Our next guest on our Employability Chats series is Saeema Yusuf from Belina Consulting, who was Frontline Adviser Of The Year at the ERSA Awards 2022. Saeema combines being a busy Mother of 4 children with her passion for supporting other women into work through the Belina GRoW programme. Saeema shared her thoughts on what makes a great frontline adviser, what is her role’s key day to day challenge and what female figure has most inspired her.
Q: Firstly welcome to Earlybird chats Saeema. Can you tell us about your journey so far in the employability sector?
Thanks for having me! I took a 16-year break from employment and returned to work with a desire to help women succeed in their careers. My work in the employability sector has all been at Belina GRoW, but in terms of the variety of engagement and challenge we have experienced over the past few years, that one role has felt like many different jobs rolled into one!
I know it’s not always easy to find time to do extra learning but there are many ways you can learn, it’s not always time consuming and if you discipline yourself anything is possible. I am a busy person - I work part time, I’m a mum to four children and am also a carer but despite this I believe that it is really important for me to find ways to develop myself further and when I set my mind to something that I want to achieve then really there’s no stopping me.
Despite being a busy person with part-time work, four children, and caring responsibilities, I believe in finding ways to develop myself further. I have undertaken various training courses, such as the IEP Sector Accredited Induction and a Level 2 course on Information, Advice and Guidance. These courses have helped me in my role as an Engagement Adviser and given me more confidence in my abilities.
Something I learned while doing the course was just how much I didn’t know! The course taught me new ideas and practical advice to try in my job and it was a great way to develop myself.
During the first lockdown in 2020, I found it important to stretch my mind and do something for myself, so I completed the Level 2 course despite additional responsibilities such as homeschooling and a busy workload. Overall, I believe that there are many ways to learn and develop oneself, even with limited time, and it is important to set goals and stay disciplined in pursuing them.
Q: You have been with Belina GRoW since 2019. Can you tell us more about the GRoW programme and how it supports women into work?
Belina is an organisation that focuses on providing specialised support to women who face complex barriers to employment. Our community-based, voluntary programmes are designed to motivate women and help them prepare for work.
The GRoW program is an innovative group programme that has been specifically developed to boost confidence and motivation in women who have been out of work while raising their children. Our behavioural insights approach is designed to provide participants with the tools they need to take up a new job.
At the core of the GRoW programme are our group sessions, which are carefully crafted to create an environment that encourages participation from the moment participants arrive. We strive to ensure that our activities are both accessible and enjoyable, while also empowering women to take action around their individual needs and goals.
All participants receive a certificate to celebrate their personal achievements. By the end of the GRoW programme, participants will have gained valuable new skills, confidence, and motivation, which they can use to continue progressing towards their goals.
Q: You recently won “Frontline adviser of the year” at the ERSA Awards 2022 ceremony on November 30th in Birmingham - congratulations! Based on your experiences and successes, what qualities make a great frontline adviser?
Thank you, I was so honoured to receive the award. When I think about the other great frontline advisers I have worked with, the ones who stay in my mind are the advisers who start from where their clients are and stay with them on their journey. The advisers who listen and give space, but who are also there to challenge and encourage.
Furthermore, I believe that supporting and receiving support from colleagues is vital. No single person possesses all the answers, and advisers who take the time to uplift and encourage their peers are the ones who help the organisation grow while also providing the best support for their clients.
Q: To someone thinking about having a career as an adviser, what gives you the most satisfaction about the role and also what are the biggest day to day challenges?
Great question! I get most satisfaction from helping women to change the way they see themselves and the way they relate to the world of work - a realisation that their rich life experiences can add to their value for an employer.
My biggest day to day challenge is helping women focus on, and give time to, employability and self development when they face multiple life challenges that can seem overwhelming.
Q: We recently celebrated Women’s History Month, what female figure inside or outside the sector has most inspired you and why?
I would say Jacinda Ardern, who became the world’s youngest female leader in 2017 at the age of 37. She was the first PM to become a mother while in office, and I am really inspired by her toughness, combined with a humility and realism that really speaks to people. It was typical that when she resigned, she very openly said that she: “didn’t have enough in the tank” to take on future challenges. I am inspired by the kind of strength it takes to recognise your own limits and when to make a change.
Q: If you had a magic wand and could make one change to help you deliver even better outcomes in 2023 what would it be?
I would use that magic power to give my clients that extra burst of self-confidence, empowering them to make transformative changes in their lives.
My ultimate goal is to help educate women who are currently far from the job market and provide them with the best possible support to guide them into employment. I believe this can be achieved by building a strong network within the community.