Ellen Powles graduated Career Ready in 2013 whilst studying business at the Colchester Institute. Here, she shares how the programme helped her kick-start her career as a Customer Success Manager for Bureau Van Dijk, part of Moody’s Corporation.

I’m from a military background so both of my parents were in the army and neither went to university. I wasn’t sure about what I actually wanted to do after I finished school, I just knew I wanted to earn a decent wage and be successful.

Business and the corporate world seemed like the right fit but I certainly didn’t have any family connections to give me a way in. But I was determined that my background wouldn’t hold me back.

I decided to study business at the Colchester Institute where a Career Ready volunteer came to speak one day. I was hooked from the beginning – this volunteer had a career in banking, they were very articulate and seem to reflect the kind of success that I was so hungry for. Career Ready offered access to real-life corporate experiences. I just thought wow, this is the kind of opportunity I cannot miss.

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The programme was totally different to anything I’d done at College. The speakers had their own real-life experiences in the business world that they could talk about and the sessions were really interactive. One of the best parts was the workplace visits; everyone’s watched The Apprentice or Dragons Den and has their own preconceptions about people in business, but having the opportunity to speak face-to-face with professionals and ask them about their own careers was invaluable.

Confidence was probably one of the biggest takeaways for me. Being exposed to real-life scenarios and situations on the programme helped me as soon as I started in a job.

I knew how to behave in certain work situations because I’d faced them before. I knew how to present myself and speak to people who were pretty high up the career ladder.  

Through the experiences I had and the people I was able to meet, I built a new network of connections. I grew up on an army estate, so before Career Ready I hadn’t meet anyone in the business world before. I naturally kept in touch with my mentor Paul. He was the one that introduced me to the idea of going to university and the opportunities it might open up. He’s always checked in on my career progress since and sometimes I still go to him for advice. I owe him a lot. 

I think it’s fair to say I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for Career Ready. It opened up so many doors and opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise. I’m progressing within the company because of my drive and determination but also because I’ve got the skills confidence to push myself into that space and that’s because of Career Ready. 

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