What job should I do?

As one of the Development and Skills Officers on the HeadsUp project I get asked this a lot. The answer is… I have no answer. It is a very difficult thing to decide what you would like to do for a job, especially if you have never worked before, had a career break, are unable to return to your previous career or just in general.

This is a decision that only you can make, but at HeadsUp we do talk this through and help you to come up with your own decision of what jobs you would like to do.

Here are some of the recommendations we make or activities we do together:

  • Look at volunteering in a sector you are interested in
    Sometimes if we have no experience in a sector it feels daunting trying to get a job in that sector, volunteering is a great way to test out whether you like the sector, AND make you more employable in the chosen sector as you then have volunteering experience to add to your CV.
  • Do a free Level 2 course in a sector you are interested in
    There are lots of free courses out there which will give you some knowledge of the sector you may be interested in to help you decided whether you may enjoy a role in that sector, it gives you a taster and as they’re free there is no harm if you change your mind about the sector after, plus courses are great to put on your CV so win win.
  • Research different job sectors
    A lot of the time we don’t know what jobs exist until we do some research, we may have an interest in a sector like Admin, but it’s a good idea to look in to what roles are within/involve Admin to see which jobs you may want to apply to – the National Careers Service ‘explore careers’ section on their website is great for this as you can also see what experience and/or qualifications are needed for different roles.
  • Online quizzes and assessments
    There are many websites that offer quizzes and questionnaires that will then suggest sectors based on your interests and skills from the results, this can give you ideas of sectors or jobs you may enjoy doing.
  • Look at the job market
    It is always best to consider what the job market is like in your local area or preferred working area, you need to be realistic as to what jobs are available in your area, for example you can’t get your heart set on working on a farm if you live in a built-up city with no farmland for miles. This can be done of job search sites to see what the most popular sectors are.
  • Work backwards
    Sometimes it is easier to work backwards, list all the jobs/sectors you wouldn’t want to work in to see what is left over, for example if you know you don’t want a customer service/public facing type role this will leave certain backhouse type of roles to consider such as warehousing. Make a list of these roles and then another list of ‘maybes’.
  • Think about your personal life
    Think about what you enjoy in your personal life and consider if you could do training to make it a career, for example if you love cooking could you become a chef or kitchen member, if you love gardening could you consider this as a career. Think about what you enjoy doing, if you like being social maybe customer service is for you, if you are very empathetic and enjoying helping and supporting others, maybe the case sector for you.

Remember that sometimes jobs are steppingstones to a potential career so it’s okay that you may not be in your dream job straight away.

Putting our money where our mouth is

It’s a sad reality that, with the ending of our funding, HeadsUp is going to stop taking referrals from the 14th of October. By the time you read this, we will very likely have enrolled our thousandth participant. In plain English, that means we will have supported one thousand people from Essex- including Southend and Thurrock- during the lifetime of our programme. One person for every 1,500 people in the entire county.

Teaching into action

One of our Development and Skills Officers had to make the difficult choice to look for a new job, so thought he’d put into practice what he’s been teaching others for several years. Having decided the sort of role he’d like to do he had to make sure his CV was suitable, displaying the most relevant skills and experience. Sometimes deciding what to leave out is as hard as deciding what to put in, but this is an essential bit of good discipline that also helps you to focus for the rest of the application.

Highlighting relevant skills

Having found a role and uploaded his CV, he then checked that all the relevant information had been extracted. The job he was applying for required a “personal statement” showing why he was suited for the role, so he followed a similar format to a cover letter. This meant highlighting how his relevant skills matched those required by the employer and backing this up with examples. He had to show why he was a “good fit”, and the ways in which he matched the values of the employer. Very often it is this step which is the most important in getting you through screening; and by doing a great job here you are also helping to prepare yourself for an interview.

With fingers crossed, the DSO sent off his application and was invited for an interview which was going to include a presentation- with just 48 hours’ notice. Having done his homework when applying initially, he was able to put together a presentation which both addressed the question asked and showed an understanding of the wider issues he would have to address if he was successful. He kept it simple, reading it through to make sure it met the time limit.

And then the interview!

The interview was to be held online. Prior to the interview, the DSO checked his equipment was working. As part of this, he used the camera function on his laptop to ensure that the lighting and background would be suitable for the interview: that he wasn’t in shadow, and that there were no distractions behind him. He then got into a suit, to show the interviewers that he was taking the meeting seriously.

As part of his interview preparation the DSO had reviewed the person specification and job description, looking for likely questions and working on STAR responses. He identified possible “threats” and worked out answers he could give on areas where he was not an expert. This gave him a bit of confidence going into the interview, and also helped him to manage his own expectations: at the end of the day, if someone ticked more boxes than him, then they would most likely be successful. He could only do his best.

The DSO logged in five minutes before the interview. He had the interviewer’s contact details to hand in case there were any connection problems but was able to sign in without an issue. After brief introductions he delivered the presentation before moving onto answering a range of questions. After what seemed like a very short hour the interview was over. He knew he’d given some good answers but wasn’t entirely convinced by others. Rather than dwell on the unknowable he resolved to get on with his day.

A successful outcome

Two days later (after periods of self-doubt!) he was informed that he’d been successful. This success came from following the same lessons DSOs share with participants- just another example showing that they work.

Christopher from Hatfield Peverel

I was a lecturer and a course team leader in higher education. I had been working there for 15 years and due to increased hours of work, I had no life outside. In February 2022 I left my job as I was suffering with severe depression and had had a mental break down. By June ‘21 my employer eventually had an occupational health report done but they didn’t follow the recommendations. I carried on working hoping that the routine would help, but it did the opposite.

By November it was obvious nothing was going to change apart from being told ‘phone the crisis line and contact your GP’. I knew that if I stayed in my job, and with rising scores on IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Service) my state of mental health would deteriorate. Whilst I was signed off sick, my employer didn’t do anything for me, and I felt let down. My workplace had caused my mental health to deteriorate further.

Not in a good place

My friends could see that I wasn’t in a good place, but I still applied for new jobs and even had a few interviews. On the one hand, I felt that I had to work as I needed an income and something to keep me going, but on the other hand not being in work gave me a break to get myself together.

(Health in Mind (IAPT) referred me to Mind, who directed me to the HeadsUp project for employment support. I was looking forward to HeadsUp and trying something new. After a chat with my Peer Support Worker (PSW) about the program, it was clear that they were good at chatting to me about my mental health and wellbeing.

Feeling more confident

They helped me think about different ways of coping and offered to provide me with support for the possible forthcoming work tribunal case. I was also quickly introduced to my Development and Skills Officer (DSO) as I wanted to get my CV checked over. They supported me with online applications, job searching and interview techniques. The sessions were very helpful, and I still use the websites suggested to look for work. Working with my DSO made me feel more confident.

During my time on the HeadsUp program, I have completed lots of courses in cyber security and got relevant certifications. If it weren’t for HeadsUp and their support, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to do this. I am not working yet, but I am going to be enrolling on another in person high level Cyber Security course, which I’m looking forward to doing.

Recommend HeadsUp

I worked with 2 PSW’s who were both excellent, and my DSO was incredibly good. The joined-up support from everyone made the system work well and
I would recommend HeadsUp to anyone in my position.

Meet Connor from Clacton

I had finished school and 6th form and was working as a customer assistant at my local Coop for few months. My anxiety and depression were starting to get bad, and I felt that my boss didn’t really understand, so I left my job. Feeling low, I went to the doctor who put me on antidepressants to help with the depression and anxiety. I shut myself away at home feeling depressed and completely in limbo.

I am close to my cousin, and they suggested going with them to travel for a bit and see our extended family. Even though I was anxious about going out again, it felt good to get out and be with family. But once I came home I started to feel bad and useless again. I felt I should be doing something. My Mum said to sign on and maybe they would be able to help with getting back into work. I knew that doing nothing was making me feel worse.

Referral to HeadsUp

I signed on at the Job Centre and my work coach helped me to attend different programs recommended for my anxiety, such as ‘Managing Anxiety’ with Adult Community Learning. After chatting to the tutor, from the college and explaining how I wanted to do something, but my anxiety is holding me back, she recommended HeadsUp.

I was a bit worried about joining as I didn’t know what to expect and the thought of meeting new people made me feel very anxious. The tutor was brilliant and helped me think about what I would gain and that I had nothing to lose from giving it a go. I knew I wanted to get more support and knowledge about how to do “stuff” such as interview support and how to create a CV. I think doing the managing anxiety course and talking with the tutor, gave me the confidence to join.

Meeting my Peer Support Worker

After meeting my Peer Support Worker (PSW) from HeadsUp we decided to work on my wellbeing first, and they put me forward for a Wellbeing Workshop. I was nervous to attend as it was online, but it was good. It made me feel able to break things down and look at different aspects of how I am feeling. It helped me look at the positives rather than focusing on the negatives. I was able to recognise when I’m having a bad day and how to move on.

Working with my Development and Skills Officer (DSO) was amazing. We met online over Teams each week which helped my confidence as it was kind of face to face and not just over the phone. It increased my confidence using Teams in case I had an interview online. We did job searching and job applications together. They taught me how to use the interview STAR (Situation, Action, Task and Result) technique so when answering interview questions, I have an idea of how to structure my answer. This made me feel good about myself and my nerves got better as I grew more confident.

HeadsUp put me in a Good Mood!

I started going to the gym with family just to get out more, and I was encouraged to talk to people. My Mum could always tell when I’d had a session with HeadsUp, as I would be in a good mood afterwards!

Looking back, I am most proud of applying for jobs and keeping my confidence, even when I don’t get a response. I know not to take it to heart. I am currently working towards enrolling with the Prince’s Trust and I’m happy about joining but a bit anxious as to what’s involved.

“I would say to others who are in the same position as I was, is 100% to use HeadsUp and I would recommend them. You get a proper foundation and you’re able to use the information from the sessions for the future. You get help in many ways and feel supported”.