Zhanna’s Story

I’m a single mum of two girls, living in Gravesend, and prior to lockdown I was running a small part-time business at home. Unfortunately I had to close the business due to the pandemic and was left out of work.

I’m originally from Russia and came to live in England in 2005. When I first arrived, I spoke no English at all and learned the language through mimicking the speech of others. This was great for talking but left me with a big insecurity as I have a limited understanding of grammar and spelling. This made me feel uneducated and I thought I would never be able to get a job because of it.

“I felt I had no experience”

I had never had a CV in my life and at the time of meeting with my National Careers Service adviser, Fern, I was feeling very “wobbly”, emotionally. I felt I had no experience and that I was too late in age to write a CV. I was getting into debt, living off donations and didn’t think I could find employment.

The biggest shift for me was the confidence boost Fern gave me. She highlighted lots of transferable skills I had developed as a mother, and from those we constructed a CV. She managed to turn what I thought of as weaknesses into strengths. I had felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself but Fern was so “human” in her approach, and helped me to recognise my potential.

“She helped me recognise my potential”

When my CV was ready I applied for roles online. At first I didn’t get much of a response and questioned whether I should wait until pandemic over before looking for work, but eventually I secured a role working as a counsellor with MIND – a role I started in October last year.

During lockdown I had qualified as counsellor Level 4. I had started studying before the pandemic, then had a break, but resumed my studies during the pandemic. It was my meeting with the National Careers Service which gave me the boost to use the qualification to pursue my dream career.

“A powerful influence in helping me move forwards”

I love my job – particularly as it involves working in a  new environment (I had never worked in an office before). The pandemic had had a huge effect on my confidence and social skills – however, working in an office and navigating relationships has really helped improve this.

The National Careers Service made me feel like there was hope and my adviser, Fern, was a powerful influence in helping me move forwards. Because Fern believed in me, I now acknowledge my skills and I’m proud of them.


The National Careers Service provides free, up to date, impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills and the labour market in England to anyone aged 13 and upwards. To speak to a National Careers Service adviser, call 0800 100 900 or use our webchat. Lines are available from 8am – 8pm Monday – Friday, and 10am – 5pm Saturday.

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