My NHS trust's development programme gave me the leg-up I needed
Just as Lola Kehinde was getting frustrated at a lack of opportunities, her employer started a development programme that others might like to follow
As lead nurse in continence care at the largest NHS trust in the country, Lola Kehinde loves her job.
But she is eager to progress, so over the past few years has applied for promotions to give her career that all-important push. Although she has done well at interviews, she keeps being told she does not have enough experience.
‘I’ve been applying since 2010, on and off,’ explains Ms Kehinde, who qualified in nursing in Nigeria in 1982, before returning to her native UK six years later.
‘I got a couple of interviews but didn’t get the jobs, and, when I got feedback, was told I qualified but didn’t have the necessary experience,’ she says. ‘It was bad for my morale. I do like my job, but I’ve been doing it for a while now, and am ready for a new challenge.’
Last year, Ms Kehinde’s fortunes changed. Her employer, Barts Health in London, introduced a development programme aimed at women and black and minority ethnic leaders such as Ms Kehinde. She is now one of 59 people to have completed the course so far, having taken part in a series of workshops between September and December.
For Ms Kehinde, the programme brought several benefits. ‘It helped us to identify our strengths, talents and skills,’ she says. ‘That was an eye-opener. I thought I knew what I did, what my job was, and sometimes you think that’s all you do. But when I broke it down, I realised I did a lot of other things as well, like counselling. I counsel patients all the time, but didn’t identify it as that.
‘One weakness I have is that I don’t blow my own trumpet enough. The workshops have taught me that we have to get out there, and we have to blow our own trumpets.’
The importance of networking was another big lesson from the course. ‘That was one area that I didn’t really get involved in before,’ she says. ‘I found it difficult. One of the problems is that when I say what I do – that I work in bowel and bladder – it can be a real conversation stopper.’
Social media has helped with this; Ms Kehinde started to use Twitter and has met up with some people in her Twitter group, which gives them things to talk about other than continence.
‘The workshops have taught me we have to blow our own trumpets’
She is also using LinkedIn and has recognised that getting to know people is a great tool for career development. ‘Once people know you, have met you and know what you’re like, and know you work hard, then they can recommend you to other people. That can help when you’re looking to develop your career.’
According to interim chief nurse for Barts Health Jan Stevens, the trust has one of the most diverse workforces in the UK, with 49% of staff from BME backgrounds.
But she says when you break the figures down, 50% of staff in the lowest-paid positions have BME backgrounds, compared with 20% in the highest pay brackets, and only 64% of staff at band 8 are women, even though 75% of the workforce is female.
‘The data on equality and diversity in the NHS doesn’t make comfortable reading,’ Ms Stevens says.
Barts Health wants leaders who represent its diverse workforce and community, and workshops introduced last year are part of the plan to achieve this.
Of the 59 people who have completed the course since June, six have secured promotion or secondment. ‘A big part of it is building confidence and self-esteem,’ explains Ms Stevens.
The course has workshops on a mix of practical skills – such as how to prepare for an interview – and psychological skills. ‘I spoke at one of the workshops and told my story – of how someone from my background, a council house in the north of England, could move up the career ladder,’ she says.
‘There was a real buzz. It’s been inspiring to see what this group has achieved already.’
NHS England awarded Barts Health £50,000 for the programme and Ms Stevens hopes participation will increase.
Ms Kehinde has taken other steps to advance her job hunt. For example, she asked one interviewer to mentor her, which led to valuable tips on writing a compelling CV and supporting statement.
The leadership workshops at the trust have given her a morale boost and have already yielded results.
‘I’m exploring a secondment option at the moment, which I’m excited about,’ she says. ‘The course helped to develop my resilience and confidence. I know I’ve got a lot to offer.
‘Many people like me think “I’m not going to get there, I’m black, I’m a woman, it’s not going to happen for me”. I say to them to get yourself out of the box. Look at what you can do to get yourself out there, and do it’.