From Employment Consultant, to job seeker, and back again. Cindy comes full circle thanks to inclusive work environment at EPIC

Friday, 11 November 2022

#InclusionAtWorkWeek 2022 is Diversity Council Australia’s inaugural week-long celebration of diversity and inclusion in Australian workplaces, celebrated from 14 to 18 November.

#InclusionAtWorkWeek is an opportunity for organisations to share the great work they’re doing in their workplaces; communicate why diversity and inclusion matters to them; outline the difference it has made in their workplace, and to encourage others to take similar action.

EPIC Assist (EPIC) promotes the benefits of diversity and inclusion to the businesses we partner with every day, which is why it’s important for EPIC to be an inclusive and supportive workplace for our employees, so that we can truly ‘walk the walk’.

“Being a diverse and supportive employer is what we need to be to represent our community. If we can’t support our staff – how can we truly support our job seekers?”

EPIC Assist CEO, Dean Graham

We chatted to EPIC Employment Consultant Cindy Wilson, about the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and her unique journey from working at EPIC as an employment consultant, to becoming a job seeker assisted by EPIC, and working her way back to being an employment consultant again.

Cindy’s story

In October 2018, I was offered a full-time opportunity to work as an employment consultant as part of EPIC’s Outer North Brisbane team, working across Caboolture and Bribie Island. What impressed me the most was the inclusion and diversity in the workplace and seeing staff with disability working with support and workplace modifications.  

I felt for the first time that I belonged not only to a team, but to people who are genuinely passionate about helping others. The EPIC team are always looking outside the square, ensuring that all staff and job seekers feel part of the bigger picture.

On Australia Day 2019, my life took an unexpected turn when I experienced a seizure. This led to many medical appointments and referrals to try and find an answer as to what was the cause.

After seeing three neurologists and a misdiagnosis of epilepsy, I finally saw a neurosurgeon who diagnosed my brain tumour and gave me 14 months to live, if I chose not to have the tumour removed. Chemotherapy or radiation were not options as these treatments would only shrink the tumour, not remove it. My rebellious nature could not accept that diagnosis, as I have too many people who need me, and I was not willing to give up. It all happened quickly from there as I prepared for surgery on another iconic day, 4th of July 2019.

The EPIC team were amazing in their support at this time, which helped reduce stress.

One of the most memorable experiences was when EPIC’s CEO heard of my news and called me to tell me that one of his family members had the same diagnosis and made a full recovery.

This was the first time I heard a positive outcome, which gave me an extra push to fight.

Following the surgery to remove the tumour, I was lucky to be alive. From there, I spent the next three years in recovery and rehabilitation as I had to regain the ability to walk on my right leg, improve my speech, memory, cognitive abilities, and more.

My EPIC colleagues were there for me in the early stages of my recovery, visiting the hospital, and giving me hope by making me feel included as part of the team.

My goal was always to return to work as an employment consultant at EPIC, but I had a long road ahead of me.

Work gives me a sense of purpose and I did not want to give up and submit to my new life without employment.

I decided to register myself with EPIC as a job seeker, knowing that I could not do this on my own. I needed EPIC’s support to understand the new version of me and find my existing skills to gain employment.

EPIC’s Outer North Brisbane team, particularly the Area Manager, Ryan, and my Employment Consultant, Joellen, were the greatest support. Aiding in my recovery, they encouraged me to explore new options. Senior Employment Advisor, Megan, also helped me with job referrals and supported me through placements. Megan helped me overcome some of my barriers regarding anxiety and confidence.

After trying several roles and workplaces which didn’t work out, I was starting to feel deflated.  I was spiralling into depression and anxiety trying to adapt to the new version of me. This was a challenging time, however, I would not have been diagnosed with ADHD and gained access to proper treatment had I not explored those jobs, so for that, I am thankful.

EPIC staff continuously supported me, providing new roles and opportunities.

It was normal for me to be anxious to start my day at work worrying about my barriers and the work environment. I would call Joellen prior to my shift who comforted me and made me see the positive out of each experience. Joellen always reassured me that it’s the small steps taken to get me to my big goal in returning to EPIC as a team member.

My biggest turning point was working at Sandstone Point Hotel. There I took on any task they assigned to me. I knew this was a workplace where I could build my skills and confidence in order to return to EPIC as an employee.

The major barrier that I had to deal with was having such poor memory. Joellen helped me create strategies to assist with remembering drinks orders while working at the bar, and I worked on improving my memory step by step.

After working at Sandstone Point Hotel during the peak holiday season, I had gained my confidence back, and applied all of the strategies I had adopted to improve my memory. I felt that I was ready to return to EPIC, and I was delighted when my GP and neuropsychiatrist cleared me to return.

Cindy sits at her desk in the EPIC office. She is smiling at the camera.
Cindy feels supported by her inclusive workplace every day at EPIC

Once an employment consultant position became available, I applied and gained an interview. As the area manager conducting the interview knew my medical condition and barriers, this eased my anxiety, however, he did express concerns about my memory. I told him that I had worked so hard on strategies to improve my memory that I was confident it wasn’t going to let me down.

I have accepted the new version of me and what I need to do my job differently but still effectively.

There is a big sense of relief for me having an inclusive work environment at EPIC. It allows me to work authentically whilst still developing strategies to improve the ways that I work.  

Inclusion is an important element of a workplace that employers and managers need to embrace to make their staff feel important and valued. Creating an inclusive workplace helps to improve productivity and allows team members to work outside of their comfort zone, knowing that they are supported.

My team makes me feel included through open and clear communication, praise and encouragement. They check in with me, ask whether I need any additional support in my daily duties, and encourage me to slow down when I take on more than I can chew. They encourage me to work at a pace that I can manage.

Because of the support and inclusion I have experienced at EPIC, and my own employment journey, I have a deep understanding and ability to relate to the journey that our job seekers are on. I pride myself in offering a unique tailored service to everyone, built upon empathy, support, and inclusion without judgement.

I say to my job seekers, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it will not change you.”

Through sharing my lived experiences, I hope this helps job seekers to further understand what they can do, rather than what they cannot do. I would not be here today if it was not for the EPIC Assist team continuously supporting, encouraging, and believing in me.

A group of EPIC team members from Caboolture stand out the front of the EPIC office. They are all smiling.
EPIC’s Outer North Brisbane team

EPIC Assist supports Diversity Council Australia’s #InclusionAtWorkWeek. If your business could benefit from creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, contact EPIC Assist today.

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