This is Kathryn’s career story, and it’s one of a series of career progression articles designed to inspire anyone thinking about a career in the care sector.
Kathryn started her career in care like most people do, as a Care Assistant. She is now a Deputy Branch Manager and Technology Coordinator.
“I was working in a hairdressers, and I was saving up to get married,” says Kathryn, talking about how she got into care.
“I had spoken with my husband and discussed getting a part time job in care, in addition to the two jobs I already had in hairdressing and the finance sector. I wanted to earn some extra money to help pay for the wedding.”
Like many people getting into care work, Kathryn wanted something that would fit her routine and lifestyle. She hadn’t set out specifically to find a job in care.
“I was on the lookout for something,” explains Kathryn, “and wasn't overly fussed what I wanted to do.”
Just as it is with many people who work in care, it was a personal family experience that gave her the idea to seek work in the care sector.
“My Grandad had terminal cancer back then. He was really weak and in bed all the time. He had carers coming in and sometimes I would be there when they were there. I saw how they made my Grandad feel and how much it helped my Grandma.”
This personal exposure to the role of a carer, and seeing how much difference it could make for people, inspired Kathryn to investigate further.
“I wondered if I could maybe be a care worker,” she remembers. “I had a look online, I scrolled through a few roles and then saw some care jobs listed.”
Kathryn realised that the work was a good fit for her, it was just a question of if she was also a good fit for the role.
“The jobs I saw offered zero hour contracts, and they were flexible. I wouldn’t be stuck in one place all the time, which appealed to me,” says Kathryn.
Kathryn soon had an interview for a role.
“I loved the interview and was offered the job straight away. I was given the choice of domiciliary or crisis care. I decided on domiciliary care as it was the more flexible option and suited my needs perfectly.”
At first, Kathryn only saw the care role as an addition to her other work but things soon changed.
“My Grandad passed two days before I started work in care, that was back in February 2015,” recalls Kathryn. “This event spurred me on to want to enjoy it, to be the best carer I could be, and to help the people like my own Grandma and Grandad.”
Things went well for Kathryn, and she was soon enjoying her new role as a Care Assistant.
“I was a carer for about 12 months and absolutely loved it,” says Kathryn. “I ended up adding more hours and shifts, and was also picking up some crisis visits to mix it up a bit.”
It wasn’t long before Kathryn decided she wanted more hours and more responsibility.
“I saw a job for a senior position that was contracted Monday to Friday 9-3pm for 30 hours per week” explains Kathryn. “So I went for it. I contacted the person conducting the interviews directly and she asked to see me that day. I had a really good interview and left feeling positive.”
Just two days later Kathryn was called up by the interviewer to ask if she could take on some extra hours that day to cover for someone who hadn’t been able to work that day. It was a Sunday.
“I had a sudden feeling that she was testing me,” says Kathryn. “I had told her in the interview that I was the type of person who always tries my best, and never likes to say no to a challenge or task. Was she asking if I would help out to see if what I said in the interview was true?”
The interviewer later told her this wasn’t a test, and that she was genuinely stuck for cover. Whatever the reason was, it worked for Kathryn as she got the post.
“I was a Senior Carer for around six months,” explains Kathryn.
“I didn't particularly enjoy this role as I am a little bit OCD with things,” reveals Kathryn. “Writing care plans, back then all written by hand, would take me hours because I felt the need to add every bit of detail. However, I did enjoy doing the rotas and planning the runs for the carers. As well as listening to the feedback and implementing it the next week.”
Then, a role as a Care Coordinator came up. Kathryn applied and got the job.
“I loved this role,” says Kathryn. “I did it for about four years.”
By this time, Cera Care had taken over the company Kathryn worked for and she saw immediate improvements.
“The Regional Director was lovely,” says Kathryn. “Previous to the takeover I had been asking to do my Level 5 NVQ but it was never authorised. But this new Regional Director authorised it for me immediately and, by the time this article gets published, I’ll have completed it.”
Kathryn then heard about a new job role that Cera were introducing, a Technology Coordinator, a role designed to help Cera build the new systems. Kathryn applied and was delighted when she was selected for the position.
“I love this role too, it is so interesting. I’m always learning loads of new things, and giving my feedback about the new system and what we needed or didn't need,” explains Kathryn. “I attend workshops where we would brainstorm how we could make Cera even better.”
The role of deputy manager had always been in Kathryn’s ambitions. But she felt it was out of her reach. However, she had now grown to love the technology role and felt torn. Luckily for her, a solution was in sight. When a Deputy Manager role came up Kathryn asked if she could keep her technology role and take on the Deputy Manager job too. Her management team, by now very familiar with what Kathryn could achieve, agreed and she took on the new role while keeping her old one.
“I still get to coordinate as I’m always helping somewhere,” says Kathryn. ‘I’m often out care working as there is always a shift that needs covering somewhere. I even do the odd care plan, which is much easier now that I don't have to hand write it all.”
We asked Kathryn what makes a good care worker and what advice she’d give someone considering or starting their career in care.
“I’m a big believer in experience over qualifications,” replies Kathryn. “You can either do the job or not. You can either coordinate or not, it can't be taught.”
“As for advice, all I can say is go for it,” she continues. “I have done that every time an opportunity becomes available and if it's meant to be it will happen for you. Care work is one of the hardest yet most rewarding roles there is. It's not all cups of tea and cake. There’s more to it than that but I don't know anyone who has become a carer who hasn't enjoyed it. Yes the hours are long, the pay is not the best - but the feeling you get when you see a little smile light up on someone’s face is worth more than anything.”
We hope this article has helped, informed and inspired you to take up a career in care. If you would like to know more about career progression in the care sector please check out the other articles on our care career tips here.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, or you're already working in care and looking for a new role, then you can find our latest job listings here.