My Journey.... So Far
My journey towards career counselling was born from my experiences at school and the subsequent jobs I found myself falling into with no real direction, meaning or purpose other than knowing that I had my own barriers to break down in order to find what I would truly love to do for a living. I always knew that I wanted to help people in one form or another, but exactly how I would do this eluded me for some time.
I grew up in a single parent household, my dad left when I was 10 and we didn't have much money. I had a bit of a tough time growing up but I enjoyed my childhood. During my time at secondary school I suffered badly from anxiety. Because I lived in fear of the anxiety and panic attacks I would suffer during lessons, I used to skip a lot of school days and I finished year 11 with poor GCSE grades and no direction in my life. When I left school I had very little confidence and zero awareness of what my skills and strengths were, let alone what career I should pursue.
The only thing I knew, which came up consistently in my school reports, was that I had potential but I just wasn't using it. This stayed on my mind and gave me the belief that at some point I would be able to use my potential, find my path and be successful. From the age of 17 I ended up bouncing from a college course in Public Service to a warehouse job, to a factory job, to labouring, to an apprenticeship and numerous other odd jobs in between. In my early working days I changed job with such a rapid frequency that even the most intent observer would have struggled to keep up with what I was doing from one month to the next. This had a tremendously negative impact on my home life and resulted in me leaving home at the age of 17.
By age 19 I did eventually find some stability when I ended up working for the RAC in Bristol, it was there where I started to realise my sales and customer service skills, my strengths, true desires and potential.
Several years of having success in sales and customer service allowed me to gain insight into who I was as a person and as a professional. Although I enjoyed most of my time at the RAC, after a while it started to feel like a dead end to me. At this point I decided that I wanted a second chance at education and an opportunity to use my potential.
At the age of 23 I enrolled in a part time access to higher education course. I had developed a keen interest in Psychology and I decided that this was the path for me to pursue. I continued to work full time to support myself and I would go to college for 2 full days a week. On my college days I would go to class from 9am until 3pm and then I would make the 2 mile walk to work to complete my shift that ran from 4pm to 9pm. To make up the rest of my contracted work hours I would work from 9am until 8pm on my non college days. As I couldn't afford a computer I would have to hand write my assignments and then get to college early to type them up before class or on my lunch breaks.
It was a grind, but I enjoyed the process of working towards my goal of getting into University. After 2 years I completed my access course with top grades and I was accepted into the University of Exeter to study for a BSc in Psychology. Prior to beginning this journey, the thought of going to University didn't even enter my mind, let alone being accepted into a top 10 institution.
I continued my journey to Exeter and whilst studying for my first degree I was able to re-assume another one of my passions in life, basketball. During my time at Exeter I was able to re-dedicate myself to the sport which had given me sanctuary during my hard times growing up, my skills developed and I discovered my passion and talent for coaching when I became captain of my team. I graduated with honours and left University to work in a few more jobs whilst I figured out what to do next.
I ended up working for a company that helped the long term unemployed get into employment as this was something that appealed to me. It was during this time that I realised how I wanted to use my degree, to help others develop in their professional lives. I developed an interest in Occupational Psychology and decided to study part time for a masters in the subject whilst working full time. At my day job I would complete extra tasks at work, such as designing and implementing a successful health and well-being initiative for staff, as well as helping to re-design the annual performance review process. I thrived in this role and would be commended by the managing director for my performance, also earning the best possible grade in my own performance review. As a direct result of my core tasks and individual effort, my company had the best record for Billing Integrity in the industry, with a record 0% fail rate over three consecutive quarters. I truly felt like I had arrived with this employer and I thought I would have a future practising my occupational psychology skills with this company, but unfortunately they closed their Exeter office and I had to move on. It was at this point I decided to go solo and build my own Career Counselling practice, so that I could help people to make the most of their careers.
Whilst I am open and willing to help anyone from any background with their career, I am particularly passionate about helping ex-armed forces personnel with their career transitions. This interest is rooted in my early upbringing in a Royal British Legion club where my dad was the steward. I grew up surrounded by veterans and lived in between two army camps, Lulworth and Bovington. I have fond memories of this time, particularly from when I lived in Bovington. I remember riding my bike down the road and being overtaken by these massive, loud tanks, I remember initially being scared as hell, and then looking up at the passing tank to see a soldier smiling back at me kindly and giving me a salute. From that point on I was always fine with it and would salute back whenever tanks would drive past me.
Growing up many of my friends were army kids and we would spend countless hours playing war games, going up to play at the tank museum and hanging out in their homes on the army barracks. I was quite keen on joining the army myself at one point but my parents would not let me entertain the idea. Years later while studying for my masters in Occupational and Business Psychology, I came across an article about military to civilian career transitions, focusing on veterans who had experienced career ending injuries. This sparked my interest in the subject and for my dissertation I decided to conduct my own research on the subject. I wanted my dissertation to count for something and to be meaningful and useful so I put a lot of effort into producing a valid piece of work. My dissertation researched career transitions of veterans entering civilian employment and sought to understand the barriers they face and what factors contribute to a successful transition. My research produced many valid findings and earned a distinction.
The findings of my research inform my approach to career counselling and fuel my interest to help veterans to have successful careers after their military careers have come to an end. Veterans sacrifice so much for their country and it's only right that they should be supported as much as possible when re-entering the civilian world. Given that this particular type of transition in one of the hardest, if not the hardest, a person can make, I believe the lessons learned can be adapted and applied to career transitions in general.
Although I feel I've written a lot about my journey (congratulations if you've managed to read this far), there is still much that I haven't included as it would take too long and I wouldn't expect you to read it all. In a nutshell I have faced many barriers, challenges and tragedies that I have had to overcome to arrive at this point. I have had many successes on the way as well, and now, at 35 years of age I'm at a point where I am dedicated to the profession of career counselling so that I can help others achieve their goals. I continue to work on my craft so that I can improve every day and be the best career counsellor that I can be.