Eleanor Macleod is completing her internship with The Scottish Government in the Communities Analysis Division. She has written a blog about what it has been like to work at the Scottish Government, included the highlights and detailed the adjustments that’s made it a great place to work!
Panic, Fear & Dread.
These were the three words that came to mind as I entered the Scottish Government building in early 2018. I was invited to interview for an intern position with the Scottish Government Social Security Directorate. During the interview I had quite a severe panic attack, and remember feeling that there was no way that I could get the job. After a short time, the panel members assured me that everything was okay, and that we would go to a more relaxed space, in the coffee area. This was an excellent idea, as I quickly relaxed and was able to speak openly about my career to date and how I related to the role.
Inclusion, Open-ness and Flexibility
These are now the three words that come to mind as I start my 9th month working with the Scottish Government. It has been a rollercoaster and not an easy ride at that, but since I thought I’d never work again- it’s actually quite an astonishing achievement. As I sit here typing away I realise quite quickly that I now have a voice. One that was diminished somewhat by fatigue, fog and a lack of future opportunities. I did not see a future! But now I do! How amazing! Working for Scot Gov has given me much more than confidence. I have been included in decisions, and sometimes made decisions on my own. I have experienced an open-ness that I have not experienced in the workplace before. My focus has been welcomed, as an individual with a disability that relies heavily on flexibility. This job gave me all that.
Challenges in the role
It wasn’t all easy. I struggled with my health on more than one occasion but managed to get back on track relatively quickly. Staff and Inclusion Scotland were always there to help and went the extra mile to make sure I was safe and well. I worked part-time which was really good for a positive work/ life/balance.
ICT systems were at first difficult to navigate and were not the best for usability as an individual with a mental and physical impairment. However, this got easier with time and patience. My memory is not always good, so I struggled to start with. As time went by I began to become more efficient and quicker at completing tasks.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have clear instructions for tasks and making sure everything is explained from an early stage. I found a lot of this was done online at the Scottish Government – but for someone with disabilities – this was not the best way. Face to face interaction with brief explanation of tasks can help. Also clear expectations from the start of the placement were in the most part in place.
What did I learn in the role?
Learning from day one was key in this role, as it was certainly a steep learning curve for me. I learned that the people of Scotland want change. They want a positive future- one of hope and inclusive attitude. I learned a lot about myself, my limitations and how to say ‘no’ at times. I also learned that most people just want to be treated with dignity, fairness and respect.
There are a few highlights that come to my mind when thinking and reflecting on my experience with the Scottish Government.
The first was when I sat down in a meeting with a Principal Social Researcher and explained a proposal to her. This proposal was to carry out two pilot events working with those on benefits. It was hard work getting the proposal to the stage I was happy with but we got there after a good focused discussion. As a result, two events took place with many members of the public and the interns interviewed each other in front of a group.
The second was having my blog published on the intranet on World Mental Health Day 2018. I wrote about my ‘Recipe for Recovery’ which is a 5 step plan to recovery in the workplace. This was welcomed by my team and Scottish Government as a whole and was a talking point amongst staff.
There were many benefits to my health and wellbeing when working in this specific role. Being part time allowed me time and space to reflect and take the next week to a new level. I realise now the importance of structure, routine and stability and how these things manifest themselves in the core of my wellbeing. I would actually look forward to getting up on a Monday morning, knowing I had structure in my week. However, this structure came with flexibility.
I was able to take short breaks to maintain my medication. I was granted the flexibility to work from home at times and have a mix of working in the office and at home. This really helped- as for an individual that has chronic pain – in many ways, this made my pain more manageable.
I was also fortunate enough to meet the Minister for Older People and Equalities, Christina McKelvie and discuss the importance of flexible working in my life.
There were added benefits to my career progression. I was able to use many examples of my experience with the Scottish Government in job applications and in the future I would like to find a permanent role.
I would like to mention the impact that Inclusion Scotland and the team there has had on my life. The support that I received throughout my placement was superb – I was fully supported throughout and I will remember this experience for the rest of my life!