Isobel was working in TV and film production until the sudden shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions meant she lost her job.

Whilst in the process of looking for a new role, she was directed by her Jobcentre Plus coach to Steps Ahead Mentoring, for advice on employment skills and recruitment. After signing up, she was matched with CIPD member and volunteer mentor, Wensdae Lucas.

Her entrepreneurial nature pushed Isobel to embrace a new career as a virtual assistant and go freelance. Seizing opportunities and striving to learn have always been part of her work ethos, and together, Isobel and Wensdae worked on turning her skills and ideas for her business into tangible employment.

Isobel says: 'I’ve spent the last few years working in the film industry on high‐end TV and feature films. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities and I’ve met some great people, but I’d run myself into the ground and I only realised how unhappy I was when I was forced to take a break because of COVID-19.'

'I found myself unemployed after my furlough ended. I was very unsure about my next career move and how to go forward. I looked at the skills I had and how I could use them and after doing research, I decided to offer my skills remotely as a virtual assistant.'

The desire to keep her independence, work to her own schedule and have the flexibility to offer several services, gave Isobel the incentive to create a start-up virtual assistant agency, targeting people in the creative industry and business.

'I wanted something for myself that would give me the time and financial freedom to figure out my options and build on my skills. Working remotely, I can scale-up and down depending on my situation.'

'Steps Ahead has been so helpful. Having someone to check-in with every week helped me stay accountable for my progress and set goals. Doing even the smallest things, whether it was tweaking my CV or exploring all career options and then being able to discuss it, was really effective.'

In true entrepreneurial style, Isobel has turned working from home to her advantage. With an eye on the future, she wants to fulfil her ambition to travel and work internationally. She’s raising awareness of her skills on social media, linking to creative communities and building followers.

'I’ve connected with clients on Instagram. I started a business account and began posting content about who I was as a virtual assistant, what I offered and giving tips on organisational skills. I made sure to follow and interact with the sorts of clients I would want to work with and made myself known to creatives photographers, graphic and brand designers.'

Rising to a challenge isn’t always easy, and as part of the mentoring support, mentees are asked to think about how they can find ways to balance the demands of a job search with remaining positive and keeping-up their energy and enthusiasm.

Isobel says: 'The past year has been incredibly stressful mentally and financially. I had to give up my flat and move back home, which is not how I saw my life going.'

Having a mentor has helped her manage this stressful experience: 'having a sounding board and someone in your corner in the form of a mentor has been a real help. I feel far more hopeful, confident and informed about what I can achieve.'

Wensdae and Isobel are still in touch and check in from time to time on how things are going. Isobel’s Virtual Assistant business is going from strength to strength, with a full roster of clients in the creative industries from all over the world, ranging from web design, music management, branding and recently a yoga studio and a children’s clothing shop. She’s very much looking forward to the world opening up so she can take advantage of the fact that she can work from anywhere and travel and says that Wensdae has 'truly been the best support in what was a really scary and lonely transitional time in my life.'

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