“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts”
We sat down with Project Co-ordinator Sam to discuss the importance of pursuing a career with purpose and finding meaning in the work that you do every day.
The outcome? An uplifting career story that reminds us that challenges are there to be overcome and that you grow through what you go through.
Did you pursue further or higher education?
I really enjoyed school and had a generally positive experience, so I was keen to continue my education. I decided to go to Gorseinon College to study A’ Levels in Biology, Psychology and English Literature. I wasn’t sure what career route I wanted to pursue, so I chose a range of subjects that kept my options open and gave me time to decide my next steps. Following my time in college and still unsure of what I wanted to do next, I decided to go to Cardiff University to study English Literature. I found university really tough and doubted myself at many points along the way, unsure of where I was heading and what I really wanted to do with my life. However, I persevered and graduated in 2012 with a 2:1 and I was absolutely delighted. It was a steep learning curve for me, but overcoming the challenge gave me much needed confidence and made me feel slightly more optimistic about my future.
What shape did your career take post education?
During my time in education I always had a part-time job as I wanted to earn my own money and be as independent as possible from a very early age – I had a busy social life that needed funding! I worked in a range of different waitressing roles, which all taught me the meaning of hard work and a whole host of other important life lessons such as persistence, resilience, commitment and time management. After graduating from university, I still had absolutely no idea about what job role or profession I wanted to pursue. I felt lost and unsure, and also felt an incredible amount of pressure to have it altogether; many of my friends had graduated and gone straight into brilliant careers as doctors, teachers and lawyers, and I felt immediately like I was failing and falling behind on a career journey that hadn’t even started. I decided to focus my search on graduate scheme opportunities as these seemed to bridge the gap between education and employment, providing a structured training programme designed to help graduates progress to leadership roles within an organisation. Typically I decided to go for one of the most competitive schemes in the country, and applied to become an Area Manager for a large supermarket chain. There was a 5-step application process including a written application, group assessment, panel interview and competency testing, and I can honestly say it was the most demanding and rigorous recruitment experience I have faced to date. Being a highly competitive and strong-minded person, I threw myself into the process and was determined to do everything to give myself the best chance of success. The further I got through the process, the more hungry and competitive I became to achieve my goal; I was really intrigued by the diversity of the role, and I was looking for something to challenge me in completely new ways – it seemed like the perfect fit. The toughest part of the process was a 90 minute one-on-one interview with the MD of the company. This was my first proper job interview and I was extremely nervous, but I knew I could sell myself and convince him I was the right person for the job. I managed to do just that, and I couldn’t believe it when I was offered the position a few days later. I had just graduated from university aged 21 and I had secured an incredible job opportunity with a great salary (and a company car)! It all felt too good to be true.
How has your career journey developed?
After a short amount of time on the graduate scheme, I realised it wasn’t for me; the work felt soulless and I didn’t feel like there was meaningful purpose behind the responsibilities. I found the pressures and expectations of the job extremely demanding and difficult and it quickly took over my life – I was expected to spend lots of time away from home with no real ‘off’ switch from the day job. My self-esteem plummeted and my home life and relationships suffered, and I just knew I had to make a change before the role consumed me altogether. I was stressed, anxious and unhappy and so regretfully, I handed in my notice. I felt like a failure but I tried to remind myself that I was putting my health and happiness first, rather than the status and reputation of a ‘great’ job. I moved to Cardiff and looked for a new opportunity; I wanted a simple 9-5 role where I could start to rebuild my confidence and find myself again. I applied for a role at the Heath Hospital as a Directorate Support Co-ordinator for the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department. After going through the application process, I was delighted to be offered the position. I really enjoyed this job; I was responsible for co-ordinating undergraduate Cardiff University students on their placements, and I loved getting to meet the students, supporting them through their experience and ensuring they maximised the opportunities on offer. As with the busy NHS, my role wasn’t straightforward, and throughout my 2 years I was also responsible for managing waiting lists and co-ordinating clinics. It was an extremely busy time but I met some incredible people along the way and learnt a lot in a short space of time. This is the role where I started to feel like me again; I was working hard but I could see the difference I was making to the patients and students’ lives, and this motivated me to keep pushing myself forward.
After 2 years, I moved back to Swansea and saw a Recruitment Information Officer role with Better Jobs, Better Futures at Gower College Swansea. I was intrigued and really liked the vision and mission of the employability programme as a whole – a holistic wraparound approach to supporting people into employment. I applied and was successful and this marks the start of my journey with BJBF! Throughout my time in the department I have worked as an Engagement Co-ordinator, Recruitment Consultant, and I am now a Project Co-ordinator – I’ve progressed through a number of different roles which have all given me valuable skills and experience, and I am really proud to have been part of the team since the very start. I have worked with some incredible people and developed so much both personally and professionally – this job really has changed my life.
Is there one thing you wish you’d known when you were younger?
I’ve always been a worrier and chronic over-thinker, and I wish I had spent more time enjoying myself and not worrying about the little things. I think there’s a lot of pressure on young people to have it all figured out; what they want and how they are going to get there, but the reality is that it’s really hard to plan for your future when you lack experience and feel unsure and scared to make a wrong move. Not knowing your next steps is perfectly ok and extremely normal; I’ve fulfilled a number of roles, some of which I have loved, and some I didn’t enjoy, but through which have ended up learning a lot about myself and my priorities for the future. It’s so important to take your time and not put too much pressure on yourself to have the perfect life, which is now so heavily fuelled and influenced by social media. It’ll be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end!
Top tip when applying for jobs?
My top tip would be to be true to yourself and maximise your skills, strengths and points of difference to your potential employer – what can you offer that other people can’t? Why should they employ you and not your nearest competitor? It can be really difficult to get noticed in a crowded job market, but you have to have confidence and belief in your abilities to do the job and offer a positive contribution to the organisation. Have a ‘what have I got to lose’ mind-set and throw everything at it; at least then you can look back and know you did your absolute best, and if it doesn’t work out, then it wasn’t meant to be.
What is your ultimate piece of advice?
As someone who is always stressed and worried about something, my ultimate piece of advice would be that regardless of your situation or circumstances, take the pressure off, be patient and be kind to yourself. Life is so busy and can be extremely overwhelming at points, so it’s important to look after yourself and trust the process of whatever it is that you’re going through; everything teaches us something, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Remember – today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday, and everything will always turn out better than expected.