From Care to Career – Shabnam & Wunderman Thompson

24 years old Shabnam shares her story from Care to Career

Picture of Shabnam Karim

Shabnam Karim

I was in Care due to family problems and was taken into care by my local authority. Everyone’s experience of being in care is so different. If I could summarise it to you in one sentence, it’s sometimes a safe haven for some young people who go into a home and share the space with a loving caring family; or it can be the most traumatic experience having to share a house with 12 to 20 or sometimes even more young people who are going through their hardest stage of life, where pain, anger, loss, feelings of abandonment are visible everywhere. Every care-experienced young person’s experience is different, therefore it’s hard to describe what’s it like being in care.

What makes me feel different and less advantaged from my peer groups who have never been in care is, when people treat me differently, especially in the work life. Or, when I can feel my friends’ parents judgement of why I am not living or was not living with my family.

Having carers who look so different to me attending school events means that everyone around me was looking and questioning why I was walking around with guardians who look different to me. My classmates always questioned why, as a Asian girl, I have White English guardians taking me to parents evenings or collecting me from school.

Another example of how I’m made to feel different is when employees question my work ethics and think because I’m care-experienced I’m not capable of doing a job as well as someone who is not care-experienced.

Challenges

From disrupted education, to a lack of stability.

One of the challenges I faced was having to move around a lot. Sometimes, it was close to the area I grew up in, and sometimes it was a 3 to 4 hours-long drive away, which meant that I had to do my studies online or in study centre.

There was a constant lack of stability. I’ve been handed back to my parents, meaning leaving yet another home, before I’d been taken off them all over again – there never was stability.

What I also found very challenging was social workers who suddenly leaving without even saying good-bye. Then I was allocated someone new, who would suddenly turn up saying they are my new social worker, but are not caring enough to build a relationship. they wouldn’t even speak to me in a respectful manner – questioning everything I said and never believed a word while they passed their own judgment onto me. I could go on and on, and we would be here the whole day. So, I will move on! 

The positive stuff

I believe, that one of the advantages my experiences got me is the ability to build resilience and so I was able to build a strong independent personality. Going through so much has helped me to handle adulthood and any life problems. I can conquer anything and it won’t break me anymore. I have built the most beautiful relationships with the most incredible people who love me for who I am. 

In my opinion, it’s very important for companies to not only educate themselves but also create and give opportunities to care- experienced young people because we don’t have supportive parents or a family who will help us find these opportunities. We grew up having a troubled life. We missed out on so many incredible opportunities even in school. There are so many amazing qualities we care-experienced individuals have that no one else has. We just need one chance because it will help open that door to achieve our dreams.

Driving forward

For me, my dreams have always been something that got me through bad times. For example, when I wanted to transition into creative production and tried to find ways to break into the industry. It was so difficult as no one was willing to hire me and give me a chance as I had no experience in production yet.

The most helpful support I got especially from Drive Forward Foundation was CV building zoom lessons, being mentored up with someone from the creative industry who guided me through different stages of learning and what it takes to survive the creative industry, job opportunities, and counselling. I had been waiting for the NHS for 2 years to get access to counselling. When I mentioned it to Rachel just briefly about how stressed I was and wanted to go through some therapy, within 48 hours I was set up with the most helpful and experienced counsellor who understood me and helped me out. 

It was only when I reached out to Drive Forward Foundation and speaking to Rachel that I was able to nail my first production job in the creative industry. A girl like me coming from a care-experienced background would have never dreamed about working for one of the worlds biggest creative organisation (Wunderman Thompson). It was only when Rachel listened to me, sent opportunities based on my interests, and supported me through the whole application process, that I ended up getting this dream internship. There are many care-experienced young people waiting for that opportunity. So, if you can help them achieve their dreams it would mean the world to them. I promise you that they will never let you down!

Shabnam’s message to employers:

Don’t treat us differently to anyone else working with you. Being care-experienced should not define who I am or my work ethics. Not to pass judgement or be judged. We are just like every other employee

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