How I overcame rejection as a young candidate and went onto have a glowing career alongside IVF and becoming a mother to two autistic children

Posted on Friday, March 8, 2024 by Keira Couzens

Keira Couzens is our Head of Business Services. She joined us on an apprenticeship 15 years ago, fresh from school, and in her time with us she’s been through IVF, become a mum-of-two and adapted to her two children’s autism diagnoses.

Here Keira shares her story and explains why she’s determined to be a role model for her kids, as well how businesses need to adapt to better support women to be recognised for their talents and thrive at work regardless of their domestic responsibilities. We know millions of other working mothers out there will know all too well that what Keira has achieved has not been easy, and we know many youngsters will relate to her experience of at first being rejected by employers who failed to give her a chance.

A young woman looking for an opportunity

“When I started applying for jobs after sixth-form I found it very hard. It didn’t matter how well I did in the application or interview, the feedback was always the same; employers were looking for someone with a bit of experience. I remember one specific finance company who gave me a really hard time at the final interview; I made it through the first stages, but when it came to meeting the Head of Finance he asked me why I was there as he needed someone with at least three years finance experience and an expert in Excel. He dismissed me before even giving me the chance to speak.

This really deflated me. I knew how committed I was, I just needed one company to give me a chance to shine. I think this is something a lot of young people experience in their early careers and when searching for their first job (a 2024 study showed 7 in 10 young Brits are rejected from entry level jobs for not having enough experience*)

Thankfully, I finally got my first step into employment when Ryder Reid saw my potential and took me on as part of their apprenticeship programme. I was 18 and so excited to have landed a job in a corporate environment in London. This was a dream come true!

Inspired and empowered

“When starting at Ryder Reid in an administrative role, I would always look up to the Recruitment Consultants knowing that was where I wanted to be. I was so inspired by the other women in the office – including Andrea, who has since become our Co-owner. I worked hard and did what I could to get more experience, supporting the consultants when they were busy and offering to help with tasks that were outside of my remit.

Ryder Reid were always very encouraging of this and gave me the opportunity to take on extra duties to help me grow and learn. After two years, and when the time was right, I was promoted to Trainee Consultant which was a huge achievement!

I’ve been lucky that my hard work and dedication has always been recognised by my managers, and since that first promotion I’ve continued to climb from running the Business Services temporary division, to working for the legal division as a Senior Consultant, to where I am now as Head of Business Services.

Having a career as a mum of two autistic children

“Things haven’t been a straight road though. Since joining Ryder Reid, I’ve had IVF treatment and gone on to become a very proud mother to two children –who both later received autism diagnoses. My homelife has naturally become more demanding because of this. The impact of maternity leave can be huge for women in any circumstances, and with the extra challenges it could have been impossible to balance my homelife with work – if my team hadn’t been as understanding as they have.

Ryder Reid have been amazing, and done nothing but support me throughout – including agreeing to a 9-month sabbatical so that I could take a necessary chunk of time away to care for my children without having to worry about having a job to come back to. Prior to that, they facilitated me adjusting to part-time hours in order to keep up with medical appointments and supported me through fertility struggles followed by two lots of maternity leave very close together. Andrea also supported me personally during a two-month hospital stay, where she visited me, while the whole team kept in regular contact with me and checked in a lot, which meant the world.

I think this is a standard of care and support for staff that all employers should meet. In particular every business should be giving their female employees equal opportunities, including post-maternity leave. Having children and all the skills you learn as a new mum can equip and motivate women all the more! It’s made me more organised, more assertive, more able to manage multiple things at once - and it’s helped me understand more about the people I’m supporting in my role too.

I want to be a role model for my children, so that they know that hard work and determination does pay off. I’ve never felt so determined to continue to prove that having a family doesn’t have to mean your career is over, with the right mindset and the right support you can still achieve your dreams!”

I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunities I have and equally proud of myself for doing what I could to achieve what I set out to do when I started as an apprentice all those years ago. Now, I want to support junior team members to do the same and empower them to progress. I always share my story with them so that they know the sky's the limit!

Keira’s tip for young women wanting to make it in recruitment

When starting out, don’t be afraid of going into an entry level role. You don’t and won’t have to stay there! A lot of employers who interview for junior positions are focusing on filling that role and, in that moment, can’t always promise progression. Don’t let this put you off, as there is very often the opportunity to progress in time, and hard work and dedication will always be noticed. Make yourself stand out. Be proactive, speak up and take every opportunity to learn more skills and put them to use so that you can grow in that role and within the company

What Andrea has to say

Keira is such a dedicated member of our team. The challenges she faces as a working mum of two SEND children aren’t small, but how she copes and manages those challenges alongside her working life is truly incredible. Keira joined us originally as an apprentice and is a true testament of how to climb the ladder through determination, focus and hard work – and the right support. A true Ryder Reid star!

We are extremely proud of Keira and the career she’s forged alongside her home life. This month we’re welcoming her back from sabbatical leave, as she took some time out to support her children, and we’re really looking forward to her return!

Written by Keria Couzens, Ryder Reid Head of Business Services. Keira joined Ryder Reid in 2010 on an apprenticeship, and this was her first role after leaving sixth-form. She has worked her way up from an entry level role to heading up a whole department. Keira has a strong understanding of how law firms operate, having worked across a broad range of legal recruitment needs.


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