Career Journeys at Citizens Advice Liverpool #LearningAtWorkWeek
Learning at Work Week is an annual event led by 'Campaign for Learning' that takes place between the 15th and 21st of May. This annual week emphasises the importance of learning and development in the workplace for all, no matter your job role or experience.
This year's theme is 'Create the Future' - so we've decided to explore this by diving into the career paths of our Senior Leadership Team. With 47% of employees stating they do not see a clear progression path in a recent YouGov survey, it felt like a great time to show some transparency and inspire future generations on what it's like to build a career to management level in the charity sector.
Tina Taylor - Head of Business Support
Tina started with Citizens Advice Liverpool just over 3 years ago, first joining as our Finance Manager before her role expanded to cover both HR and Administration which leads us to her current title as Head of Business Support. Tina's career journey began in 1989 after graduating with a degree in English in History feeling unsure of what to do next...
"I moved to London in 1989 and took a variety of temporary office jobs along with an evening bar job while I applied for permanent office-based positions. After a year, with no luck on the permanent job front, I decided to become a teacher – as you do when you’ve got a degree but no clue what to do with it! I got a place on the PGCE course at Liverpool University to teach English and Drama. Moving to Liverpool in 1990, I soon realised that teaching wasn’t for me and, so I left the course and started temping in offices again. By then, I had met my first husband and I decided to stay in Liverpool...
My first proper job in Liverpool was with an arts consultancy called Positive Solutions as an Administrator. In those days, admin involved a lot of phone calls, typing, photocopying, faxing and envelope stuffing (no email or internet)! I was there for 7 years, and it gave me opportunities to get experience in project management and basic accounts. While there, it was suggested I study for an accounts qualification, and I completed the first year of AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) at my own expense.
In 1997 I secured a new job as Finance and Administration Officer with a Merseyside ACME which supported the development of small arts organisations. This was a great job – I was a Council employee, but our small team worked fairly independently, and I met lots of people from the creative sector in Liverpool and got to see how the arts could transform communities. It was in this job that I completed my AAT studies and became more confident in accounts and finance.
Towards the end of 2003, it was clear that the funding for Merseyside ACME was going to come to an end and I got a job as Finance Manager at Kensington Fields Community Association (KFCA) helping secure funding for work in the community. I was there for just over a year before landing a dream job as Operations Manager at Creative Partnerships. This was a national initiative with the aim of boosting creativity in schools. We worked across the Merseyside City Region, helping schools to achieve Arts Award and enhance learning through creativity. As Operations Manager, I was responsible for Finance, admin and office management. I met some wonderful people and am still great friends with the rest of the staff team.
After the funding for Creative Partnerships ended, our office was merged with another in Burnley and funding from the Arts Council was secured to create Curious Minds. The work of Curious Minds was still related to the delivery of cultural opportunities for children and young people but across the whole of the North-West. At Curious Minds, I first continued as Operations Manager and then took the role of Development and Partnerships Manager which focused more on supporting partner organisations to access their own funding.
As you can imagine, commuting to Burnley from Liverpool was not much fun and in 2013 I successfully applied for a job as Finance and Admin Manager at 20 Stories High, a Liverpool-based young people’s theatre company. 20 Stories High are a fantastic organisation, working with young people to boost their confidence and give them access to new opportunities. I spent 6 very happy years there, based at Toxteth TV and meeting brilliant young people and seeing them grow into confident adults.
In 2019 I was looking for a full-time role and one with more of a focus on Finance and I saw the job of Finance Manager at CAL advertised. I was successful in securing that job and, since then, it has developed into a wider remit around Finance, HR and Administration as Head of Business Support. It seems that it’s my work destiny to have roles that encompass more than just finance! One thing that is a common factor throughout my career so far is the types of organisations I’ve worked for. Most have been charities, and all have been about supporting individuals and communities. While finance and office management have always been my focus, it has always been in this wider context and that’s what has always given me job satisfaction. I really don’t think I could work for a corporate organisation where the focus is on profits for shareholders and I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work for organisations, including Citizens Advice, where I believe in the work that they do and the benefit they bring to the wider community.
Along the way, I’ve been grateful to mentors at work, particularly the person who suggested I study AAT, and have taken advantage of opportunities to learn new things and take on new responsibilities – even when the idea of it has been scary! And I am grateful that my mum made me attend a touch-typing course when I was 16 – even though I would much rather have been at the youth club!".
Thank you so much to Tina for sharing your story. Especially for the lovely takeaway message of taking up opportunities even if they seem scary at first!
Mick Blakeley - Head of Operational Development
Mick has spent most of his career in Citizens Advice, first starting as a Volunteer back in 2000, going on to work at various levels across the organisation before his current role in our Senior Leadership Team...
"In the year 2000 I moved to Liverpool following my partner getting a job in the city. I was working 12-hour shifts in a factory at the time with 3 days on and 4 days off per week. I did not know anybody in the city and had time on my hands so was looking for something to occupy my time and to meet new people.
I decided to volunteer for the Citizens Advice service and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I did not know what to expect or how the service worked. I was given first-class training in how to advise people and learnt more in my first year than I had in my entire previous working life. I fell in love with the service: its aims and principles aligned with my own and I knew I was making a difference in my community every day I volunteered. I started to make new friends (who are still friends to this day) and I was going home very proud of what I accomplished that day.
In 2002 I was able to gain employment with the service as a front-line adviser and started my first steps to a paid career. The next few years were spent on different advice projects involving debt, welfare benefits and energy advice. In 2008 I moved into the role of Advice Session Supervisor, where I started to supervise other volunteers and paid staff, supporting them in giving advice to clients who needed it. I loved the role; working with the volunteers and seeing their commitment kept me enthused and proud of the role I played within the service. It was very gratifying to become the 'go-to-guy' that advisers went to when they had a problem or needed guidance. It was also a great feeling to see volunteer advisers I had trained and supported move into paid work.
In 2014, following the merging of multiple local offices, I became the Service Delivery Manager responsible for the delivery of advice over the eastern half of the city. In 2016, when all local offices across Liverpool merged together to create Citizens Advice Liverpool as we know it today, My role extended to cover the whole of Liverpool. Although I missed giving front-line advice, I enjoyed the added responsibility of ensuring the service was available to those who needed it and that the service they received was of high quality.
I also became the lead for our Research and Campaigns work in 2016. Seeing the positive impact of this work and knowing it has the power to change policies and procedures that impact both our current and potential clients across the city continues to be extremely rewarding. One of our most recent successes has been a pause on the forced installation of pre-payment meters for those who are in energy debt whilst reforms are made on the procedures of this.
When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in 2020, to say society was turned upside down was an understatement. We were all confused and anxious as to how we could help in this time of need, whilst keeping ourselves safe. Seeing how our organisation adapted to this unfamiliar world has to be one of my proudest moments working for Citizens Advice Liverpool. Our staff and volunteers were willing and prosperous in continuing to be there for clients when they needed us the most. The effort from everyone was inspiring and just showed the responsibility we all feel being part of Citizens Advice Liverpool.
In early 2023, I began my new role as Head of Operational Development. This role allows me to help steer our direction over the next few years as we respond to the changing nature of advice and help clients navigate their issues as we face the biggest cost of living crisis since the seventies. I still love the work and the service after 23 years and hope to be involved with the service for the rest of my days".
A huge thanks to Mick for sharing how he progressed through the ranks within our organisation.
We hope this blog helps others see that here at Citizens Advice Liverpool, we have individuals with all kinds of life experiences who have taken various routes into leadership roles. There is no right or wrong way to become part of CAL! It is important to us to share career stories with the hope of inspiring others to join us on our mission, recognising just how rewarding a career within Citizens Advice can be.
We also hold regular online volunteering information sessions, giving you an opportunity to ask any questions and find out more about the opportunities we have at CAL. As soon as the date for the next session is confirmed, you'll be able to sign up here.