Kieran Dean is one gutsy 25-year-old, and there’s no end to his tenacity. Despite his tender years, he’s already faced, and overcome, countless tough challenges, in life, and in work. And he’s achieved the nigh-on impossible: searching for, and finding, a job right in the middle of the COVID pandemic in Cornwall!

Originally from Callington, in North East Cornwall, Kieran moved to Gloucestershire with a friend, intent on setting up, and running, their own company. Over a couple of years, they worked extremely hard setting up and running a print business and a catering operation. Sadly, all the odds seemed stacked against them and they had to call it a day, working through some pretty eye-watering debts as a result.

This meant Kieran had to return home to Cornwall, and feeling the world was against him, hit a bad patch both mentally and emotionally. Throughout his schooling, Kieran worked hard to overcome his dyslexia alongside his autism. Now the failure of his business ventures made a number of his personal doubts resurface.

However, his mum refused to let him simply drown in it all, knowing that underneath his current troubles, was a bright and committed young man who just needed the right opportunity to ‘get him back on the horse’ – and back to himself. She discovered the Game Changer programme, delivered in Cornwall by Real Ideas, and persuaded Kieran to get involved.

Kieran says, “I was right back at square one and had most definitely hit rock bottom. Most days just getting out of bed at all was pretty much impossible and I really didn’t expect anything at all from this meeting with this Paul guy. How wrong I was. Paul was dressed like a normal human being, not some lawyer, and hardly seemed much older than me. He was just really down-to-earth and really on my level in every way.

Kieran continues, “We chatted, and he just really understood where I was at and what I needed. He was more interested in understanding what it was that I was interested in rather than just number matching me with the first available job that might come along which had been my previous experience from similar appointments. Then he invited me to a week-long course at the Eden Project as an intro to Game Changer and I got my housemate involved too. We went together and it was brilliant to meet other people in a sociable setting and to hear about, and see, other companies and organisations who are doing really interesting work.”

The Game Changer experience also helped Kieran work through a number of personal challenges and issues. He committed to losing weight, taking advice to try a low-carb diet, and also taking a cooking course with Billy – another Real Ideas team member. Over the course of 8 weeks Kieran shed over two stone in weight and was hiking every day, feeling much better about himself and his work and life opportunities.

The constant Game Changer support was keeping his determination strong and when any job opportunities came up, he was straight onto them, as well as keeping a weekly routine of searching and sending out his CV.

Right before the second lockdown, Kieran essentially struck ‘gold’ with a job offer with an immediate start date. He was positively emotional and burst into tears of joy. But what Kieran is even more grateful is the ongoing support he is still receiving from Paul and the Game Changer team.

He says, “When you actually get a job, there’s still a lot to be done in terms of changing your information and I always have my concerns about my dyslexia and autism. Paul has been amazing and has been there for me every step of the way. Just knowing I can call him up about anything, knowing he’s always there to offer practical and pragmatic help is amazing.”

Of Game Changer and the Real Ideas team Kieran says, “This is a great group of people who know exactly how to treat you like a human being, just when you need that most. And I can’t thank them enough. They’re amazing. Game Changer has definitely been a game changer for me and has helped me get right back on track within, and with, myself.”

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