I had my mind set on being a dentist from the age of 12. I have tunnel-vision when I want something so, as far as I was concerned that was my career path. However, I didn’t get the A Levels needed to do dentistry, which left me deflated and unsure where to turn.
Seeing my friends moving forwards and becoming lawyers and doctors made those feelings of discouragement even worse. I felt like I’d set myself back a few years and would never catch up. Then one day at work I got a call from a dentist I had gained some work experience with when I was 18. We’d remained friends and she rung me out of curiosity to find out what I was up to.
I told her I was working as a receptionist and had been doing so for a couple of years. Her advice was clear: “Of all the students I’ve had, you’ve always struck me as someone best suited to diplomatic, public sector or foreign aid work. If you want to be a receptionist all of your life I will back you 100%, but if there is still part of you that wants to do those other things then pursue it.” So that kick-started it for me – actively looking for Civil Service work.
Immediately I started looking at different roles and started to verbalise my aspirations rather than talk about all the potential barriers. I was working in a nursery when I heard about Making The Leap. One of my colleagues told me about a Careers Fair they were hosting in association with the Ministry of Justice. I rung them up and spoke to Rosa, who was really helpful and more than happy to sign me up!
I didn’t know what to expect but I enjoyed the Careers Fair. I took a notepad with me and made sure to ask lots of questions from the Civil Service fast-streamers and apprentices present. I was nervous when it came to the mock interview, but was determined to let my enthusiasm shine through in spite of this.
Afterwards, I was invited to a follow-up job application session at Making The Leap to apply for Civil Service jobs. One of the volunteers, Steven, helped me complete my first application. I’d found job applications very overwhelming previously but Steven carefully demonstrated the technique for completing them to me and told me to use the momentum we’d generated to keep submitting as many as I could.
A few weeks later, I signed up to the three-week soft skills and employability workshop at the Making The Leap office. I was anxious because I had quit my job to take part in the workshop. Everything was kind of hinging on its success so I decided at the outset to give it 100%. Fortunately I realised straight away that it was going to help me.
I loved the whole experience. It really motivated me – the people I met, the trips we went on, the tips we were given – they were all so valuable. When I was working as a receptionist I couldn’t picture myself ever fulfilling my dreams but during the workshop I began to see the potential I had. Taking part in the activities, getting help from Karem and the rest of the staff, unlocked the drive and determination in me.
When I found out I got an apprenticeship at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office I fell on my knees and gave thanks and praise to God! But Making The Leap played a vital part, especially in terms of giving me the confidence to apply in the first place, teaching me how to correspond with recruiters throughout the process, how to approach the aptitude tests and more. The recruitment and progression teams at Making The Leap guided me seamlessly through the application procedure – making sure I remained positive and resilient. Now I can really recognise my strengths and weaknesses.
I start my new job at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the end of January. Until then I’m doing some temporary market research for Ipsos MORI and then I’ll take some time in January to make sure I’m fully prepared. If you have a dream or a career path that you want to embark on but you don’t know how to get started, come along to Making The Leap and let an expert who genuinely cares guide you.
Joëlle was talking to Luke Vincett, Media and Communications Manager
Follow Making the Leap on social media for all the latest news and updates.