Natalia was born in Zimbabwe. She arrived in 2002 seeking asylum and is now a British citizen. Before she arrived in the UK her confidence in English was already high. In Zimbabwe she worked as a qualified secretary and Personal Assistant as well as setting up her own secretarial business. This work gave her both ‘skills and freedom’. Following the drastic deterioration of the Zimbabwean economy she lost her main work.
In the UK, she has found getting work very challenging and decided to pursue educational qualifications to enhance her employabillity. She enrolled at a local college, passed A Level qualifications and applied for a degree related to her career plans in a social field. However, there were problems relating to her application and she was enrolled on a different course instead. Following this, she applied for work with a local school, but despite doing well at interview, she was unsuccessful. She decided she would need a Masters level degree, which she enjoyed and anticipated this could open doors in employment with a local authority. However, her graduation coincided with the financial crisis and there was very limited availability of work in these areas. She attempted to apply for work at a secretarial level, but was told she was over-qualified. Whilst looking for a more long term and full time job she has been doing part time support work at two organisations, initially through an agency, in a field related to her degree but in a role that she feels is not fulfilling given her training. Her working hours are inflexible, making childcare, particularly for her child with special needs, very challenging and meaning that she can only take the night shifts. She is also living ‘hand to mouth’. With one employer she identifies discrimination in relation to how both she and service users from ethnic minority backgrounds are treated. She is hoping to leave this organisation as a result. In addition her family suffered from a series of racist incidents in and around their home, which after multiple requests resulted in the council moving them to another area. She has tried to start her own business - receiving planning advice arranged through a refugee support organisation. She had received a loan for a lease on a property, and renovated the premises, but the lease ended. She is now involved in establishing a charity working in her area of expertise in Zimbabwe and the UK. She is looking to one day manage this herself, and is happy to remain in the North East where she has established important friendships.
“we graduated in 2009, that’s when the new government came, and it was December, so in 2010, a new government came, and the council had frozen all the posts, because we were supposed to start like housing officer or anybody, because that’s what was we really liked, or we can get a job, like policy analyst with the government, or policy analysis, so we thought it’s too wide, that’s what our lecturer said, it’s too wide, you won’t struggle to get a job. But that was not easy…We tried to apply everywhere, in the council, I ended up even applying for a job of a secretary, so that I start from somewhere and work my way through, but I didn’t get anything, always it’s either they don’t answer you, or they just don’t write you anything. For me, they didn’t call me for interviews anymore, after doing a Masters. Some will tell me, you are too over qualified, so it was like I am now in-between, yet I was so excited, that once I finished Masters, I can... so from there, I didn’t think about going to do Doctorate, because I thought okay, even if I do it, they will say you are over qualified, you won’t get the job, what’s the use, because I thought with Masters, you can get a job. So in the end, both myself and my friend, my friend is doing support work in North Shields, she couldn’t get a job either, I couldn’t get a job either, so all these years, I am just doing support work.”