Success Story – Finding A New Career With Chronic Illness

Like many people with chronic illnesses, it took several years for Lisa to be diagnosed with her condition. Her experiences of endometriosis and osteopenia made her existing work as a bartender (travelling all over the world) increasingly inaccessible, and it became necessary to find a new plan of action. Since then, Astriid has been supporting Lisa through candidate coaching, mentoring, and targeted skill development through the WithYouWithME training programme. Today, she shares her story with us.

Lisa’s health difficulties began when she was a teenager. For over seven years she struggled to have her symptoms taken seriously and find answers, and it wasn’t until her early twenties that a laparoscopy revealed that she had endometriosis. Since then, she has had multiple corrective surgeries, hormone treatment, and most recently a hysterectomy. Lisa has also been diagnosed with osteopenia, a condition affecting bone density.

Lisa had to miss a lot of her education due to her early years of illness, including her vital GCSE years – she’d go to school in the morning and be sent back home by the afternoon. Because she had no diagnosis and therefore couldn’t access support, she was also asked to leave sixth form and college simply because her attendance was too low – an all-too-common experience that sadly affects many young people experiencing invisible illnesses.

In the past, Lisa had worked as a bartender, a career that enabled her to travel to many different countries and work at some of the UK’s most iconic festivals. However, she reached a point where her daily symptoms meant that the physically demanding work simply wasn’t feasible any longer. “I couldn’t do the career I’d chosen. I had to think about the worst-case scenario and what I could realistically do”, she tells us.

Following this, Lisa decided to join the Open University, and it was whilst she was working on one of her modules that she discovered Astriid. “Even from the website I could tell the team knew where I was coming from”, she remembers. “I think you could relate to Astriid – you could see there was a depth to the stories they were telling”.

Soon after signing up, Lisa was introduced to candidate co-ordinator Trish. Between them, they discussed what Lisa hoped to get out of her involvement with the charity and the support she would most benefit from, as well as how these things could be made available in a way that suits her wellbeing.

Since then, Lisa has received one-to-one input with her CV and LinkedIn presence, and also enrolled on Astriid’s WithYouWithMe programme. The bespoke programme features aptitude tests that match talented people from under-represented groups with tech roles they’re suited for, and accessible training to help candidates upskill and begin a digital career. Lisa is one of the first people to be completing the Cyber Security branch of WithYouWithMe, alongside a few other Astriid candidates who she’s also been able to form peer support connections with as they progress through the course.

“It’s completed at your own pace”, Lisa tells us, “you complete the aptitude test first, and then I had a meeting with the team to discuss the results and the strand that was the best fit. As well as cyber which was my preference, I also showed an aptitude for software development, so there’s an option to go down that route as well.”

“You go onto the site and you’ve got all the courses you’re enrolled in, and there are plenty of short videos included in the content – most are about 10 minutes maximum. All of the courses are broken down into modules and the modules are broken down into lessons, so there’s a really nice schedule to it where you can break things down and take them at your own pace.” 

Lisa is in her third and final year of her Open University degree, and is accessing support and training through Astriid alongside her studies. In the future, she has one goal above all others… to get to Japan. “I’ve always been interested in the culture, the history, the country. Getting there became my goal, and everything I’ve done has been to work my way towards that in some form or the other.”

“Over the course of three months everything’s been gradually progressing. I’ve found that communication is a really big thing at Astriid – it’s not just the case of receiving an email every now and then, it’s the team actually talking to you, looking at all aspects of what you’d like to happen and being there for you with practical support. The support I’ve received from Astriid is incredible.”

“There are good days and bad days. The pain is nowhere near as bad as it was, but it’s always there. I’ve found that even if I’m in pain I can still progress, I can still study. I want to maintain the motivation to be useful – no matter whether how big or how small the task is, it’s something.”

We’re thrilled that Lisa has had such a positive experience with Astriid so far, and we’re excited to follow her journey from here – not least because she’s promised the Astriid team a cocktail party one day in the future…

Here at Astriid, we match talented people with long-term illnesses with meaningful employment opportunities. We work with employers to make sure that they can meet individuals’ needs, and help candidates through all stages of their ‘work-ready’ journey.

You can find out more and sign up as a candidate or an employer by visiting our website. You may also be interested in our research report – Employment And Long-Term Illness: The Invisible Talent Pool!