Double celebration for Martin and Steph: how an afternoon at a jobs fair changed their lives

When married couple Martin and Steph got in touch with Thirteen’s employability team for support, they never expected that they would both land a job interview on the same date and be planning to start their new roles at the same time.


20 Mar 2024

Martin has always been interested in working with people, but he’s previously struggled with his confidence and believing he had the right skills for the job. With employment support from Thirteen, he’s now looking forward to starting his new role working with ex-offenders at a local charity.

After hearing about Martin’s experience with the employability team, his wife Steph felt encouraged to get in touch and see how Thirteen could help her to find a new role that would be the right fit for her skills.

Steph has autism and is passionate about sharing her personal experience to help others. The team supported Steph with job searching, writing an application and interview skills, and she was able to secure a new role working with children that have autism, something that she’s always wanted to do.

Martin's story

“It all started when I popped into a jobs fair in Darlington, as I was looking for a new opportunity at the time.”

“I was a relatively new tenant to Thirteen and I noticed their stand, so I was interested in finding out more about how they could help me.

“One of Thirteen’s employability caseworkers, Nic, came over for a chat about how she could support me with my job search, and her approach really opened my eyes to the idea that I could get a job that I really wanted, rather than just doing something for the sake of it.

“She told me that she could help me with looking for jobs, CV writing and interviews, and I signed up there and then.

“Right from the word go, Nic worked with me to develop my confidence and give me the best chance at finding a job I was interested in.

“I had volunteering experience and I was looking for a role where I could make a difference, so Nic really helped me with putting this down in my CV.

“I remember thinking to myself ‘this was meant to be’. It wasn’t just the advice about practical things like CV writing, it was the emotional support as well, like checking in with me to see how everything was going. I just knew they would be there for me.

“Within what felt like no time at all, I went from feeling down to feeling really empowered.

“We looked at training opportunities that would help me to develop my skills, and I enrolled on a Level 2 Information, Advice and Guidance course.

“Shortly after, Nic was helping me with a job search and we noticed that a recovery co-ordinator job came up, which involved supporting ex-offenders leaving prison. It caught my attention straight away.

“We worked on the job application and with Nic’s help, I got an interview. The team went through interview questions and techniques with me and the following week, I found out I’d been offered the job. I’ve been smiling and happy ever since.

“The support from the team made me feel like I really wanted to commit to getting the job. I’ve always had an interest but felt like I didn’t have the skills or experience, so I don’t think I would have been able to get the job without their help.

“It was during the process of me working with the team that my wife Steph was feeling like her current job wasn’t quite right for her. I was so impressed with what they’d done for me that I suggested to her to get in touch as well.

“We even ended up having our job interviews on the exact same date and time as each other!”

Steph's story

“Before my first appointment I felt really nervous. I have autism and I’m not the most confident person, but when I met with Lorraine she made me feel so comfortable – I was laughing with her within 5 minutes.

“She helped me with how to word my CV and what to include, and I walked out of the appointment feeling really confident.

“I applied for the job and a week later, I got an interview. I went to the interview and they rang me just after I got home and offered me the job there and then.

“If I hadn’t spoken to Thirteen for support, I think I’d have been stuck in a job that I didn’t enjoy, whereas there’s so many possibilities with the job I’ve been offered now.

“I’m working with children that have autism like me and I think that means I can help them a lot more.

“I don’t see it as a disability, I see it as a different way of using my gift to help others.

“It’s important that people who feel they want to do something different with their lives or feel a bit stuck have somewhere they can go to help them focus in a positive way.

“The job is something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve finally got it, so I’m really excited.”

Thirteen offers a range of free employability services for our tenants and the wider public across the Tees Valley. We support people who are not in employment, education or training but also anyone looking to gain a new job or more hours. We support customers of any age.

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