Watch Me Bloom: Isobelle Panton
Isobelle is the Head of Student Recruitment and Admissions at University Academy 92, founded by the Class of 92’ in partnership with Lancaster University. Isobelle joined the higher education sector for the first time following a successful commercial career working across digital organisations building sales and recruitment teams.
Having recently been shortlisted for “Talent, HR & Recruiter of The Year” at the MYTA’s and nominated for the ‘Disruptor for Good” category at the Northern Power Women Awards, Isobelle understands the value of challenging the status quo and creating game-changing strategies to scale up the cultures and organisations she is a part of.
Today she shares some of the lessons she’s learnt along the way, and how the pandemic gave her a new lease of life to truly live in line with her ‘why’.
Can you talk to us a bit about the transition you experienced?
Working from home through the pandemic really made my actual job remit hit home, literally.
Working remotely allowed me to recognise which parts of my role I actually enjoyed and where my strengths were. With that in my mind, I started to wonder how I could apply my commercial skillset to a role that was more intrinsically rewarding and made a positive impact on people’s lives.
At this time, the terrible murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor shook the world and I was shaken to my core. I knew I needed to do more to help change the world & I knew that education was a way to make a contribution to rising global issues on a local level.
A role at University Academy 92’ became live shortly after and I had a feeling that this would be my way to make ‘making a difference’ my day job. I changed industries, and the rest is very recent history!
What did you learn through this experience?
18 months in higher education has taught me that there is great value in diversity of experience. What I mean is, outside opinion in a typically slow-moving industry; drives creativity and dynamism, challenges old ways of thinking and fast tracks real change and progression. Do not let a lack of experience in a particular industry hold you back, SO many organisations have a high regard for transferable skills and talent – you’re one application away from your dream role! You just have to be in it to win it.
On the same note, you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea – people pleasing your way into collective acceptance isn’t humanly possible. Particularly if you pride yourself on being disruptive for good and resilient in your pursuit of growth. It's so hard to do, but reminding yourself of this every day allows you not to compromise on your most ground-breaking ideas for fear of judgement or what people might think. People’s opinions don’t pay the bills but great results lead to promotions and progression – I know where my priorities lie. I’m a proud Yorkshire Tea girl, some people like PG Tips, others like Tetley, its just the world we live in!
Building an authentic network is EVERYTHING. At any point in your career, you can make a change, if you have the advocacy and support of your connections. So much of the great progress I’ve made over the last 18 months has come as a result of the advice, guidance and generosity of the people I’ve met over the years. If you’re thinking of changing careers, starting a company or even moving solo across the world, the power of a great network can make these ‘crazy’ steps out of our comfort zones feel more achievable.
What helped you through the process of making this big change?
My friends and family. I have a lot of friends but a few close ones who I can confide in during times of uncertainty or adversity.
Whilst change is positive, it's often an uphill battle, so having a group of people you can rely on to remind you of your superpowers is SUPER important.
More recently I have formed a ‘Just Busy Izzy Board’ – I’ve got big plans to grow in my current role and also create a community of like minded business men and women alongside it – so I’ve set up an advisory board of close friends who help me navigate challenges and find solutions to problems I’m having.
I’d say this is the single biggest help I’ve had over the last few months and regardless of role or industry I’d recommend everyone do the same!
What kept you motivated during this period of change?
Remind myself of my WHY!
My why is to change the world for good – it’s a bold statement but a series of 1% improvements to your local area over a period of time can amount to a lot! So when the going gets tough, or I feel stressed, I remember that pressure is a privilege and great change cannot happen in a day.
Knowing your WHY and affirming it every day connects the repetitious practice of a role to the bigger goal.