Mary’s path to employment – and how we can help you too

Octavia apprentice Alexis Jones

An Octavia resident has found employment during the pandemic after receiving tailored support from her housing provider. Mary, 52, first came across Octavia’s Employment & Training Service over two years ago, after receiving Universal Credit support from their Income team. With over 25 years’ experience in childcare, she found herself at a crossroads in her career. Insufficient income and a lack of stability meant she no longer wanted to run her home-based business, but as a Black female in her 50’s who had been out of the workplace for over 20 years, her career prospects felt limited. After several setbacks, she attended an initial meeting with Octavia Employment Advisor, Krysha, who helped her to evaluate her options and refine her CV.

Mary says: “The world of work has radically changed, especially for someone like me who is trying to get back into the workplace after raising children. When I was younger, we used to go to the job centre or look in the newspaper for vacancies but that has all changed. Now that my children have grown up, I feel ready for a new challenge. When I decided to take the leap of faith and switch careers, it was daunting to think about how to start and where to begin. The initial support I received helped me to get my CV in order and think more carefully about the options available to me.”

Mary’s contact with the service fluctuated as business ebbed and flowed, but her desire to change careers never faltered. She got back in touch with Krysha at the beginning of 2020, this time even more determined to make the move. Re-engaging with the service proved to be beneficial as she was identified as the perfect candidate for the Connect 2 Skills (C2S) programme. Ran in collaboration with Shepherds Bush Housing Group, A2 Dominion and Turning Point, the National Lottery funded course gave her a renewed sense of pride and a boost in self-esteem.

Recounting her C2S experience, she said: “For so long, I had been worried about how I was going to be perceived by employers. People can mis-judge me as being too over-qualified, intimidating, or strong willed. C2S helped me to identify these insecurities and reframe them as strengths. When you get knocked back so many times, it can have a knock-on effect on your confidence. This course helped me to believe in myself again and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I enjoyed my one-to-one sessions with my mentor - it felt like he really understood who I was and what I wanted to achieve. He helped me see that time away from the workplace can help you grow, enhance your skills and broaden your perspective.”

With the course brought to an abrupt ending at the end of March, things started to go downhill for Mary. After losing her main client, she was forced to go back onto Universal Credit – a devastating blow made worse by a job market riddled with uncertainty.

“I was really enjoying the course when then the Covid-19 crisis hit. I had finally started to feel like things were moving in the right direction and then all of a sudden, they were up in the air again. I became down, my focus and drive disappeared, and I eventually lost my last client. With no source of income, I had to sign up for Universal Credit again – a horrible and heartbreaking decision. I had worked so hard to come off benefits and it was frightening to feel like I was losing control again.”

Job-hunting can be an isolating experience, no more so than during a pandemic. Krysha armed Mary with networks, resources, knowledge and information, all whilst providing a much-needed human touch.

I have found Krysha to be incredibly helpful and supportive. As well as reading through my job applications and sending through vacancies, she has kept in regular contact with me throughout the pandemic. If I ever have a query, she always comes back to me with a quick and helpful response. We’ve built a good relationship and I feel comfortable enough to contact her when I need to. For an older person, this is important, especially when you don’t want to feel like you are pestering someone.”

As part of these regular calls, Mary confided in Krysha about her faulty laptop and broken fridge. Krysha assisted her to make two applications for Octavia’s Friendship Grants, one Education and one welfare. Both have since been successful.

“Krysha informed me about the friendship grants that are available to residents and helped me to fill out the applications. Having a working laptop has made a world of difference to my job hunt – it’s now much easier to edit documents and search for vacancies.”

The support Mary has received from Octavia has since paid off. As of the end of November, she is now working full-time as a Childminder on a contractual basis.

“Krysha encouraged me to call on my networks to enquire about potential job openings. I followed her advice and got in contact with a friend who notified me about a local childminder agency. Krysha had heard of them and encouraged me to apply for a role, one I was successful in landing. The new job has been really great and I’m very pleased to be back in employment.”

Mary is grateful to Octavia for helping her to get back on her feet. Looking towards the New Year, she feels supported and hopeful about what the future holds

“Octavia’s employment service has helped to broaden my horizons and re-evaluate what I want from the next stage of my career. Now that I’m back in stable employment and I am able to revisit my longer-term search, it’s reassuring to know that Krysha will be there with me every step of the way. “

Mary was one of the hundreds of residents to benefit from our employment support, training and opportunities last year. Whether you’re worried about redundancy, looking for your first job, returning to work after a break, or taking the next step in your career, we can support you. Visit our website for more information.