For socially anxious people, doing a job that doesn’t require “people skills” would seem the obvious choice.
So, to find 23-year-old Tasmanians Justin Unwin and Zach Bennetto cheerfully chatting to customers from behind the counter of Subway in Moonah is a significant achievement.
Both say before they became sandwich artists they struggled with shyness and social introversion which caused them to avoid certain situations and cut themselves off from other people.
Mr Unwin explained that being out of work contributed to his depression, and he needed extra support to lift himself out of the downward spiral.
“Not having a job made it difficult to help my family, or help myself,” he explained.
“I was shy and suffered from depression.
“I felt very low and wanted to break out of that feeling.
“Until I started working here, I was really socially awkward. I felt I wouldn’t be good enough.
“I also felt I should know everything I needed to do straight away.
“But the biggest fear I had was actually interacting with people.
“MAX has really helped me push past that to be able to better myself and show that I don’t need to know everything about a job – and that I can actually talk to people very easily.”
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18, one in seven Tasmanians aged 18 years and over reported experiencing high levels of psychological distress.
Mr Bennetto faced similar challenges to Mr Unwin but understood he needed to learn social skills on the job to build his resilience and give him a fresh outlook.
“Before I got the job, I hardly talked to people,” he confessed.
“In the first week, I wanted to quit but I pushed through it.
“My placement consultant at MAX called me to see if I was going OK and needed support.
“But I think the thing that would surprise people now is how much I’ve come out of my shell.”
For Subway franchisee Russell Timsar, his focus is on finding reliable, enthusiastic candidates like Justin and Zach, who are willing to go the extra mile for customers.
“I’m not really looking for people that have lots of experience,” Mr Timsar said.
“Are [candidates] personable? Are they engaging? Do they want the job?
“That’s what I’m really looking for.
“MAX has become very important to my business because they’ve helped stabilise my recruitment. They are an enhancement to what I do.”
Esther Garforth from MAX Solutions says that for people who find just eye contact with another human being a nerve-wracking experience, the importance of support from an understanding employment consultant is essential.
“The truth is, none of us are born with social skills,” Ms Garforth said.
“Improving social skills requires practice. They’re things you can learn over time.
“Just as you wouldn’t expect to become good on the guitar without some effort, don’t expect to become socially comfortable socially without putting in the time.
“Once a person is in employment, MAX can provide mentoring.
“And we can coach customers through difficult or challenging relationships at work, which can be particularly helpful for people starting in their first jobs.”