Hi, I’m Calum. I’m a current mentee and volunteer at Starting Point. I help with Starting Point’s social media and community journalism. This is my story.
We all need help. Sure, we like to think ourselves independent, but sometimes we need to realise that we cannot do everything ourselves. Take driving for example. Try doing it yourself the moment you get behind the wheel, and you’ll quickly find yourself lost and making mistakes that a driving instructor could easily rectify.
I was like that, both during my education days and after. I refused to ask for help, preferring to work out the answers myself even if they were wrong. When I left college, I felt lost and confused, not knowing what to do with my life. This began a spiral of anxiety and low motivation. With my parents doing everything for me, and living a life without my friends in the picture, I lost my motivation for searching for jobs. My family tried helping but I pushed back.
I hit a low point. I suddenly looked back at my past three and a half years, and realised I was lonely. Being unemployed and volunteering at a shop where the majority of fellow volunteers were older people, people who were sixty years or above, I didn’t develop the friendships I needed: friends I could hang out with and have a great laugh, maybe go around each other’s houses and watch Netflix. Employment would have helped greatly because that’s how you meet new people, but my anxiety and low motivation stopped me.
My family saw how unhappy I suddenly was and decided to act. With my permission they contacted Starting Point.
Being my nervous self, I was worried and anxious about the meeting. The meeting went better than I could have hoped for. Thankfully my sister came with me and there were cookies too, so at least I had company and comfort food. During the meeting we discussed various things, such as my personality and future goals. I left happy and positive. Another meeting was scheduled the following week in Starbucks and I went by myself. Over the next two or three weeks we worked on my CV and made it look impressive.
They quickly paired me up with a mentor. Having earlier filled in ‘Get To Know You Questionnaires’ about ourselves, we read out our answers. Some areas we were similar, others far apart, but overall Starting Point had found a good match. We started meeting at the local Costa Coffee every week afterwards.
The mentoring hit a slight bump. I felt we were moving too fast. I handed in my CV into Costa Coffee. My anxiety suddenly hit fever pitch. It took over. I found myself dreading them calling. Maybe offering me an interview. My stomach felt like a butterfly sanctuary. My mind was taken hostage. I found myself unable to concentrate on things properly. Would I have taken it if they asked? Yes. But I was still worried. Thankfully my mentor saw this and we decided to slow down and strengthen my confidence.
Now with a better understanding, my mentor and I planned to increase my soft skills, personal skills you can develop rather than learn. That’s what great about Starting Point. They understand you. They know people do things differently and not at the same time. They’ll happily mentor you until you feel ready to go solo and give you the pushes needed to make that happen.
After a while, we ended the soft skills and focused our sights on jobs. My mentor gave me the idea of looking to apprenticeships and I suddenly came to the conclusion of what I wanted to do: journalism or marketing, because I love writing literature such as blogs and novels. I contacted my local hospital radio and now volunteer on Saturday nights. Starting Point also gave me another major boost to further my goal. They set up a meeting with Reading Voluntary Action, them offering me a role as a community journalist at their awards night.
Having missed the opportunity for apprenticeships, I started volunteering at Starting Point in a social media and journalist role.
To conclude, Starting Point and the whole mentoring experience have opened up my eyes to things I closed them to. I told my mentor last year I wanted something to change within the year. That has happened. I might still be unemployed, but I now have a goal, more confidence, and more experience with certain skills. Without Starting Point, none of this would have been possible. They helped me when I needed it most. They’ve been nothing but supportive and encouraging.
My mentor hasn’t given up and they’ll ensure I stand tall, because when everything looks bleak and the darkness feels suffocating, something comes and provides hope.
Starting Point is that something.
Written by Calum Harbor
Starting Point Mentee and Community Journalist