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Meet Krystle: Redkite Education and Career Specialist

 

Redkite Education and Career Specialist Krystle.Tell us a bit about your background.

Prior to working for Redkite, I spent 10 years working with Olympic, Paralympic and professional athletes from a varying range of sports. My role allowed me to walk alongside athletes during their sporting journey and support them in continuing to plan and prepare their education and career goals. I worked closely with them as they transitioned out of their sporting career and into their career and education.

 

During this time, I did work with a number of Paralympic athletes who had experienced their own cancer journey. This led me to a greater understanding of both the life-changing effect cancer has on a young person and the long-term impacts.

 

How would you explain your role as a Redkite Education and Career Specialist?

Basically, the role of an Education and Career Specialist is kind of like a coach, but for careers. It’s to assist a young person in looking at how cancer has impacted their career and education plans and/or created a barrier for them to achieve what they hoped they could before cancer. Once a young person understands this for themselves, we can then work together to put strategies and alternate options in place for them to continue to work towards those goals.

 

In the role of education and career support specialist, I have an understanding of the career development framework and stay updated on the labour market and industry trends so we can provide relevant information and guidance to the young people we work with.

 

Through my extensive experience in these type of support roles, I’m also aware of alternate pathways into study, different support options and career assessment methods that can help me guide and support the young people I work with.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

Before anything else... COFFEE and a walk with my dog!

 

In our role, there really isn't a typical day. Most mornings, I check emails and messages from colleagues and young people. Then, I usually have a few meetings with young people booked that can be face-to-face, over the phone or on Skype. These sessions usually explore career pathway options, helping navigate study enrolment or advocating for them in their workplace or study institution.

 

Usually these meetings lead to work where I will spend time researching options to share with the young person, so they can make informed decisions about what option is best for them.

 

Then, I’ll spend a few hours working on Redkite projects that help improve our processes and ability to support young people, such as improving our data and reporting methods.

 

In the afternoon, I try to take some time to work on some resource development, such as the quarterly newsletter we send to young people. This newsletter provides relevant and useful information, such as key study dates to be mindful of, information on upcoming workshops, job readiness skills and much more relevant to the time of year.

 

I spend time creating content for upcoming workshops held for young people, as well as reading new research and labour market information to stay informed.

 

I also spend one day a week working from the Youth Cancer Service (YCS), where I’ll often work together with their staff and meet with young people.

 

What are some common challenges you work through with young people and families and how do you approach them?

Cancer is an unplanned, unwanted and unpredictable journey. When working with young people and their families, it’s important to first acknowledge the reality of this, as well as being aware that during the time you work with a young person, their goals, plans and ability to engage may change.

 

There are generally two groups of young people we work with – those who are recently diagnosed and/or in treatment, and young people who had a cancer diagnosis as a child and are living in the reality of the long-term impact cancer has had on their lives.

 

For those with a new diagnosis, common challenges include: 

  • Loss of independence, from relying on parents again and not having their own income
  • The stress of being unable to work but financial needs still need to be met, like rent, bills and petrol.
  • For those studying, it’s deciding whether to continue or altering their study plan to accommodate their treatment
  • Isolation from their peers in a big challenge young people face, as being away from work and study can have a big impact on them socially

 For young people who are years post-treatment but living with the long-term impacts of cancer, challenges can include: 

  • Finding work after being out of the workforce for a significant amount of time
  • Challenges with self-confidence and social skills
  • For some their cancer meant they were unable to complete school, so navigating alternate pathways to get into tertiary study is important 

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love that in my role of education and career support consultant, I get to work with ordinary young people facing a difficult time, who develop extraordinary resilience, tenacity and authenticity.

 

They have the desire to keep life as normal as they possibly can while going through their own personal journeys. Many young people are becoming independent, are already living out of home, have entered the workforce or are in their own relationships. Being able to help them maintain some sort of "normal" and independence is important. 

 

Sometimes their career and education is one of the very few things they can maintain control of while in treatment, so being able to offer someone guidance and support to make informed decisions about this part of their life is special. 

 

Young people often say that engaging with us is something they look forward to as we are not about the cancer. We are about "them", "their future" and "their normal". I often feel my part in a young person’s cancer journey is so small in comparison to the impact the medical professionals can have on them, but hearing about how important our role is to the young people we work with for their wellbeing, focus beyond treatment and looking towards a future is very humbling.

 

What have you learned from your time at Redkite?  

Redkite has taught me that we can’t fix or take away people’s situations and problems, but we always have the choice to show we can care, show support and that our little bit of help can go a long way to someone feeling cared and supported while they navigate the unimaginable.

 

What’s one thing you’d like to tell a young person who has been diagnosed with cancer, or a family facing their child’s cancer?

For the young people I work with in relation to career and education support, I would tell them there is never just one way to achieve or pursue your goals and dreams. There are so many different pathways and avenues to get to where you want in relation to your career and education. Most young people I work with can maintain and continue to pursue their goals during and after treatment, although it sometimes is achieved at a different pace or learning to navigate the barriers cancer brings. 

 

Are there any special stories/ moments / thoughts you’d like to share?   

I was recently working with a young man who was undergoing treatment that was long, painful, unpredictable and very isolating. We were working together to help him explore future education and career options. After one of our sessions, he said to me "Today was the first day I forgot for a moment that I had cancer. I felt normal and was doing something anyone else my age was doing. It was the first time since being diagnosed that I was excited for the future and could see the future was possible".

 

Every day in my role, I get the opportunity to bring a sense of "normal", "everyday" and "planning for tomorrow" into someone else's world. I count it as such a privilege.