What if you could swap jobs?
Imagine if you’d just finished school or graduated and wanted to do something you were passionate about while developing your skills. But you didn’t know what you wanted; you had imposter syndrome about whether you were good enough to help others.
You weren’t sure whether you wanted to be behind the scenes, influencing the direction of an organisation, on the frontline impacting people’s lives or even starting your venture. You didn’t know whether you wanted to work for one organisation or have more of a portfolio career advising different organisations.
You also wanted to develop a network of people and the freedom to campaign and mobilise people around common causes that you might not have in your workplace. You wanted all those things but also to commit meaningful time to each.
That’s why I love Year Here’s model and to have one of their graduates in our team because they enable people to be able to experiment with all of these experiences I just mentioned, whether it’s getting frontline insight as a caseworker in a homeless hotel, cutting-edge training with a mentor, leadership development, networking, or developing a project which brings that experience to create a creative venture that makes a direct impact on people’s lives, like BirdSong or Settle and being able to pitch the project to an incubator.
When I graduated, I had all of those thoughts in my head. Strangely, I post-graduated with my Master I started in Paris and finished in Barcelona. I worked on the Costa del Sol as a waiter and then for Eurostar as a call centre adviser. When I returned to the UK, I got a temporary job working in a national programme to support asylum seekers who have dispersed from Ashford to Walsall. I would visit asylum seekers to understand their needs, broker support for them, from the GP to school to charities, and liaise with their lawyers, MP offices or the Home Office, or landlords.
I then went to work for various think tanks, NLGN, Demos and the Young Foundation, where I went out “into the field” to immerse myself into the lives of different people across the country, be it dairy farmers to identify unmet rural needs, to commuters on the tube on how we can create better public conversations, via graduates on what skills they wanted to develop in the future workplace. I discovered different research methods, from helping people tell their stories on their first political memory to what people wanted to see in 2020 in Glasgow.
But I wanted to be an activist too, not just an observer. So I got involved in co-founding Compass’ very first youth wing, helping & developing creative campaigns, involving people in democratic ways and bringing in people with different skills — from rapping to drama. And this gave me the spark to get involved at the start of European Alternatives helping design and run festivals, turning a network into cooperative and leading projects.
All of these experiences developed over time. I took up opportunities and created them, but I’d have loved to go on a Year Here placement.
Imagine a similar placement where the projects were in the same local area. What frontline placements would you provide people? What organisations would you connect the graduates too? Who would be their local mentors? How would you root them in your neighbourhoods?
Imagine if you could do that while still at school. Or as a sabbatical?
We’ve developed an associate model at Camden where people are members of our Strategy & Change service but go and lead different programmes embedded in services so that our team is constantly rooted in frontline experience. They have skin in the game in feeling ownership over the change, developing an alum network of strategy & changemakers and sharing learning between the programmes.
What would be your ideal graduate programme? What did you want to do when you left school or university? What would you do if you could go on a sabbatical?
On a more practical note, who’d be up for a job swap? Shadow my team and me actively taking part in work, shaping what we do, and influencing on the ground. Or do I or someone in my squad shadow you? Challenge on!