‘Well, that’s a change!’
That’s the usual response I get from people when I tell them that I am switching career; moving from a safe job working as a sub-editor, to becoming a student children and families social worker. And they aren’t wrong!
Without boring anybody with the trivialities of my working life, suffice to say I never really managed to be where I wanted to be. As with a lot of people I guess, I just kind of ‘fell into’ various jobs for twenty years. Making friends and money and approaching each day with a kind of weariness and inevitability, but always thinking: ‘things could be worse’. Yes – but they could also be better.
I gained my psychology degree later in life through the Open University and began volunteering for a local mental health support group. The volunteering once a week became something I looked forward to and it gave me a sense of achievement and of accomplishment I never really experienced in my day job. I decided I wanted to pursue a career that was more focussed on people and on making a difference in their lives – but what? Was I too old now? Could I even afford to change careers?
I actually found out about Frontline from the Open University’s alumni careers team. I had briefly considered social work as a career before, but gave up on the idea. But the more I looked into the Frontline programme, I realised what a fantastic opportunity it was.
I decided to attend the career changers evening last August to find out more and decide whether to apply – by the end of the session I was actually nervous. Nervous because I now really wanted this and could imagine social work as my future, and Frontline as my way of getting there. But the recruitment process was so long! In addition, everyone else seemed so much better suited for the role – just finished degrees with firsts, working as teachers, volunteering abroad etc; what did I have to offer?
It turns out I must have had a lot to offer, as the recruitment process sailed by and by Christmas I knew I had passed the selection and just had seven long months to wait before starting at the Summer Institute! The first half of 2018 dragged by I can tell you!
As it’s still fresh in my mind, I will tell you a little about the Summer Institute from the point of view of a career changer, as opposed to someone fresh from their three-year undergraduate degree at university – who made up about 50% of the cohort. I absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s fairly hard work with packed days full of lectures and seminars and also plenty of reading to do. But for someone used to a normal working week it really wasn’t that different and there was still time left to do the things you want to do and that help you unwind, like yoga, swimming (I went once!), going to the gym and of course socialising! Everyone, from the Warwick staff to the Frontline team to my fellow participants and now friends, was absolutely lovely.
Anyone reading this who feels they are too old to apply to the Frontline programme, or that they will be the only person on their cohort over 30, I’m here to tell you that isn’t the case. I had those same fears; I’m 39 and wasn’t even close to being the oldest person at the Summer Institute! Career changers bring with them so many skills and experiences. Here I am writing this blog in my two-week break following the Summer Institute and I can’t wait to start in my local authority placement very soon.
‘Well, that’s a change!’ – yes it is and one I’m very glad I made.