Peter – we find that partnering with clients and helping the process along is always more effective than asking the client to take a passive role in this process.
At the same time, Ross found a number of support contacts for Peter and held a case conference with his GP to discuss how Peter might maintain access to ongoing support to make sure he stayed on track in his recovery.
As the weeks went by, Peter’s confidence in himself, his skills and his ability to return to work increased dramatically, alongside his skills for job seeking and canvassing for roles. Ross was able to provide support directly over the phone, through face to face meetings and by reviewing the client’s progress on a week to week basis.
With Ross’ help, Peter secured several job interviews and was eventually offered a role. Initially, the role was to be for 12 hours a week, however Peter has consistently been working nearly full time hours since he began in this role. (Peter’s new employer immediately recognised his skill and positive attitude, and has been asking him to take on additional hours because he is such an asset). Peter and Ross stay in touch on a regular basis to make sure that Peter is managing well in his new role and to provide additional support, advice and encouragement when he needs it.
Peter has more than exceeded his initial goal – which was just getting back into some kind of work. The biggest priority at the moment is making sure that we stays well at work, which is key to making sure that Peter’s return to work is durable and sustainable.
To summarize, there were several elements to Ross’ approach that were critical:
- understanding that clients from experienced and senior backgrounds require a different approach than how they have likely sourced jobs in the past
- focusing on returning to a semi-skilled role as a “first step” in getting back to work (often clients from highly-skilled backgrounds will struggle with the idea of going back to lower-level work unless it is seen as a stepping stone, not the “end goal”)
- regular communication with all of Peter’s treating health professionals
- education, encouragement and support in all areas of the job seeking process
- post-placement support to ensure that Peter remains well at work in the long term
Have you worked with clients from highly-skilled backgrounds before?