Career Connect

Joanne Madden is a Careers Coach in our Flexible Response Team. Joanne splits her time between our Training and Education teams, and supports other teams when needed. As we approach International Women's Day, she reflects on the factors that influenced her own career journey, and how we as a society can support women to achieve their career goals when they have caring responsibilities.

How long have you been at Career Connect?

Three years now!

Did you know what you wanted to do when you were at school?

I wouldn’t say I had s specific plan at school; I’d say I was more open to opportunities. I was very much influenced by family, who steered me towards a computer course upon leaving school.

Can you tell us about your career journey?

When I left school, I worked in a shipping office in Liverpool City Centre on a YTS scheme.

I then worked in retail for many years, eventually becoming part of the Operations team – but I didn’t feel satisfied and needed to change my path.

I went back into education, studying a Diploma in Law, and gained a role with the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), where I offered Advice & Guidance in law. This combination was a great way to build skills and knowledge at the same time.

I progressed within the Citizens Advice Bureau and specialised in welfare rights. This was really interesting, as I was able to represent clients at appeals and tribunals.

I then joined a local provider offering education, employment and training advice and guidance.

Things really changed for me when I became a mentor in a college, where I supported 16–18-year-olds to enter employment.

This role was actually slightly different to what I expected; one of the first things they asked me to do was cover a session in Personal Social Development. I was terrified!

Even though I had run group sessions before, this felt different as I was handed my lesson plan and resources. However, when I looked at topic – budgeting and debt – I realised that I could do it thanks to my experience with the Citizens Advice Bureau.

I loved it! After that, I was asked to qualify and take up a teaching post at the college, which I did for many years. And it all came from that one moment.

While there, I was fortunate to have opportunities to develop teaching of Key skills and then transitioned over to Functional Skills when they launched. I also held management, quality assurance, safeguarding and pastoral roles. I worked for many years within 16-18 education and alternative provision.

Then, I came across an opportunity to join Career Connect!

What attracted you to the careers sector?

To understand why we choose the careers we do.

After working in education, I wanted to expand my knowledge and skills within careers, to help support clear and sustained progression pathways for learners.

I am fascinated by why people choose the career path they do, and the different factors that can influence that – thinking about my own experience too!

What does your current role involve?

My role is diverse. I spend the majority of my time in our Training Team, which I love.

We offer a range of courses in Information, Advice and Guidance. This includes training the next generation of careers advisers, delivering CPD in careers for teaching and careers staff, and training people who work in roles where they deliver advice and guidance to the public – like my old role at the Citizens Advice Bureau.

My job includes teaching and assessment for both internal and external candidates and internal quality assurance, which involves working with different awarding bodies to ensure we maintain the quality of delivery for qualifications. We also design and develop sessions when a client needs something specific.

I also work within a school one day a week offering careers advice for Year 11, which I love.

What do you enjoy most?

I think I enjoy it all. My background is 16-18 education, and the role I have now uses lots of the same skills and experience, plus more!

When I look at my career and consider where I started to where I am now, I think, ‘how did that happen?’.

But every role I have had has helped me build all of the skills I use today. All of the work-related skills I have gained have been transferrable.

What opportunities do you get to help empower women in your role?

I hope that through my career I have helped to empower women, especially when a woman has wanted to explore careers that may have been perceived as ‘non-traditional’ sectors or routes. I hope I have been able to empower and motivate them to look further at these roles and sectors to seek out opportunities.

Women in construction has been an area I promoted a lot during my time working within education and even now moving into careers.  Working within education we delivered many taster days to help empower young women to take the step forward within the industry.

I think my role is about helping a person seek out the right opportunity for them, and considering different options that can help them grow.

This year’s IWD theme is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”. How can careers provision/and or employers make this happen?

I think more direct promoting of women within careers roles and raising awareness of where they can lead.

Companies should also promote more opportunities for women in non-traditional roles with clear pathways of progression and be clear on how you can achieve this within realistic timescales.

I also think that as a society we need to promote realistic timescales.

You may be a young mum or a single mum. You may still want to move forward but aren’t  able to commit to education or training full time. And that’s ok.

Flexible and part time training and courses can make a big difference to many women. It is ok to do it that way, even if it takes a bit longer. In that time, you are still building your knowledge and experience.

You will get there, and society shouldn’t make you feel like you are being left behind or that you should be further on.

What is your number one piece of advice for a woman/girl considering her career path?

Don’t be afraid to consider and explore all options within your career path.

Embrace all opportunities that come your way… you never know where they may lead!





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