Health and social care - student stories
Karen Stock, Welfare Support Worker
Tell us about your current job role?
Currently I am working as a Welfare Support Worker within my local authority area. My role is to provide support, advise and where necessary refer clients onto specialist services in order to best meet the client's own bespoke need. This is a universal service available to all; it includes the work areas of income maximisation, benefit review, employment service in addition to general welfare reform with a particular focus on food/fuel poverty, digital exclusion, social isolation and improved mental health wellbeing.
How did you get the job?
This post was advertised through an online job site and an application form needed to be completed linked to the organisation’s job competency framework.
Why did you study at the Open University and how has it benefitted you?
I chose to study with the OU because I felt I needed to gain an academic qualification in my new area of work. Although my previous employer (military charity) was happy to continue to employ me without a relevant qualification, I felt that in order to progress in my chosen second career other employers would need that academic base. My course has allowed me to develop greater understanding of social policy and how in practical terms those policies affect our society.
What impact has your disability had on your career if any and what has helped you?
Although a shock when you're first told that you'll be medically discharged, you're forced to focus on the practical aspects of your circumstances – no income, loss of home and sense of belonging. I believe now it has given me greater opportunity not only to move into a second career but has shown me that, despite me thinking I had no future, I was able to overcome the challenges/stigma to being classed as having a disability. My condition is common and most employers are happy to make alterations in order for me to become a valued worker.
How has your military experience been relevant to your current role?
My service has allowed me to gain a number of skills - in HR, customer service, management of people, diversity and inclusion, empathy and tolerance of others. These skills have given me the confidence to seek new challenges. Understanding the different language of civilian work life and how my skills were actually transferrable was a light bulb moment for me; allowing me to see that although my experience was different it was still valued. For me the constantly changing environment of military life has allowed me to draw on my personal resilience to achieve my goals.
What advice would you give to other veterans seeking a new career?
The advice I would give is to do research into your chosen career path, look at alternative means of achieving your end goals. Always have a number of plans and remain focused on succeeding with your aim. Generally, I find military people are “masters of change”, so we are very able to deal with challenges when they arise. Planning and realistic expectation are also key to success– maybe even taking lower entry roles to gain that experience before moving on.
Have you found any of the help or resources from the careers service at the OU helpful?
Having regular contact with a personal Careers Adviser I found so useful, it allowed me to build a relationship with that person. As they got to know me that improved further. They were able to develop my critical thinking whilst offering practical solutions to the concerns I had, enabling me to transit from my current level of employment whilst developing those skills/experience expected from a graduate workforce. Whilst studying I have been fortunate enough to undertake a six-week placement, arranged by the OU, within the NHS. This gave me not only practical experience, but I was able to work with others in similar careers. It totally re-enforced that I had chosen the right course and career path.