“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”
We sat down with Career Coach Nicola and discussed how life can take you down a number of paths and sometimes the wrong path can take you to the right moment.
The outcome? An insightful career story that teaches us that life is like a camera; we must focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, give it another shot.
Did you pursue further or higher education?
After completing compulsory education, I continued at my school’s 6th form to study a GNVQ in Health and Social Care while resitting my maths and English GCSE’s. At the time I was definitely a creature of habit and didn’t feel ready to leave school, and so although I passed, I didn’t take the course too seriously.
What shape did your career take post education?
After completing my GNVQ, I went onto a Childcare Apprenticeship with a local nursery where I completed a Level 2 qualification. Shortly after this, I fell pregnant and had my first child at age 20. I took a short amount of time out of work, before searching for a suitable part-time role to work alongside my childcare commitments; I found myself working 2 nights a week in Tesco, re-organising stock and product placements, and this was the ideal role for me at the time, as I earned more working 2 nights than I did in a full week in my apprenticeship. It was a physically demanding role, but the work/life balance enabled me to care for my son most of the time, and it was really important to me that I was there for him as much as physically possible.
How has your career journey developed?
After a few years in the role and bringing up my son, my confidence was at an all-time low. I was a single mother and had little interaction with others, and I wasn’t really sure who I was or what I wanted to do with my future. I started attending Zumba classes at YMCA Swansea and slowly got involved with the organisation, receiving excellent support from the team to boost my confidence and improve my health and wellbeing. This was the start of a very positive journey as I eventually ended up volunteering as a Gym Instructor. This role gave me so much confidence and experience whilst I completed the formal training alongside. My new qualification meant that I was able to join YMCA Swansea as a full-time member of staff, (whilst continuing my part-time role in Tesco) running fitness classes, providing personal training, offering health and wellbeing mentoring, and getting involved with the employability support available.
In 2017 I became pregnant with my second child, and when returning to work, I was not able to resume my previous fitness related duties due to injury. Instead I worked full-time supporting those in long-term unemployment back into work through a package of employability support, with a specific focus on health and wellbeing to improve self-esteem and confidence.
In 2019, the project I worked on was coming to an end and I was ready for a new challenge. This is when I happened upon a Career Coach role on the Better Jobs, Better Futures programme, which seemed like the perfect opportunity for me at the perfect time. I applied and was successful, and I was absolutely ecstatic!
Are there any career decisions that you regret?
My attitude is to never regret a single thing – life is a constant learning curve and you could spend every day regretting decisions, but looking forward is the best way to improve your prospects and create positive change.
Did your career direction change after having children?
After my second child I was unable to return to my previous role in the same capacity, but this presented itself as an opportunity and made me realise that, regardless of what role I pursued next, I absolutely wanted to be helping people to change their lives for the better. This became my focus, direction and motivation, and while I wasn’t working in the same way, I was achieving the same important outcomes.
Is there one thing you wish you’d known when you were younger?
I wish I had realised that you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do when you leave school, and you can always change your career direction whenever you want to! Life is about finding yourself and enjoying the journey not just focusing on the end result. It’s so important to remember that you can influence, direct and control your life and make it exactly what you want it to be.
What is your ultimate piece of advice?
Don’t rush the process; you don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, you just need to be working towards your next step. Be patient, believe in yourself, and whatever you can do, is enough!