James Finds his independence at Zoos Victoria

James is standing next to David Methven at the Zoo. Both are in their Zoos Victoria jackets.

Photo credit: Zoos Victoria

After being let go from his previous job due to COVID-19, 32-year-old Melburnian James was looking for a fresh start and more independence.

James, who lives with autism, came to WISE Employment in 2021 lacking direction, unsure of what he really wanted to do. His main goal was to transition from living with his parents and gain more freedom thanks to a steady income.

When he first came to WISE, he showed his Employment Consultant Alistair Campbell a spreadsheet of every job he had ever applied for –  from driving roles to admin roles.

At first, James struggled with phone catch-ups, so after an extended lockdown, it was great to meet face to face in the WISE office with Alistair.

“I supported James in preparing for interviews, however, for someone living on the spectrum, it was hard for him to not answer questions with brutal honesty. Interviews can be challenging when they’re off-the-cuff and unexpected questions are thrown at you,” said Alistair.

An admin role became available at Zoos Victoria, so Alistair and James worked together to prepare for the interview as much as they could, rehearsing potential answers to questions and reinforcing the strengths and skills that suited the role.

Ensuring he felt comfortable and confident, Alistair attended the interview with James. And although James had forgotten a few of his strengths related to this role, he managed to smile all the way through, joking and laughing with the interviewers.

He landed a permanent role at Zoos Victoria, where he currently works four days per week. Day-to-day he helps with organising meetings, IT, management of files, database systems and more.

“A job with good hours and decent pay is a major step towards independence, self-sufficiency and a sense of control in my life; something I previously had very little of. Plus, if I save up enough, I should be able to finally move out of home in the next year or two,” says James.

James loves being in the office and around helpful and supportive colleagues. There’s also a sense of pride in him being a part of a team that works for wildlife conservation in an ethically sound workplace.

“Whenever I get bored or restless, I can always sit in the warmth of the Butterfly House for a few minutes or visit the meerkats (I love those little guys!),” he adds.

David Methven, Director of Marketing, Communications & Digital at Zoos Victoria has been directly working with James, as well as partaking in regular check-ins with James’ EC Alistair. David has found having formal processes and a great workplace culture is pertinent to supporting staff who have a disability.

“Perhaps the most common misconception for workplaces is that it is difficult to employ people with a disability. It was such an easy process to employ James and he has enriched our work so much, we love working with him,” says David.

Since working with Zoos Victoria, James has continually let his warm nature and sense of humour shine through.

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