Harry McMullen

Training Coordinator, People and Their Brilliance

Tell us more about your education & job search experience prior to hearing about the Kickstart Scheme:

I attended higher education and got my undergraduate degree in Professional Acting from LAMDA in 2018. LAMDA is in the top 1% of drama schools worldwide and I graduated with fantastic training, connections, and a brilliant agent, working steadily for a couple of years, but like all creative industries the work completely stopped when the pandemic hit. Most of the “in-between” jobs I had experience in were in industries such as fitness and hospitality that were also severely affected, and I had a tough time getting an interview for anything else - my experiences and transferable skills just weren’t valued, especially in such a competitive job market. I wanted to take the opportunity to try a career move, get in touch with what I valued and what I had to offer in a full-time position, but with all of the challenges organisations are facing right now nobody was prepared to take a chance on me.

Before linking up with People and Their Brilliance, I was on Universal Credit: a complex, time consuming and demoralising experience, especially during the pandemic. The system takes five weeks to process your first payment and the application process itself is cumbersome and time consuming. I say this not to disparage the DWP, who are rising to an unprecedented challenge, but to demonstrate what I guess is the mindset of most Universal Credit recipients. A good deal of resilience is required to withstand a system that feels punitive, all the while applying for jobs at a time of scarcity and with increased levels of competition.

What made you apply to the Kickstart Scheme?

My work coach sent me a job posting that included the following statement: 'You will be invited to register for the Radical Employability Programme with People and Their Brilliance for the duration of the six-month placement. This programme consists of many elements including: personal responsibility, personal effectiveness, commercial awareness and how to create increased value within the organisation you join.' It went on to specifically detail all the ways in which People and Their Brilliance would be supporting me through a work placement.

What was your experience of the “unRecruitment” process?

The structure of two sessions, with homework in between, worked for me, although I did feel the absence of a stronger guiding hand in the early stages. The idea of taking responsibility for one’s own actions as a job seeker was a trigger for me; in a competitive job market, and a punishing benefit system, as a working-class man, I was not receptive to the idea that it was a personal failure of mine that I was unemployed. The fact that Darius from “People and Their Brilliance” created a space for me to express this, and responded with clarity and empathy, had a monumental impact for me.

What did you learn about yourself through the “unRecruitment” process?

The speaking and listening exercise was extremely effective. The invocation to use “I/me/my” language was effective, and I learned that nothing says 'empowering' more than respecting the power of your speech by listening. It felt like a strong exercise for interview practice without slipping into roleplay in any way, and I began to see a growth in confidence and clarity in myself and fellow participants across the breakout rooms.

During the final session, Darius reiterated the scheme's mission of showing participants where they are responsible and how to take responsibility with integrity and brilliance. He said, 'Our aim is to make you employable. Not employed, but employable', and this distilled the session and the company mission into a crystal-clear image for me. Everything fell into place, and the process and the possibilities for me as a recruit became abundantly clear; it’s a powerful message.

How do you see the Kickstart Scheme fitting into your plans for the future?

The Kickstart scheme has given me the chance to commit to a new role and a new challenge and use it as a valuable learning experience without worrying about keeping the roof over my head. I feel like I’ve got the metaphorical boot off my throat, and it’s allowed me to turn my attention to others - concentrate on what’s needed and how I can make a contribution. It’s given me a chance to reconnect with my values and my integrity, and that means I can give, in my current role and on into whatever the future holds.