Rob had been working as an established chef for 15 years before the COVID-19 pandemic crushed the hospitality sector. Rob had never been out of work in his career, so the life-altering shock of this took its toll on his mental health.

“Working in hospitality is great for socialising and meeting new people. I was living in the pub that I was working in, so I was always drinking, and partying and I loved it at the time.

“But when everything is functioning normally, you don’t realise that there’s a problem and it was only when I lost my job and my home that everything came crashing down. I had a bit of a meltdown, struggled with my mental health and was drinking too much.

“I engaged with some mental health professionals, got some CBT counselling and off the back of that, my counsellor suggested a couple of courses that they were running that he thought would be of interest to me. I had no intention of changing my career, but I realised that I’d had such a positive experience on the receiving end, that I wanted to pass that on and help other people, so I decided to look into careers in mental health support work.

“I did some online courses with the local college and university and as lockdown eased, I got in touch with the Jobcentre as I was ready to get started on finding work. I was referred to Lucy on the JETS scheme and she was absolutely brilliant. I always ended up smiling and laughing on my calls with her.

“We had the initial conversations about what I wanted to do and why and she helped me to re-work my CV, as I only had hospitality experience. She helped me to steer it in the right direction and look at my transferable skills. Kitchens are high-pressured situations and you can deal with challenging characters and she made me realise that those skills would help me in my new career.

“I started sending my CV out to different organisations and within a few days I was receiving call backs. I had a Skype interview with one company and was offered a job working as Mental Health Support Worker for adults with complex needs! I was so shocked, especially as I had no real-life experience in this kind of role.

“When I lost my job as a chef, I had a lot of fear and felt like I’d lost my identity. I felt like I wasn’t worth anything because I wasn’t contributing. My advice for others who are struggling to find work would be to keep optimism and don’t de-value yourself based on your current situation; focus on what you can do and have hope.”

The Work and Health JETS scheme is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund.

Area: Dorset

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