NCW Give a Career Insight – Jo Canfield

Written by Jo Canfield, Careers Employability Adviser for Health Works for Cornwall.

So after being asked to write an article for National Careers Week, my initial reaction was “Great no problem….”  Then, next came the reflection and looking back at how my career never was a straight line but more of a dot to dot/zig zag, all over the place kind of style. However, now looking back over the years, I can see this fitted my learning style and personality, which I think is a hugely important factor when considering what career to undertake.

I had always gained good grades in secondary education but at that time had never felt I knew what I wanted to do. This, I believe may be how the majority of young people feel and actually when you think about it, it is pretty normal and part of the process.  As how can you know when you have little if no experience within the business world?

I left the sixth form after one year and went into FE college undertaking a Travel and Tourism course, which I was only partly interested in. Needless to say; I only completed the first term and then knew this was not the career path I wished to take and so left and gained a full-time role within the retailer I had a Saturday job with.  This was the best decision I could have made as by starting in the cash office and then working my way round each department and gaining in-depth knowledge, I was able to explore the bigger picture of how everything worked and this is has been valuable to me in nearly every role I have undertaken since.  By knowing how the organisation functions and giving you an idea of how you fit in and that your skills/work make a difference – I think this is so important to know as everyone has a part to play.

The beginning of my career, after working in retail, then veered to the financial/manufacturing sectors and I worked in various administrative roles, which I really enjoyed as from my origins of starting off within customer service, I always maintained a good work ethic and wanting to provide a high standard of service.  I then looked into HE and undertook an Access course to look to re-direct my career and this gave me an opportunity to explore other sectors which had never been open to me.  I then, worked my way up to become a Team Leader and this was my first supervisory role managing 4 permanent and 2 temporary staff.  Then, due to personal reasons I wanted to start my career within HR and so chose to begin as an Administrator and through understanding and learning the basics, I was able to progress to a HR Adviser/Officer and again take on a supervisory role which I found incredibly rewarding and was undertaking professional training in order to be able to progress within this field.  Thereby, I have chosen a number of different ways to enhance and progress my career whether it is FE/HE establishment or on the job training; each have their own merits.

Due to becoming a parent for the first time, I then looked at going to University as I was aware at the time that I would be unable to continue in my current profession due to relocating with my family and the change in lifestyle.  I achieved a BSc (Hons) degree and this assisted me in being able to start a new career path within education/mental/health sectors.  Over the last decade I have undertaken a variety of support roles (mainly fixed-term/short contracts as this suited my work/life balance at that time) whether in education (in various academic and community settings) and mental health.  My previous role was a combination of a health/mental health therapist and this was assisting people who have a long-term health condition (LTHC) and experience mental health (MH) difficulties such as anxiety/depression.  This was a new service which was set up to help change the perspective on treating MH and was incredibly rewarding and challenging.  I am now privileged to be able to work as a Careers Employability Adviser (CEA) with CSW Group on the Health Works Project which has a variety of providers delivering with the main partner being Cornwall Development Company (CDC). This role aims to assist people who are facing difficulties and challenges in gaining employment/progressing in their career path and to help them reach their full potential.

Please find below some tips which I have learnt over my career history:

  • Try different things that you think you will enjoy/be interested in; no matter how random i.e. sheep farmer in Australia to waste collector. We all have a niche and until we try different jobs, we will not know what that is and one thing can lead to another to find our true purpose.
  • Be confident in making mistakes; this is so important as you learn so much from these experiences compared to everything going perfectly. No-one is expected to be 100% every day and it shows and builds our resilience both in the work place but personally as well.  If we have the pressure of always having to be perfect, this is very unhealthy and there is no person who is going to be able to achieve this.  So embrace any mistakes you may make whether on the job or career moves, as whatever the experience is, you can always take something from it.  Even if it is to know you would never want to carryout that role/work within that field/organization again.
  • It is okay to not know what you want to do in your career; again, by trying different work experience/education/training, this helps you to explore what makes you want to get up in the morning.
  • Look at the different types of training available; explore what Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training you can undertake to be able to make you an expert in your field. The majority of job sectors have a structured plan in place that you can follow which can help you to increase not only your expertise but also your salary.
  • It is okay to change direction even later on in your career; there is no one plan and life events can impact on our career decisions/choices
  • Be You; everyone has a unique career journey and therefore there is no need to compare to others. If friends go to university, it is okay to do want suits you best whether that is finding full-time employment or apprenticeships. Every experience is valuable and helps you to develop yourself.
  • Seek support; if you are unsure or need advice, there is now so much support and guidance available whether through CSW Group or other careers services. The staff have a wealth of information that can help you to make that final decision on your next career move and it applies to everyone no matter whether you are a young person or later on in your career stage.

As it is National Careers week, this can be a great time to be able to reflect on your own journey; what are your goals/priorities for the coming month/s/year; what do you need to achieve them; who can you look to for support.

If we can help at all please contact CSW Group either by telephone or email. If you are eligible and currently have been unemployed or a student for over the last 6 months please either contact me direct on email or mobile 07771 678769 or contact the Health Works Team via email: