A while ago I posted about whether people were willing to tell stories. A friend and colleague offered this contribution:

From Caroline Carswell @ irishdeafkids.ie

“Sorting post in the mailroom of a large UK publishing house wasn’t what I went to university for. Admittedly the job was in the right field – publishing – the subject of my post-graduate diploma. The difficulty lay in convincing my new colleagues to see my potential, and not to focus on my hearing issues. From my perspective, this temporary job was a stepping stone to a graduate job and it was my responsibility to communicate this to the editors collecting their post.

Chatting about my recent past as a post-graduate student in publishing was a good way to shatter any preconceptions the staff had about my abilities. The trick was to do this conversationally. So, that’s how it was done. Any time anyone asked how I was, or how my weekend went, my former classmates might be mentioned in the context of socialising or other activities.

Slowly, the editors began to piece together the snippets of knowledge they were fed. A senior commissioning editor stopped by one day, to enquire about my publishing course and the subject of my primary degree. A part-time editorial assistant was needed for a social-history journal, and she invited me to submit a CV for consideration. That was the start of the door creaking open.

Even getting the mailroom job was a challenge. Publishing is famously difficult to break into, and as a new arrival in the UK, I had less contacts than my classmates. Frosty disinterest from staff at local recruitment agencies was also seriously off-putting. By confronting that issue however, the agency with the mailroom job was found, and four months later, a permanent job was in the bag.

After working part-time as a teenager, and doing admin work in the students’ union at college, I never questioned my ability to get a graduate job. Other people did try to “pigeon-hole” me at that stage, but thanks to work experience, my ability to challenge their perceptions had developed.”

( Caroline has since worked in a corporate marketing team in the software industry, and now runs the Irish Deaf Kids venture, http://www.irishdeafkids.ie/ )