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Tackling A Graduate Scheme With A Disability

  November 29, 2016   

After graduating from university I applied to Unilever’s graduate scheme - the Unilever Future Leaders Programme. I chose Unilever as the rotational UFLP programme allows me to build experience in a range of HR teams over a few years. I was also attracted to Unilever as it’s a global company and I’m keen to work internationally in the future to build on the experiences I’ve had working in Tokyo and New York in my career so far.

As part of a team I provide HR support to the sales (Customer Development) and marketing team. Some of the items I have worked on include the end of year review which ensures that everyone gets a performance rating as well as a bonus allocation. I also enjoy running training workshops with senior leaders as I find presenting really exciting! Even more so when you are offering people training as it’s something that can make people even better in their roles. A gift from one of my disabilities is that it makes me really talkative which is great for presentations and events. So my role really plays to my strengths.

I also have management responsibility for leading a team of graduates and students who run Unilever’s social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to attract students and graduates to Unilever. This part of my role also allows me to use the creative strengths of my disability as I get to create competitions and campaigns for Twitter.

Adjusting To The Workplace

My office is open plan with lots of natural light which is great for being able to pop over and see someone when you have a question. However, open plan environments can make it harder to focus as I am able to hear very sensitively, so one thing I do is use headphones and listen to music. This also helps me work on creative elements of my role with mind mapping software.

Being in a building with marketers means there are a lot of cool breakout areas with comfy sofas. This means I can alternate where I sit and enables me to sit out of my wheelchair if I want to and sometimes I’ve even been known to enjoy a free ice cream over a catch up cuppa.

I use Ghotit software when writing documents to check spellings and the context of words. I also have a touchscreen iPhone instead of a standard Nokia as this is easier for me to use with my fingers. I worked with IT to ensure these were supplied. Unilever invests a lot in technology so I also have a touch screen laptop (as do all employees) and this allows me to alternate between touch screen mode and keyboard and use a wireless mouse which makes things easier for my fingers.

Studying And Working

As part of the HR UFLP programme I am taking the next level of my CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) HR qualification. Normally this is offered as distance learning but I needed a taught course for my disability as I learn by verbal delivery and interactive discussion. So I was provided with the MSc at Warwick University in London.

I study two evenings per week from 6-9pm during term time. I work a full day before the classes which may sound really long but the energy that comes from being able to explore items I can take to my role and share with my team is great.

Being on a university course means I can also access disabled students allowances for study skills tutors which helps for planning time and reading. I usually see my study skills tutor on an evening after work. I also get study leave from my manager for my assignments which helps with getting everything done. I’m due to finish the course next December 2016 and am looking forward to graduating a second time whilst also writing a dissertation for a 1st time… I’m hoping to write about disability employment. Further university study is not something I thought I would end up doing as I always thought my 1st degree was a one and only, but it shows just how much can be achieved with the right environment and delivery format.

By Becky Coleman
HR Graduate and Unilever Future Leaders Programme employee currently studying towards an Msc in Human Resource Management and Employment Relations

MyPlus Students' Club is featuring articles related to the theme of 'Overcoming Challenges' in the lead up to the UN International Day of Persons with Disability this Friday. Stay tuned for more.

Read MyPlus Stories and advice on Employability.

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