Katie Padden is a Support Worker with COPE Galway’s Corrib Haven Family Hub. She joined the organisation while still a student, at a time when there were challenges around recruitment due to social distancing. Read more about Katie’s career journey with COPE Galway below.
Most students spend their final months of university in a frantic job search, wondering what the future will hold after graduation. That wasn’t the case for recent NUI Galway graduate, Katie Padden, who was recruited by COPE Galway through a virtual career fair while she was still a student. Not only was her job search done and dusted, but she was even able to start her new role on a part-time basis while she finished her studies, before transitioning to full-time employment with the organisation.
COPE Galway was willing to work around Katie’s studies and allowed her to pick up shifts when she could. She was able to gain experience within the role and the organisation months before she was available to work full-time after graduation. Katie, in turn, worked to the very best of her abilities supporting the women and children living at Corrib Haven, often covering shifts at short notice. Katie had previous experience working with children with disabilities and COPE Galway’s focus on serving the local community attracted her to the support-worker role. The position was also a way to apply learnings from her Law, Sociology & Politics degree to real-world issues.
On the day of the fair, she said that she found the virtual approach less nerve-wracking than she might have found an in-person career event. When she saw COPE Galway listed as one of the potential employers, she promptly searched online to find out more about the organisation’s work before meeting the team.
“I saw COPE Galway [at the fair], I did a quick Google search and thought ‘oh that sounds interesting.’ And that one 15-minute conversation led to the job,”
“I’d recommend everyone to go to a career fair to see what options are there. Of course, I got very lucky on the day, when I met Sinéad Carey, COPE Galway’s Head of Homeless Service!”
During her first shifts in the Family Hub, Katie compared herself to a ‘deer in headlights’ and said the role was different from anything she’d ever done before. That said, she ‘got stuck in’ and found that it wasn’t at all as difficult as she’d thought it might be. An important thing to learn, she said, was recognising her limits. “There’s a balance of duties between working with children, supporting the clients, helping with application for properties, helping them prepare documents they might need,” Katie said of her work in family services. A typical shift entails ‘constantly running around’ and providing activities for the young children. “We’re trying to make it as normal as possible [for them], making decorations to make the space kid-friendly.”
As of recently, Katie’s team became fully staffed for the first time since she came on board. “Having the full team is a breath of fresh air,” she said. “There’s more support and we’re able to share our ideas for improving the service.” The job, she said, has opened her eyes to the realities of the homelessness and housing crises in Ireland.
“Realising the lack of accommodation available, how severe it’s gotten, makes you realise anyone can end up in these situations,” Katie reflected. She said that she is consistently struck by the strength of women she works with who find themselves in difficult situations, and she is proud to be part of a team providing such vital services.