Game Changer participant Johanna reflects on her experience with the programme
I graduated from the University of South Wales in July 2018, with a degree in contemporary music performance. I decided to stay in Cardiff, and began working. I had had part-time jobs in shops, cafes and bars whilst studying in order to supplement my loan, but wanted something a bit more permanent feeling once I’d finished university. Despite my efforts to find a role that fit this criteria, I ended up working more part-time jobs for relatively brief periods over the course of the 18 months or so following my degree. I was left feeling disillusioned, frustrated, and struggling to pay the rent. So I moved back to Cornwall.
I had been keen to move back to Cornwall for some time but was anxious about job prospects. Immediately, I began applying online for pretty much any job I came across, regardless of whether it interested me. Although I knew what I really wanted was to begin a career, and make use of my degree in some way. The problem was I didn’t have any idea on how to go about doing this – if it wasn’t offering three words for how I had to guess my friends might describe me on an “engaging” application form for a giant conglomerate, I was stumped. Fortunately, I was introduced to Game Changer through a friend who I had been relaying my frustrations to.
I was feeling quite anxious and dispirited, having returned rather unsuccessfully from Cardiff, so was not sure what to expect from my first meeting. But when I began discussing my situation with Helen, I knew instantly I was in the hands of someone incredibly passionate, diligent, and knowledgeable. I felt immediately reassured and hopeful. I explained that I wanted to know how to apply for, what I had termed, “proper” jobs. Jobs that offered progression, a career, and a sense of fulfillment. As Helen and I chatted over everything, it became apparent that Game Changer was equally concerned with their clients’ emotional and mental wellbeing, and looked at the long term in regards to helping people become professionals with a full kit of social and emotional tools. I discussed in-depth, with Helen, struggles I had faced with a lack of confidence and self-esteem and how I particularly found this a challenge when applying to jobs. Having to sell yourself on paper always felt disingenuous and quite anxiety-inducing to me. However, having worked in previous roles before and completed a degree, I knew that I was capable and committed, but very much at a crossroads. I needed to progress from student to professional graduate.
The first step was an incredibly helpful one; Helen and I created an action plan together, which mapped out my goals and particular areas to focus on. I had come to this meeting with a job advert I had found online and was particularly keen to work on an application for it. Helen spent a great deal of time with me, whilst expertly managing multiple other tasks simultaneously, explaining the STAR approach to writing personal statements for applications. Through our initial discussion, Helen had identified that I felt challenged and daunted when faced with large tasks, and so recommended “chunking” the personal statement into digestible sections. I had never used this approach before and found it helped immensely with the writing process. Helen also emphasised the importance of not selling myself short or being discouraged by negative self-talk. The STAR approach reinforced this, as it forced me to acknowledge and talk about instances where I had performed well or achieved something – the process was pleasantly therapeutic.
Throughout the time I was present in the office with Helen, I was offered advice and encouragement from various other navigators as well. Helen and her colleagues really made use of another by pooling resources, offering different perspectives, and sharing contacts. It felt extremely cheering to be amongst such a friendly and dynamic team, and I felt in good hands.
I was delighted to receive an interview offer for the role that I had applied for, after my initial time with Game Changer. The help and guidance continued, and as I prepared for the interview I was offered coaching and advice from Game Changer. There was an emphasis on the personal and social aspects of interviews, and tips on how to control certain feelings and combat any issue, e.g. having a glass of water handy as an aid to allow more thinking time when feeling nervous about answering a question. I did feel that I lacked confidence in myself on a social level more so than in my ability to do this particular job, so it was invaluable to have this coaching and advice prior to the interview. I went in feeling as prepared as I could be and more confident in myself.
The following week, I was delighted to be offered a second interview for this position. I immediately told Helen, who had nothing but encouraging and kind words for me. Unfortunately, this was right around the time where offices and workplaces all over the country began closing as a result of COVID-19. The interview I was set to have with the CEO and COO of the company in the office quickly became an online video conferencing interview. This added a whole new dimension of concerns and anxieties to the interview process. I had to remember the facts and how to speak full coherent sentences, all whilst trying to remotely schmooze people I had never met whilst hoping my laptop doesn’t spontaneously combust.
Helen continued to reassure me with encouragement and advice, during a remote meeting we had. This was a fantastic opportunity to get a feel for how the actual interview might run and gave me a chance to put into practice all the helpful tips Helen was giving me (keep eye contact with the screen, take time to consider answers, try not to move too much and cause the internet to implode…). I was also made to feel less nervous about a remote interview and to see it as an advantage, as it was pointed out to me that I would be able to make use of helpful prompts and notes that I may not have been able to otherwise. This kind of reassurance and positive thinking was a prominent aspect of my experience with Game Changer and really aided me in altering the way I view situations I might ordinarily catastrophise.
The second interview went well and a few days later I was offered the position. I felt thrilled and incredibly grateful to Game Changer, as I largely attribute this success to them. Helen assisted me further at this point, ensuring I was happy and that all the arrangements between myself and the company I was due to work for were agreeable. A couple of weeks into my new position, I still received contact from Game Changer checking to see how I was getting on with the new job and how I was doing. This felt lovely, as I felt valued and was pleased to feel like I wasn’ suddenly out on my own.
Overall, my experience with Game Changer has been hugely positive and had a great impact on me both in terms of my employment but also as a person. Working with them helped me feel proactive and gave me some much-needed clarity where before there was only post-graduation panic and uncertainty. I feel far more able to give myself credit for my abilities and tackle social situations with more confidence as a result of the holistic approach taken by Game Changer in giving guidance. I can happily say I have begun a career within a field that I am passionate about that provides satisfaction and fulfillment – these are the criteria I gave Helen when outlining what I hoped for in a job, and she was instrumental in making this happen.