Thirteen year old Zohera went into care when, after a series of clashes over her lifestyle, life at home with her deeply religious family became too difficult for her.
The transition into care proved to be a huge challenge; Zohera missed a year of school, kept running away from her foster placements and lived with twelve separate families in just six months. The thirteenth placement was the turning point; Zohera settled into family life, worked hard at school and achieved 11 GCSEs at A to C grade.
Having left school Zohera and went to college but, wanting to be financially independent, made the decision to leave full-time education and find a job. She tried her hand at working in a nursery, a hotel and a charity, and while she gained plenty of experience none of the jobs excited her. It was when she got a job in a wine brokerage that she realised the corporate lifestyle was the right choice for her but she didn’t know how to progress.
Zohera discovered Drive Forward at an employment conference held in Southwark. She got talking to two of the team about the charity’s services and decided to sign up (“I thought if there’s an opportunity to someone to help me find my career path, I should take it”).
Talking about her first meeting at the charity’s offices she said:
“I didn’t know what to expect; I thought it might be a bit like social services or would be ‘youth club-y’. It was quite formal but really friendly. I got told about the different sessions and the help they could give me with my career.”
Zohera took part in a number of Job Club sessions in which she worked on her CV and got to practice her interview skills. She also took advantage of Drive Forward’s mentoring scheme, initially engaging with a short term mentor, followed by a longer term relationship with a mentor she cites as making a huge difference to her outlook and confidence.
Her commitment and hard work paid off – she has just accepted a well-paid job with a large house building company.
She said: “Drive Forward actually does something. Some of the other services… they mean well but don’t always help you in the way you need. At Drive Forward people help you fill in forms and apply for jobs but they also call you just to see how you are; it’s those little things that make a difference.
“If I hadn’t joined Drive Forward I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have had. It’s not that I didn’t have the ability to succeed but I didn’t have the professional networks. The people you meet in life make the difference and Drive gave me the chance to meet the sorts of people I might not have got to meet otherwise.”