So I am currently on a work placement for a year, as part of my university degree. In a nutshell, I work in one of the marketing teams and it is honestly one of the best decisions I’ve made. If you have the opportunity to do one, definitely take it!
When applying for a work placement I was nervous to say the least. It’s definitely competitive out there and although there are plenty of laws to prevent workplace discrimination, I was still apprehensive about writing about my condition in the disability section of the form. I think it’s only natural to feel disadvantaged by it, but I think it can also make you stand out. I certainly spoke about it at my interviews and used it to my advantage, people need to know how strong and resilient you are through having to live with arthritis.
It is constantly changing your ability to do things, making you problem solve and find other ways to open things and juggle your time between work and appointments of all kinds without a PA. Also, it’s really important that you’re open at this stage; you don’t want to be working for an employer who wouldn’t be understanding or be flexible with how and where you’re working from. I was also quite nervous about telling my new colleagues of mine of about it too, having never done it before. I was the new kid on the block, so keen to impress and fit in. And although they all seemed so lovely (and I now know that they definitely are) I couldn’t help but get anxious about what their reactions would be…
Looking back, I really shouldn’t have been. I just dropped it into conversation when I asked my manager (who knew about my arthritis from my CV) for time off for a doctors appointment in front of the team. One of the replies was naturally “oh, my mum had that”. Another said his brother, who is in his late twenties, also has arthritis. I was relieved, they knew about arthritis so would understand how it affects me. And for those who didn’t know about arthritis, I happily answered their questions. For me, there is nothing worse than me telling people I have arthritis and not having people ask about it, because I like people to understand it. My manager is ultra understanding when it comes to taking time off work for appointments. Thankfully, I haven’t had the need to be in a wheelchair this year, but I’m sure if that were the case, arrangements would be made.
I am also quite open about my arthritis with wider teams too, I think it’s important that people are made more aware of it. It also explains why I may be off work at random hours during the day. So yes, I’m sure workplace discrimination sadly does exist still in some places, but I’ve definitely had a positive experience so far and being completely transparent about how arthritis affects me is the best thing I have done and I will continue to do so x