“With No Experience, Nobody’s Interested. Am I Going To Be Stuck Forever?”

Sarah’s passionate about finding work that helps others. But her confidence fades every time she hears she doesn’t have the right qualifications or background. How do you find hope when you keep hitting dead ends?

What's your career history and current job?

I've been a dental nurse for 18 years.

Originally I'd wanted to work with children, but the pay was so bad that I decided to do some dental nursing to tide me over.

18 years later, I'm still there!

How do you feel about your work?

I feel stuck in a rut.

Being a dental nurse defines me because it's all I've ever done, but I don't want that to be my identity.

I used to feel like I was helping people. The company I work for was recently taken over by a corporate organisation. Now, it's all about targets. The care seems to have disappeared.

I don't feel passionate about what I do. It's not something that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning.

I'm very much like a robot, doing day-to-day tasks. I have no enthusiasm for it anymore.

The one good thing about where I work is that because I've been there so long, everybody who comes in knows me. I enjoy that familiarity and the friendliness. I like helping nervous people and children to feel comfortable, for instance.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I'm interested in working in mental health or occupational / public health, either for a charity or a not-for-profit.

I've emailed the local children and mental health service, and keep an eye on the local council and NHS websites.

I want to be in a career where I feel like I'm making more of a difference than I am now.

I've suffered from depression in the past myself. I feel I have the empathy to be able to help other people who, like me, have suffered with bullying – especially children and young people, or people with learning disabilities.

If I could help others like me get through to the 'other side', I'd feel like I was making a real difference to people's lives.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

When I find any different jobs outside of dental nursing and I email people about them, I'm told I don't have the qualifications or the experience.

I've spoken to a couple of careers advisers and the only thing they've found for me are jobs that are really poorly paid, or jobs that I need to do more qualifications for.

I live on my own, so I need to be able to pay the mortgage and the bills all by myself. I know I could do voluntary work to get experience and go back to studying, but that isn't sustainable for me.

I know I'll have to go down in wages to change career. And I'd be happy to do some courses, or to learn on the job, but I don't want to pay for Open University or something similar and for it to not get me to where I want to go.

I'm going around in circles, which makes me think, “Am I going to be stuck in this same situation forever?”

My current job is safe. I know my way to work, I know what I'm doing, and I'm familiar with everything. Feeling safe can be helpful, but it isn't really living.

How do I get past the 'no experience, no chance' Catch-22?

Can you help Sarah?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Sarah could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

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