The Top 5 things that have helped my career

Hi! I’m Leona, former Engagement Officer with Arc. Sadly I have left Arc to work full time as a Creative Learning Studio Lead for Project Inc. The role involves pastoral, wellbeing and safeguarding work with young people with additional educational, social, emotional or mental health needs. I’ve been looking back and reflecting on my 2 and a half years with Arc and the path my career has taken so far. Let me be clear, I am by no means an expert, but for anyone jobseeking, self-employed, or just experiencing a lack of focus or some self-doubt, I thought that I’d share some of the things I believe have helped me so far, and perhaps one or two points might help you too… So here are my top 5 things that have helped my career!


Throughout university, after graduating and even now, volunteering is something that is important to me. In the past it has helped me figure out what I would like to do, it helped me build my CV, experience and it has allowed me to give my time to causes I care about.

Whatever it is you’re interested in there’ll be a volunteer opportunity out there for you.

Volunteering at different events, galleries and community organisations led me to lots of unique and exciting experiences and those experiences have helped me in my work life.

There’s so many organisations that work with volunteers you’ll be able to find something you’re interested in or want to gain more experience in. You don’t need to have loads of spare time to volunteer either – find a temporary opportunity, maybe volunteering you can do virtually.

If you are already volunteering, then find out if there’s any other opportunities that can help you gain the experience that you want. Volunteering is a really great way to learn and develop skills, practice and gain more confidence. Whilst volunteering, make connections along the way and if it’s something you’re passionate about then you’re bound to enjoy it!

To find out more about volunteering with Arc, have a look here.

Continued Professional Development (CPD) 

Take up every training opportunity offered to you or go and find your own. Continuing your professional development is really important whether it’s to help you when applying for jobs or just to give you more self confidence. A lot of volunteer placements can signpost you to training that will be relevant to your role, such as safeguarding or facilitation training.

If you’re not in a position where you’re being offered training then you can still access free training. Check out Stockport Council’s Learning Pool and Manchester Community Central. You can usually find a good selection of free training and resources. It is important to keep up to date with training and I’ve found that doing external training has helped a lot with my self confidence. Never stop learning!

There are loads of CPD opportunities online now, check out this list. To find out more about Arc’s creative CPD sessions, visit here.

The right person for the job

I am really guilty of this next one, so could probably do with taking my own advice a nit more here!

When you’re looking at job opportunities and reading what’s out there, do you always end up looking at the person specification and straight away pick out what you can’t do or don’t have experience in? Instead try to read through the list and pick out all the things you can do, you have experience with or would be keen to develop further. You don’t need to meet every single thing on those lists to be in with a shot, so why not give it a go? Obviously you want to be aligned with the role and do it well, and there are times when the essential requirements might mean a qualification that you must have, such as social work, but other than that try to look at matching the majority of the list – not all of it!

You’re not going to be successful with every application and try not to feel too disheartened if you don’t get asked to interview. It can be really hard putting yourself out there, not to mention time consuming too, but it will pay off eventually.

Could you be the right person for Arc’s Operations Manager position?! Check out this brand new role here (deadline March 21st 2021)!

What about something temporary?

If you’re studying with time off or you find yourself in an in-between-situation, then perhaps look for temporary positions. Lots of different organisations and charities hire on a temporary basis, whether it’s working with young people during the school holidays, arts & culture events or smaller one-off projects and short term contracts. It’s a great way to add to your CV and build your confidence – plus you never know what doors it might open!

There might be less of these opportunities around with things being a little different at the moment during the pandemic, but usually there can be quite a few opportunities found during the summer months. See if places are still hiring for future projects. Extra tip – follow events, organisations, charities on social media as they tend to post openings there early on.

Arc has frequent arts opportunities. You can sign up for the mailing list here

Last, but definitely not least… 

Believe in yourself!

This can be a really huge hurdle, particularly if you’re at the start of your career or you’re looking to start something new. So often we can get caught in the trap of focusing on the negatives and self-doubt creeps in; I’m too young, I don’t have enough experience, I’ve been out of work for too long – whatever the reason is try to flip it and look at those as positives. Ok, you might not have a lot of experience, but everyone has to start out somewhere. Take stock of your other skills; your willingness to learn, your lived experiences, your motivation – focus on the things that make you you and start believing in your own ability.

No matter your age or experience we’re all continuing to learn and policies and procedures change over time, with updates regularly. The important thing is that you are willing to keep learning & stay dedicated to your CPD.

Do you struggle with self-confidence? You might need a daily dose of Feel Good Club (images by)!

I hope you’ve found this blog post and my 5 things that have helped my career helpful in some way. Some of these points are things I believe have helped me in my career so far, and others, well, I’m still working on them and happy to admit that…

Before I sign off, I would like to say a quick thank you to the amazing volunteer team at Arc who I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the past two and a half years! It’s been so lovely getting to know you all and working alongside you. Keep up the hard work and know how much of a difference you’re making.

Do you have a “top 5 things that have helped my career”? Let us know on social media what yours are and they might help others!

Leona Armstrong
(Former) Engagement Officer, Arc