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Mollie’s lush part-time job

Photo: Mollie was glad she told her work she was deaf as now she gets the support she needs.

Working with the public isn’t always easy, but thanks to a supportive work environment, Mollie is confident in her role as a sales assistant.

When asked what she likes most about her job, Mollie’s face lights up. “Working with the public,” she says. “I love helping people! I especially love working with little kids and seeing how excited they get when we do bath bomb workshops and parties.”

Mollie (19) works part-time at cosmetics retailer Lush and has also just started university. She’s profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants but doesn’t find her left cochlear implant helps her.

When Mollie, who uses a mixture of British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken English to communicate, applied at Lush, she wasn’t sure whether she should mention her deafness. “I didn’t like the idea of having a job because I’m deaf. I wanted to get in on my own merit,” she says.

After researching Lush’s diversity policy, she felt comfortable mentioning her deafness and now she’d advise other deaf young people to do the same. “Being honest about your deafness goes a long way in retail, because you’ll have a better chance of getting what you need,” she says. Initially Mollie was also unsure which role she should apply for. “There were a few different roles available,” she says. “My confidence wasn’t great, and I worried if I’d understand people or if my communication would be clear enough. I told Lush about my deafness and asked what they recommended. I ended up doing stock because I worried about noise levels.”

Working at the back of the store as a stock assistant, Mollie got to experience what the store was like while gaining more confidence. When a permanent sales assistant role became available, she applied for it and now works in the front of the store, assisting customers and handling purchases.

“My deafness is very hidden at work unless I wear my hair up and customers can see my cochlear implants,” Mollie says. “Sometimes they ask questions about my deafness, but I don’t go up to every customer and say, ‘I’m deaf, please be patient,’ because I don’t want to take away time if they need help with something. When I’m working, it’s not the time or place to educate people about my deafness because it’ll take too long.”

Working with the public can be tiring, but even more so for Mollie because she’s deaf. “I really struggle with listening during a task,” she says. “If I’m stocking up, I may not hear if a customer approaches me, so I need to watch around, which means I’m doing two or three things at once.”

To help with her concentration fatigue, Mollie works earlier shifts when she’s more alert. “I get more tired as the day goes on, so my managers put me on an early shift. I have to get up extra early to get in, but then I’m done for the day at 3pm.”

Mollie is happy with the level of support she receives at work. “It can be scary going into a job and not knowing if they can handle the support you need,” she says. “My manager understands that not every deaf person is the same, so she doesn’t make assumptions about what I need but asks me. For example, they’ve put a system in place when there’s a fire alarm so I’m buddied up with a member of staff and they walk out with me and explain what’s going on. I feel lucky because not everyone working in retail will have such a good support system. Telling them I was deaf was the best thing I’ve done because it made everything click and fall into place.”

If something doesn’t work for Mollie, though, she speaks up. “We have music playing in the store, but if I’m on the tills, I can’t hear a single thing when it’s on,” she explains. “I asked a member of management, and they were happy to turn it down. They also gave me access so I could turn it down myself if needed.”

Mollie’s deafness has also given her an advantage when communicating with customers whose first language isn’t English. “There were a couple of times Ukrainian refugees came into the store,” she says. “I relied on gestures to help us communicate. I’m lucky that I’ve got BSL. Because English is my second language, I can sympathise with people who struggle with English. I find it easier to approach these customers because I’m a lot more confident that I can communicate with them using gestures.”

Mollie has also been proactive about making her colleagues deaf aware. “When you’re deaf, you may need to be the one to start the conversation,” she says. “When I first started, I put up a wee post on our work online chat tool introducing myself. I wrote, ‘Hi, I’m Mollie. I’m deaf and use cochlear implants. If you want to talk to me, I may miss things you say because I can only hear in one side.’ I wanted to let them know I was deaf so they didn’t think I was ignoring them. I would recommend you just put down a couple of bullet points on what’s important to you and leave things open for questions.”

Mollie has advice for other deaf young people who choose to work part-time. “Things can go sideways sometimes. It’s OK to be scared, but don’t panic, and never think you’re worth less to the company because you might have to work fewer hours,” she says. “With deafness, you may have to work a lot harder than other people. Know your limits, and don’t be nervous to say if something isn’t working out. Communication is key.”

Winter 2022 Families magazine