“It’s not about how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up and carry on”
Did you pursue further or higher education?
At school I wasn’t very academic and preferred a kinaesthetic style of learning to gain hands-on experience and develop transferrable skills. I left school with the minimum qualifications I needed to get by. During my final year of secondary school, I had hoped to train as a Chef and pursue a career in the catering industry, but at 16 I had to quickly start supporting myself due to personal circumstances beyond my control, and so I started working in retail as this was the first opportunity I could find! I moved around various retail and hospitality roles for a few years, often working two jobs at a time to support myself. I had always excelled in the sales aspects of these roles, being a top performer in stores, but at the time I didn’t think much of it. Looking back, I realise that building these communication and interpersonal skills at a young age really helped shape my future career path.
What shape did your career take post education?
Aged 22 I moved back to my hometown of Swansea and found myself unemployed for a short period of time. I knew I wanted to move out of retail and hospitality but was unsure what I wanted to do long-term. Utilising my sales skills, I worked in a few small direct sales jobs, and when I turned 25, I saw an opportunity at the Evening Post for a Sales Representative, selling advertising space in the local newspaper. I consider this to be my first ‘proper’ job where I was able to work full-time, live on my own, support myself and even had a company car! It was this sales role where I found a passion for customer service and a desire for continuous professional development. I stayed in this role for around 2 years, before leaving to have my lovely daughter.
After 18 months of maternity leave I returned to the world of work in a part-time administration role. I knew this role didn’t suit my skills, but suited my circumstances, and I quickly became frustrated and bored, craving the buzz and fast-paced nature of the sales environment. I decided to take action and secured a part-time sales position in the licensing industry, working across South and West Wales. Unfortunately the role was short lived and I was made redundant; this was a difficult and turbulent time in my career and I spent the next few years working in a range of demanding business development and sales roles for blue-chip organisations. These roles required lots of travelling, overnight stays, and significant time away from home, and my personal life really started to suffer. I wasn’t able to spend much time with my family and I knew I needed a change.
How has your career journey developed?
My career journey has been full of ups and downs, twists and turns! An opportunity to collaborate with some family members on a bakery and sandwich business came about, and I ran the business for a few years, reinforcing my love for the catering and hospitality industry. I really loved this role, particularly my recruitment responsibilities, providing long-term unemployed individuals the opportunity to return to the workplace. For personal reasons, I had to walk away from the business, and felt lost and unsure of my next steps.
Building on my experience, I decided to explore the possibility of a career in the recruitment sector. I found a role at Working Links, providing support to ex-offenders and those at risk of offending and I thoroughly enjoyed supporting these individuals to overcome their barriers and secure meaningful employment. I also worked with local businesses to engage with and employ these individuals to help meet their business recruitment needs. After 9 months, I was promoted to manage a team and assist in the co-ordination of employment support within prisons across South Wales. Devastatingly, I was faced with redundancy again, and I lost all motivation as I finally felt like I had found my calling and I was where I needed to be in my career and in my life. I didn’t want to be unemployed again, so I accepted two short-term contracts in the employability sector to help keep me busy and motivated and then returned to a few sales roles before stumbling across the Workforce Adviser role at Gower College Swansea.
The Workforce Adviser role seemed to perfectly combine my strong customer service skills, interest in employability and passion for supporting people, with my professional experience working across a range of different sectors and organisations. I was absolutely over the moon when I successfully secured the role and I haven’t looked back since! I am so proud of what I have achieved and incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I have had from working with a range of colleagues across Gower College Swansea. Along the way I have also achieved my Level 4 Advice and Guidance qualification, which has given me confidence and further supported my personal and professional development.
Are there any career decisions that you regret?
When I look back, I think I had the wrong mind-set when it came to finding the right roles for me; I often thought that organisations I worked for didn’t match up with my values, but I realise that this is more a case of the culture of the sectors I was working in. Experiencing different sectors has given me a new perspective on what I want in my career, and I have no doubt that providing valuable support to people to improve their circumstances is far more important to me than job titles, progression and status. I don’t regret my career decisions; they have taught me a lot, and made me the person I am today.
Did your career direction change after having children?
Returning to work fairly quickly after having my daughter made me realise that sales roles which involved travelling and being away from home had a hugely negative impact on myself and my family. My priorities changed, and I knew that spending time at home was always going to be far more important than any job I would have in the future.
Is there one thing you wish you’d known when you were younger?
I wish I had known where to go for advice when I was leaving school and feeling unsure about my next steps. Had I known the range of support on offer at the time, I think I would have gone in a completely different direction more suited to my long-term goals. I am very happy with where I am today, but having a little extra support along the way would have eased some pressure and made the transition from school to employment a lot less daunting.
What is your ultimate piece of advice?
The only person who can change your story is looking at you in the mirror. The right attitude and the desire to succeed is everything; life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it!