More career journeys

Business 023Two of the three C&K Careers senior managers are women

Check out Katren and Louise's career journey to management:

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Katren - Head of commercial services

As you were growing up and going through school what were your career dreams?

My very first career aspiration was when I was 4 years old – I said that I wanted to be a ‘manager’. This is because my father was a manager. One day he took me into his office. It was amazing to me. A secretary had a tin of toffees on her desk and gave me one, there was a vending machine with hot chocolate in plastic cups, (high tech in the mid 1960s), but the thing that really swung it for me was that I was allowed to draw with felt pens on an overhead projector so my pictures shone on the wall. I thought if this is management I want it!

However, in primary school I was seduced by a feature in a comic that I read weekly and wanted to be an air hostess (now cabin crew) as I thought it would be glamorous and also great to travel all over the world.

Did these change as you went through school?

In high school I had lots of ideas – law, languages, librarianship – but really I was thinking much more about the subjects that I enjoyed rather than an end goal. I took French, English and history A levels and then applied to do Italian and history of art at university - probably (mostly) because I would get to live in Italy for a year – fully funded! However, I completely messed up my A levels and didn’t get the grades that I needed, so I had to take a year out and reassess what I could do.

I went to a Careers Office in Exeter and did an aptitude/personality test done on paper using a pencil, so it could be sent off to be marked by a computer! The results indicated that I might be good at organising and giving advice so law, librarianship and careers adviser would be good options for me.

By this time I had been working part-time on Saturdays and full-time in the school holidays since I was 13. I worked in a newsagents, a clothes shop, a gift shop, pubs, and a factory. I knew that I really enjoyed meeting the public but did not want an in-depth professional relationship with people. I also knew that I wanted a job where the public that I worked with were generally happy – so probably not social work.

What route did you take to achieve your career in terms of qualifications?

I decided to apply for a vocational degree – librarianship – in Leeds. I absolutely loved moving to the north of England so when I finished my degree I knew I wanted to stay in Leeds. I took the first job I was offered working for Leeds City Council as an education advice worker, giving career and learning advice. I stayed in that role for three years and then moved down to London to work as an assistant librarian in an adult education college. After I got married my husband and I moved back up to Yorkshire where I went to work for Bradford College, part-time, organising adult education classes. I left that job when I had my first child.

What route did you progress through in terms of jobs and experience?

When I went back to work a year later, after maternity leave, it was as an information officer for an education advice service for adults in Bradford. I worked there, for three days a week, for 10 years, before applying to work as an information specialist at C&K Careers, where I eventually became a team manager. After eight years in that job I was appointed as head of business development for C&K Careers – so I actually achieved my very first career dream of becoming a manager.

What did you learn along the way?

During my working life I have never stopped learning – from other people, from informal, non-accredited and accredited programmes. I have level 3 qualifications in information & advice, and in training; level 5 qualifications in assessment and in management; a degree in librarianship and a post-graduate certificate in modernising the public sector. I have done numerous courses on things that I am interested in – sewing, Spanish, psychology, counselling (didn’t enjoy that one!!).

I have never really ‘planned’ my career. However, I have done courses that I have really enjoyed, which have given me the background, confidence and qualifications to apply for jobs that I have enjoyed. There have been aspects of all my roles that have been hard and not so much fun but you just have to get on with it! There are also many things that I have enjoyed in every job I have ever done.

Do you have any advice for people starting their career journey or making career decisions?

My advice for anyone starting out is to get as much experience as you can – volunteer, try to get work experience and part-time work, try different things because it is impossible to know until you try something – you also get to meet all sorts of people you would not do otherwise, which is a massive benefit. Secondly – don’t panic. If things don’t go as expected (such as exam results), pause, take a deep breath and reassess. Above all, if you need help ask for it.

My advice for people who have started a new role is that I have found it can take about two years to become really confident in a role. At first everything is new to you and a bit overwhelming. Don’t panic, it will become easier and eventually you will become expert.

Now, where did I put those marker pens and toffees …

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Louise – Head of delivery services

As you were growing up and going through school what were your career dreams?

I really dreamt of being a professional rider – three day eventer - I had horses and competed.

Did these change as you went through school?

Kind of – I toyed with teaching but never got my maths O level! Diplomat, solicitor/barrister, bilingual translator/interpreter for the UN, and lots of periods where I really had no idea!

What route did you take to achieve your career in terms of qualifications?

I took my O levels and A levels (grades weren’t great) and went through Clearing to Hull University and studied a degree in languages. Then I started a different qualification in European logistics - I was considering running a haulage/logistics business, took some counselling courses and then eventually undertook a post grad qualification in careers guidance, plus some management qualifications.

What route did you progress through in terms of jobs and experience?

Several! I worked in part-time jobs from 16 – waitressing, I was rubbish; pubs, again hopeless; had a job on the trains pushing the drinks/food trolley, I worked abroad in factories to pay off my overdraft and throughout college and university I worked as a sales assistant in branches of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, a mystery shopper for a national garage and a bilingual secretary abroad. Fast forward to my roles in this company:
- support worker to a blind careers assistant
- careers assistant
- trainee careers adviser
- careers adviser in schools/colleges
- several middle management jobs
- senior manager.

What did you learn along the way?

Lots! Importance of listening to customers to find out what they wanted – to then make sure they felt like they had a good service. Compromise. That people are amazing, unique and all very different with interesting perspectives and ideas. There is no right way to do something. Not to fear ‘failure’ - it’s much better than not doing something in the first place. To not be controlling/or a perfectionist.

Do you have any advice for people starting their career journey or career decisions?

Don’t worry if you don’t have firm plans/goals, sometimes set plans can even make you blinkered and not open to the opportunities all around you. Plus loads of jobs you will end up doing probably don’t even exist yet. Keep an open mind, take risks – things always work out even if it isn’t how you expected. Never burn your bridges, you don’t know who you will meet again in the working world and how they may support you. Don’t fear … FEAR because everyone feels fear (fear of failure/fear of public speaking/fear of getting something wrong …). Accept it and find a good mentor to talk you through it. Be proactive and value yourself – don’t wait for others to notice you/value you.


Page updated February 2020

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