A day in the life of a Workwise employment consultant

Workwise works with people who are facing personal or health challenges and supports them to return to or stay in employment.

Wise Group senior communication advisor Rachel McGuire spent a day with Workwise employment consultant / kairapu tūranga mahi Robert Williams. Here’s a peek into his day from Rachel’s perspective.

I knew ‘what’ Workwise did.  They find people jobs. I’d heard the bell ring at Kakariki House every time a Workwise client got a job. But I didn’t really have a sense of ‘how’ the team at Workwise went about helping people into employment.

I arrived at the Auckland office on a fairly drizzly morning. Robert and I hadn’t really discussed what he had planned for the day – whether we’d be spending it in the office or out and about. It was a bit of both as it turns out…

Finding someone a job needs to be a 50/50 partnership between the consultant and the person. 

Taking those first steps

At 10.30am Robert’s client Losa*, arrived for her first meeting accompanied by her key worker. Making herself a coffee before the meeting starts, Losa tells Robert why she really wants to get back into employment.

“I want to help my mum pay her bills. Also I know getting a job will help me build up my health and avoid stress.”

It’s easy to see that Losa is keen but feeling a bit out of her comfort zone.

When we sit down with Losa, Robert chats easily to make her feel comfortable. She gives Robert her CV, talks about her work experience and tells him she would like to find work in the hospitality area. She hasn’t worked for a few years, but she wants to work and knows she’ll feel better for it.

Robert tries to learn a bit more about Losa, weaving in questions like, “what does a regular week look like for you?”, “tell me in your own words how your mental health is going at the moment” and “are there any things you think might get in the way of you working?” Losa reports that she is feeling good and keen to get into work.

Robert explores some of the more logistical issues with Losa – what help she really wants from him, how she will manage the job search process with no internet or email, what sort of hours she wants to work, areas she would be keen to get work and how she will manage transport.

Robert closes the meeting with a tentative plan – he will focus on some of the online job search options and support Losa to do some cold calling herself. However, before any of that starts, he tells Losa to carefully read the privacy form he has given her in her welcome pack and bring it back to next week’s meeting where they can fill it out together.

Losa leaves with the clear understanding she can ring Robert any time if she has any questions. After she has left I ask Robert why he didn’t just do the privacy paperwork at the meeting and get started on the job search straight away.

“Finding someone a job needs to be a 50/50 partnership between the consultant and the person,” Robert said.

“By giving Losa a couple of days to read the paperwork and think about the process, I’ll know that if she does come back to next week’s meeting, she’s probably going to be committed to the process and have had enough time to discuss with her whānau or other supports to make that informed decision.” He adds that each employment consultant probably has a slightly different approach to signing people up. “That’s one of the great things about this job. We work autonomously so we can figure out what works best for us and the people we work with, but it’s all based on a solid approach and with the support of lots of evidence based information and tools.”

He mentions that there are a lot of things for people to think about when they start looking for work, like whether and how much they disclose about their mental illness.

This comment starts a whole new conversation around disclosure.

“Around 80 per cent of people don’t disclose and they’re not required to,” Robert said.

“If the person is nervous and anxious about telling their potential employer about their illness, the employer will be nervous and anxious to hear it. So if they do want to share information about their mental illness, I can help them so they can broach the subject in a positive and confident way.”

On the job hunt again

Robert’s next appointment, Dale* has arrived. Dale looks more relaxed with the environment and seems to have a better sense for how it all works. He met with Robert the previous week and has used Workwise’s services a few times in the past. They start by looking at the CV Robert compiled from the information Dale had shared with him at their last meeting. Dale was really happy with it and didn’t have any changes to be made.  

They get straight into the job search process. Dale is currently working, but not in the field he wants, which is a specialist area of building. Dale tells Robert that he’s spotted a job on Trademe since they last met. Robert opens his laptop, finds the job he is talking about and reads out the ad.

“Do you feel confident to do all of those things?” Robert asks. “Yeah sure,” says Dale.

So Robert writes down the details and suggests Dale phones the company straight after the meeting, as the job ad has been on Trademe for a while already.

As they discuss other potential jobs on Trademe, Dale mentions that his biggest issue is not with finding a job, but keeping it. He’s good at what he does, but he can work a little too slowly at times because he likes to check things multiple times to make sure he gets things right.

“That’s good to know,” says Robert. “So perhaps we want to broaden our search for jobs that are still in the field that you enjoy, but perhaps don’t require quite as much precision.”

Dale adds that he sometimes finds it a bit hard to pick up new skills when they are only explained verbally, so they talk about how Dale can talk to potential employers about how he learns best – through being shown and working alongside people to learn new tasks.   

They continue looking on Trademe and find a number of other jobs that Robert writes down the details for and one that they apply for online together.

As they are talking about the plan of action for the following week, Dale mentions a little reluctantly about some relationship issues that might affect the job search. Robert asks a few more questions as he can immediately see that he might have to re-think the approach they take. It turns out Dale’s current job is connected with his partner’s family and he has already left a few times for new jobs that haven’t worked out. If he leaves this time, he needs to make sure it works out or both his relationship and his ‘backstop’ employment will be at risk.

Robert thanks Dale for sharing this information with him and says that together they can work through a solution. As he ponders this new information in regard to their initial work plan Robert suggests work experience to Dale.

“If we could arrange for you to get some work experience with someone for a few days who can give us some constructive feedback on how you work, that might help us with the approach we take to ensure you find a job you can keep.”

Dale is open to the idea and they wrap up the meeting with the decision that Dale would still contact all the jobs that they have identified and Robert would focus on finding some employers who might be open to work experience opportunities. Robert reminds Dale to check his emails daily so he doesn’t miss any replies.

Knocking on doors creates opportunities

After a short stop for lunch we head out to pick up Linda*, to support her in some cold calling. Linda hasn’t worked for about a year. She was very well liked and appreciated in her previous retail job, but being of the older generation she struggled a little with the computer side of things and decided to resign as she felt like she was a burden. Over the past year she has done a computer course to improve her skills.

Linda is friendly, bubbly and enthusiastic. I can see how she would be great in the right retail job.

The plan is to head to a local suburban shopping area to enquire about jobs and leave her CV for consideration. But, first she wants to go to a local tourist attraction to ask about doing some volunteering. Robert clarifies, “we normally focus on getting people into paid work, however, sometimes volunteering can be a stepping stone and a confidence builder for people.”

After Linda makes her volunteering enquiries, we head to the shopping strip.

Linda has a few nerves as she goes into the first shop while we wait outside. She comes out smiling – they were happy to take her CV in case something comes up. After a few more approaches Linda looks more and more confident, and is soon much more open to giving it a go when Robert or I suggest a possible workplace.

After an hour or so of beating the streets, Linda is pleased with her afternoon’s endeavours. She’s given out 10 CVs and is feeling hopeful. As we drive back to her house, she tells us how she felt more confident with each shop she went in to. She starts to make a plan for other shopping areas she will go to on her own over the coming days. She also spots a few other shops on the way home that she will approach. She is hugely grateful to Robert for his support and tells me on the drive home how lucky she is to be working with him.

It has been a great day. I can really see the value that Workwise brings to people, sometimes with practical support and sometimes just to travel alongside the person and build their confidence.

Workwise’s PPO statement certainly resonates even more for me now, especially the beliefs that everyone has skills, talents and potential, working together moves mountains and hope matters.

* Not their actual names.

I can really see the value that Workwise brings to people, sometimes with practical support and sometimes just to travel alongside the person and build their confidence.