Andrew Walsh – Career Story
“The harder you work, the luckier you get”
We sat down with Career Coach Andrew to discuss how your career journey can take various different twists and turns, but you will always end up where you are meant to be. The outcome? An inspiring career story that shows you don’t have to have it all figured out to keep moving forward.
Did you pursue further or higher education?
Towards the end of secondary school, I wasn’t sure of my next steps, but I decided to go to college as that’s what all my friends were doing and it seemed like the most sensible option. I was an avid sports fan at the time and was hoping to pursue a career in the sector, so I enrolled onto a sports science course at Neath Port Talbot College. I found this a challenging transition from the school environment and I was faced with a lot of additional responsibility to motivate myself and manage my own time; I was used to receiving lots of support and guidance at school and so I initially struggled to cope with the lack of direction and encouragement. I persevered and passed my course, but I still didn’t feel ready for full time employment and the world of work. With a lack of alternative options being highlighted to me, and without much-needed advice and support, I had to go it alone and decided to further my education by exploring different university courses.
I decided to study Sports Coaching at the University of Glamorgan which gave me my first experience of moving away from home. This brought its own challenges but ultimately helped me to gain independence and develop my personal and professional skillsets. Moving away from home opened my eyes to the world in a completely new way; I came out of my shell a lot, gained confidence and learnt a great deal about the local labour market, as well as the many other career routes available. The coaching course played a big part in launching my professional career, particularly a work placement where I found myself working with a local school to support coaching and training for a variety of sports and PE lessons.
What shape did your career take post education?
After completing my university course, I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time role in the PE department of the school where I completed my placement; the role involved working with the department to deliver lessons, provide coaching sessions and learn more about the world of education. This provided a great transition from education and gave me the opportunity to learn more about building effective working relationships, different working environments and their demands, as well as the importance of tailoring support to individual needs.
After 2 brilliant years in the role, I decided it was time for a new challenge and moved to a different school to work with students with behavioural issues. This was a welcome change from sports coaching as I found I was more interested in providing support and facilitating the personal development of young people. I was responsible for managing an alternative curriculum for a group of students and providing intensive support to give each student the best chance of success.
How has your career journey developed?
I moved around similar roles for around 10 years in a variety of schools, but eventually decided it was time to branch out into a different sector; I applied to work in a children’s home supporting young people with challenging backgrounds. Working with these individuals, who were under the care of social services, provided me with a whole new level of motivation to help young people in need, provide them with the most supportive environment possible and give them the best chance of a happy and meaningful life. After 18 months in the position, I came across a role focussed on preventing students leaving secondary school from becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training). The job involved arranging work placements, liaising with local colleges and working with students to identify and achieve their goals. I loved this role and felt like it provided the perfect middle ground between providing coaching support and working with young people within the education environment. Unfortunately, funding for this project was coming to an end and I was seeking out my next opportunity when I found the Career Coach role at Better Jobs, Better Futures. The job sounded like the perfect next step and I was absolutely thrilled when I applied and was successful. I started the role in May 2022 and I am finding it fantastic; I work in the Futures Hubs across the different college campuses which means I get to meet different students every day and support them to realise their potential. I love helping people reach their goals and it’s a privilege to play a small part in each individual’s career journey.
Are there any career decisions that you regret?
I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made within my career as every step I’ve taken has taught me something new. Moving between roles helped me realise what I was passionate about and what truly motivated me to get up each day, go to work, and genuinely enjoy what I was doing. Being flexible within my roles has also helped me to identify my skillset and strengths and therefore understand where I can add the most value within my responsibilities.
Is there one thing you wish you’d known when you were younger?
I wish I had been reassured that it’s ok to be different! Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and unique qualities and differences is what makes teams and organisations work so well! I am really passionate about celebrating individuality and playing to peoples strengths, and I love it when lots of different personalities come together to make an amazing team. I wish I had more confidence in myself sooner, and realise the positive attributes that I brought to each team I was part of – but it’s all part of the learning process! Value yourself; find what makes you happy, appreciate your uniqueness and celebrate your achievements!
Top tip when applying for jobs?
My 3 key words here are: prepare, practice and research! It really is that simple.
What is your ultimate piece of advice?
Never underestimate the importance of the team around you and always act professionally and treat colleagues with kindness and respect. Throughout my career I have supported individuals who have regretted how they have behaved at work, or dealt with a work related issue, and have unfortunately suffered the consequences for a long time after it. It’s so important to be polite and professional, but above all, be a good person; good people bring out the good in other people and that is the true marker of success!