At the Forces Employment Charity, behind every phone call with a veteran or military spouse, every specific piece of job advice, and every successful job placement, is a member of staff who empathises and values those who have served and the military families that support them. Each staff member has their own story to tell – how they got here, what drew them to their current role, what makes them tick, and crucially, their motivation to support veterans, spouses, partners and dependants.
Continuing our monthly interviews with staff across departments such as employment advisors, operations and specialists we’re interviewing Natalie Wright, Employment Advisor on the Specialist Vocational Advice programme.
Read on to learn about Natalie’s career, motivations and advice to veterans.
Hello! Thank you for joining me today. So to start with, what do you do at the Forces Employment Charity?
I am a Specialist Vocational Advisor (SVA) at the Forces Employment Charity.
Perfect. Can you tell me what an SVA does?
Of course. Clients on the SVA programme tend to need a bit more support before they are ready for training or employment due to the barriers they are facing. Barriers to employment vary, from PTSD to mental health issues, homelessness, substance misuse, relationship breakdowns and long-term unemployment.
It sounds like it can be a challenging job.
Yes, challenging but rewarding. Each client is different, and their circumstances vary, so you never know what barriers you will come up against day to day. Which is good!
Can you tell me about your career up until you joined Forces Employment Charity?
I joined the Army right after school and I was an Electronics Technician. When I left the Army I went into the police force for a few years, then went into banking and then recruitment. I enjoyed all the jobs but none of them gave me what I was looking for – job satisfaction. One day I came across a job at a charity for a veterans caseworker. I applied for that role and that was it. I have been with Forces Employment Charity as an Employment Advisor for 3.5 years and found my place. My spot. I have finally found a job I enjoy that gives me satisfaction.
How long were you in the Army?
Only a few years! I came out and then joined the police, thinking it would be the same environment as the military, you are sort of in a bubble there. Working for the police wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t give me the job satisfaction that I have now.
What led you to this career? What is it about being an Employment Advisor that appeals to you?
A passion for helping, for making a difference in people’s lives. This job is not a chore! I am not constantly waiting for the weekend to start. I enjoy working with veterans, I still have a lot of friends I served with. Even my daughter is in the Army!
So you are familiar with what people are going through. You work with people that you understand.
Yes! It’s precisely that.
What advice would you give to veterans who are job searching?
Don’t give up. I hear quite often that people are applying and not getting any responses. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Your job is out there, we will get you to where you want to be. When we support clients we will look at and work on their CV so we know that it works for a particular sector and if we need to regroup at any point then we will. Keep plugging away!
What is your favourite part of your role?
Interacting with clients and getting to know them as an individual. You really drill down and get to know the core of every person you work with! You have got to know them well to be able to be successful with your client. You have got to know what they like what they don’t like, any barriers, things like ‘do you like working outside?’ ‘Or indoors?’ ‘Big teams or small teams?’ Because all that is going to give you a really good idea of the right environment for your client. It means the client can go into an interview happy. You don’t put them in a situation that’s not right for them. I love that because it’s a privilege to get to know about their lives, and their family situation, where they have been in life, their experiences.
What energizes and motivates you?
The journey and the outcome. You have the starting point when someone is referred to me – they might be at rock bottom, they could be homeless, their relationship could have broken down, or maybe they haven’t worked for some years. A lot of the time my clients feel as if they are under a cloud. For me, it is knowing that we are going to go in and get rid of those barriers. Everything is going to come back together. If the client needs training, we can organise that for them and then it’s into employment. And that energises me, that motivates me, I’m there from beginning to end. I am empowering somebody. It’s a mindset change, it’s getting someone to believe in themselves again because you know they are going to get where they need to be. That motivates me. I get to see that from start to finish. I get that phone call at the end telling me ‘I love this job! Everything is fantastic!’ and that’s brilliant.
That sounds like such a satisfying place to be!
Yes exactly, you are on that journey with them. You are that voice on the bad days when they tell you they are sick of it all, you are that voice of reason that tells them ‘I know, but we need to keep going that’s all’.
What’s something you learnt recently?
To take a pause when needed. Clients that have been job searching for months are sometimes referred back to me. At that point I say let’s take a break, let’s take a breather. And then we will come back to it in a few weeks. Baby steps. When job searching people often put themselves under a lot of pressure and if you have somebody who has suffered anxiety for years and years it can be so overwhelming to send applications over and over. So I have learnt that taking a pause, a breather, can be so beneficial for the job search.
What’s something you’re proud of?
There are lots of situations with clients that I’m proud of. I had a client referred a couple of months before Christmas. She was homeless and had been living in her car for 3 years. I met up with her face to face and she told me she was a trained counsellor who was living in a car because she had left an abusive relationship. It was awful to see her in this situation. I had contacts within the housing association, called my contact up and got her housed within 10 days. Then we looked at her CV and tweaked that a bit. Applied for a few jobs, one of which was with the local police where she was given an interview. She rang me post-interview to say it went well and then rang me a couple of hours later to say she got the job! So I am so proud of her as my client but also as an SVA. We worked together from such a low point to a successful situation! She checks in every so often to tell me what’s happening, her house is coming together, and she’s decorating to put her stamp on it. That makes me so proud!
What is the most interesting role you supported a client to obtain?
This is a good one, I received a call from a veteran, and I asked him “in an ideal world what you would like to do? I know we aren’t living in one, but if we were what would you want to do?”. And he told me that he would love to be a dog handler in France. I thought okay, that’s fine. Finished our call and did a job search and, bizarrely, found a dog-handling role in France! Right after the call! It was so unexpected! So I emailed him the details and told him to have a look. He responded that it was perfect and asked me how I found the perfect role. We tweaked his CV and cover letter and added some meat to the bones. A couple of days later he had an interview, got a trial and a week later he had the role as a dog handler in France – his ideal role. I felt like a magician that day, it worked out so perfectly for this client.
I love this! Both client stories are so different and heart-warming.
I think that with my job when I talk about motivations, that is it! Every week, sometimes every day, I get to be a part of someone’s journey to success. Every day is different. You can’t match that job satisfaction!