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Building confidence to work when you have a visible difference

You can take steps to build confidence to work with visible difference while gaining useful skills and experience and improving your existing abilities.

If you have a visible difference you might be worried about work or your ability to get a job. You might have attended interviews and been unsuccessful. Or maybe you’ve had time off work and feel low in confidence about going back.

If you are finding it difficult to think about work positively, there are some steps you can take which might help build your confidence to work whilst gaining useful skills and experience.

How visible difference can affect your confidence to work

You might have had time off work for physical or mental health reasons connected to your visible difference and be anxious about going back into a job. You may have had a series of unsuccessful job applications and worry that this is due to your visible difference. All of this can affect your confidence, making job applications even harder.

Here are some of the things you can do to build your confidence to work back up.


Volunteering is a great way of building confidence to work. Here are some of the benefits it provides:

  • Volunteering gives you control over how much time you give and when, so you can fit it in around your other commitments and restrict it to what you feel is manageable.
  • It provides an opportunity to develop your existing skills and learn new ones.
  • It helps you build a routine and work on your time management.
  • It is a chance to meet other people and develop your communication, teamworking and people skills.
  • You can look for volunteering opportunities with charities or volunteering organisations online.

You might also have a specific job in mind, but feel you need more experience to help with applications. Contact local organisations in this industry to see if they would take you on as a volunteer or on a work experience placement.

Adult learning courses

Adult education courses help you brush up on old skills, develop new ones and gain specialist knowledge. They are delivered at local colleges or online. They also give you the chance to meet and interact with like-minded people, helping to build up your confidence to work.

Some colleges offer discounts if you are on certain benefits or not currently working.

You could also use an online platform such as Coursera, edX and Future Learn.

  • Check out the course list on local college websites. You can also request printed programmes if you have limited access to the internet.
  • The local Jobcentre may offer help accessing courses, particularly if you are applying for Universal Credit (or in some places, the old Jobseeker’s Allowance).

You can add any courses you complete to your CV to show that you have undertaken training in these areas. This can help you feel more confident that you are qualified to enter or go back into the workplace.

Start a hobby

Maybe you’re wondering how hobbies can help you get a job. Well, having a hobby or interest is great for building up your confidence.

Hobbies give you the chance to meet new people with similar interests while also helping you feel more comfortable in a new environment. Getting good at something can also give your confidence a boost by reassuring you that with time and practice you can become an expert.

Your hobby doesn’t have to be directly related to the workplace. It could be an evening painting class or a local book club. The important thing is that the experience of developing a hobby will help build your confidence to work.

Develop a routine

Starting a new job can be daunting, and if you are not used to the routine of getting up, commuting and working for certain hours, the practicalities of working life can be an added stress. Even if you work from home, as many more of us are doing in the wake of COVID-19 (coronavirus), you need to have a routine to provide structure to your day.

You can build a routine even if you’re not currently in a job:

  • Start your morning as if you were going to work by getting up early.
  • Allow a fixed time for your breakfast, getting ready and doing any chores.
  • Start your morning tasks at a certain time and plan your day with morning and afternoon breaks as well as a lunch hour.
  • Finish your chores at a certain time and have a less structured evening.
  • Go to bed at a particular time, so you can get enough sleep before waking up at a set time the next morning.

Try to keep this routine going. It will help remove some of the major stresses of starting a new job – such as oversleeping!


How can socialising help build your confidence to work?

If you’ve been feeling low, it might be that you haven’t been seeing enough of your friends. Maybe you have had surgery and have spent a lot of time in hospital or at home. If you’ve been stuck inside for a long time, even going to the shops can feel like a huge challenge.

If this is the case, gradually start to increase the time you spend out of the house. Go for a coffee with a friend, take a walk with your child to the local shops or even start by walking the dog in the park. If you do something each day you will become more used to being out and about.

When you feel up to it, arrange to meet with friends regularly so you’re in regular contact with other humans! This will help you adjust rapidly to the workplace, where you will be around other people all day.

Gradually increase your activity

If you are recovering from surgery and hoping to find a job, think about when would be a good time to start gradually increasing your activity.

If your long-term goal is to get a job, consider what you could do in the short and medium term to make this happen:

  • Two weeks’ time: Do small jobs around the house.
  • Four weeks’ time: Go for a walk.
  • Six weeks’ time: Meet a friend.
  • Eight weeks’ time: Complete an evening course or volunteering placement.
  • Three months’ time: Start applying for jobs.

Take things at your own pace, revisit your planned timeline and always follow medical advice.

Talk to other people with a visible difference

It might be helpful to link up with other people who have a visible difference to talk about what they did to start applying for jobs and begin work. It can be helpful to talk through some of your worries with someone who has experienced the same difficulties.

Update your CV

Make sure your CV is up-to-date so when you start applying for jobs you have something to work with. Writing a CV can take a lot of time, so having this ready can feel like one less thing to do – and when you see a job you feel able to apply for, you are fully prepared.

Bear in mind that you will need to adapt your CV to the specific vacancies you are applying for.

  • You can find lots of example CVs online or you might want to get some advice in person.
  • The Jobcentre, charities such as Citizens Advice Bureau and even colleges offer CV-writing courses, including advice on how to write a CV which shows off your particular skillset in the best possible way.
  • Ask a friend or family member with experience to help you.

Working on your CV will also familiarise you with your skills and achievements, helping to build your confidence to work.

Talk to recruitment agencies

Recruitment agencies can help you to tailor your CV, practise interview techniques and find the right jobs for your skillset.

Make sure you find a reputable agency – look out for the “Disability Confident” mark. Whether or not you have a disability, the Disability Confident mark means the organisation is committed to the employment, training, retention and career development of any disabled employees.

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