In 2015, the Association of Accounting Technicians commissioned a study into working lives which showed that 46% of their sample (around 2000 workers) would quit their jobs and occupations and retrain completely. There is no shortage of reasons a person might do this: more job satisfaction, financial opportunity, the fear of being made redundant to automation, a better work-life-health balance, exciting new sectors being created. In our Career Changers series, we look at individual stories of people who have made that switch.
Meet David Brown
David is a full-time shift-based support worker to a disabled adult in the Glasgow area. He talks to us about how he heard about the opportunity to start without any experience, and the surprising similarities between his current role and his previous work in a bank’s call centre.
Name: David Brown
Current position: Support Worker
Previous job: Telephone Banking Call handler/Quality and Risk Coach.
When did you make the change? 3 years ago
What prompted you to stop what you were doing?
When I started the job I found it very satisfying to help people with their banking problems. I also enjoyed expanding my knowledge of systems, processes and products to help deal with customer queries more efficiently, which led to me coaching others on how to deal with enquiries.
The biggest problem I had with the job, though, was that I could not spend any time with customer’s issues. Some people would call up with complicated problems, which couldn’t be solved in one phone call and would have to call back after certain timescales, or when they received a particular piece of paperwork. Unfortunately, there was no way to follow these issues up and I had to rely on other call handlers completing a resolution I had started. I found this very frustrating as there was no way I would ever be notified if a customer’s issue had or had not been resolved. As a result of this, I started to feel I was caring less about my performance, which led me to look at alternative careers.
Did you know what you wanted to move into?
Most of my family and a few of my friends worked in the care industry, either in nursing or support work. From talking to them it felt like they were getting the one-to-one time with people I had been looking for. They were able to build relationships and achieve progress with people in a way that profoundly affected their lives for the better.
Fortunately, most entry-level positions in care do not always ask for qualifications, minimum terms of experience or previously acquired training. They do ask that applicants have experience, but I had for many years been supporting a family member with a range of activities like completing forms or practising creative writing. This, although being minimal support, did count towards the experience requirement.
The care industry is also very understaffed, so there are companies who will take people on without experience. A lot of institutions and charities are always looking for volunteers, and this is how most people find their way into a care job.
Did you face any obstacles along the way?
I had some declined applications due to the level of experience and lack of qualifications I had. These were companies that specified these requirements in their applicant criteria, so this didn’t surprise me. However, I was encouraged by people who worked in the industry to still apply for these positions, as there was always a possibility I would be accepted anyway.
One obstacle that didn’t initially occur to me until I started working with disabled adults was that I had spent four years using speech to resolve issues for people, and was now working with individuals who were non-verbal. I therefore had to learn how to communicate through body language, gestures and some Makaton sign language. This took time.
The other obstacle I was not expecting, but became very obvious, was the scrutiny that every support and care worker comes under from family members. This can mean having every word or action questioned continuously and the expectation of the highest standards of care.
Do you feel like you made the right decision?
I definitely feel like I made the right decision. I have been working for the same company, with the same service user for three years now, and I still get excited going to work. The only thing I miss is the social interaction you get from working in an office. However, I have never considered going back to that type of work.
Have you changed as a person since you changed career?
I definitely feel more confident. Being responsible for a person’s wellbeing is a huge responsibility, and when I see that person being happy and healthy it makes me feel valued. Paying close attention to someone else’s everyday activities has also made me focus more on how I look after myself. As a result, I feel healthier and happier at work and at home.
Are you using any of the same abilities for both careers?
I do not think there are any hard skills I have taken from telephone banking to social care. Most of the financial side of a person’s care is now dealt with by operations managers, rather than support staff. I have found that people respond to changes in the tone of my voice in the same way in both jobs. I would often coach banking agents to mirror the customer’s tone in order to build a rapport, or to adapt their tone to regain control of difficult calls. I have found that even though the service users I work with are non-verbal, they still respond to this careful selection of tone. This has been crucial on more than one occasion where a service user has had a distress episode.
Do you have further career goals?
Career progression will be a difficult one. The higher the position achieved in social care, the less time I would get to spend with service users, which would be very difficult for me. However, there would still be an opportunity to improve peoples’ lives, so who knows, maybe service management one day.
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Author: Katherine Stephen
Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.