Robert the Brave ..

Fay Sharpe introduces Hero Robert Kenward: “I first met Rob just a few years ago when he reached out to me to offer help and support to FF15.  It’s been a pleasure to have him help us on our education day’s  events and always a great support sponsoring the Mentees Charity event, as well as  lots of shout out’s on social media. Reading his story moved me, his open and honest approach is  something that for sure helps  all of us to know we all have struggles even those who seem the most confident. He’s someone who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.. a quality I admire…. Oh and talking of brave; It takes a brave man to wear a turtle neck as stylishly as Rob does 😉

Who is Robert Kenward?

“I grew up on a council estate that didn’t have the best of reputations. I worked from a very young age as my mother was on her own studying to be a nurse so I had to fend for myself and my sister a bit– first of all getting in trouble selling anything I could get my hands on (mostly pens) to my classmates, and then at 14 I used to get up at 4am to work on the local market (tartan paint/left handed screwdriver anyone?). I grew up around the south coast of England and I’ve always felt drawn to the water, and now spending time on the water is my release.

The biggest thing I learnt during lockdown was how community minded and supportive our industry is of one another. When the pandemic hit, I lost all of my work overnight. No-one was recruiting and my income stream totally dried up. I felt lost, ineffectual and unable to provide for my family as I fell through the gaps of any ‘support’ schemes, and I had some really dark thoughts about how my family would be better off without me. I’ve always been active on LinkedIn and I noticed that so many other people were lost too, mainly through redundancy or the uncertainty of furlough, and I realised that I could help them in some small way. I opened up my diary and offered free one to one sessions to discuss anything career and job related. I’ve now held over 500 pro bono sessions; for some, the session was to discuss their next career move, for others it was to help them brush up their CV or LinkedIn profile. For others I was simply a shoulder to cry on. I hope they helped, because they certainly helped me to reclaim some purpose and value to my life. I have recently bumped into some of the people that I did a session with, and it’s brilliant for me to hear how well they are doing and how the one to one helped them. I think the FastForward 15 initiative is absolutely incredible. It ties into my beliefs because it’s all about us helping each other without expecting anything back in return.

I’m a trust person. The moment I meet someone I form a close bond and I will do anything for them. But the minute they let me down or take advantage, the trust disappears and I walk away. This might have something to do with having two dads leave my life, but I do wear my heart on my sleeve, and I do know that my outward confidence can be mistaken as arrogance. I put a lot of positivity out there, but that doesn’t mean that I’m happy all the time – some days I just need to shut the laptop, walk away from work and get on the board or kayak.

At a recent FF15 event, we were asked to share what success meant for us. It was the first time that my concept of success didn’t feature money. Of course, money is important, but to me, success now means that I can spend more time with my family whilst delivering a service that is second to none. I strive for a good work life blend and I’m privileged to be able to structure my working week so I can take time off on a Monday to spend it with Alf, my youngest son. I work 4-9pm then but I wouldn’t change it for the world as I also did this with my eldest son (Ed) for 3 years. I also take time out to play golf when I can as I find this clears my head too, but this means I’m then speaking with and interviewing people in the evenings and on a Saturday because that’s when many candidates prefer to chat.

My approach is to keep moving forward. I’d rather deal with what’s in front of me right now rather than worry about what could happen in the future as you just never know what’s around the corner.”