Regardless of how much you enjoy your job, many of us still have an underlying dream which sees us aspire to a completely different career path from the one we are currently treading.
Following that dream or seeking a new vocation can be an extremely daunting prospect, especially if it means making the decision to leave the comfort and security of full time employment to take up a part time or even voluntary post.
Working within the voluntary sector can often offer the experience and specialist focus that many people require to help them achieve their career goal, however the sector as a whole isn’t always seen as one which offers viable career alternatives.
For many people the gamble is just too great, and so any desire to work for a charity may remain simply that, a desire. However for those who do make that change, the rewards can far outweigh the risks.
Leigh Ryrie, one of three child and family support workers at CLAN (Cancer Link Aberdeen & North), has first hand experience of this. Having initially started her working life as a hairdresser, Leigh knew her heart lay with helping children and she set about ensuring she would achieve her aim. A chain of events saw her career path change more than she could have imagined.
The decision led Leigh to become a nursery assistant in a private nursery. During the next five years she worked her way up the ladder and qualified as a nursery nurse.
Seeking a new challenge Leigh then became a play leader at Aberdeen Children’s Hospital. While working full time she also studied gaining a play specialist qualification.
Leigh explains: “I worked at Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, preparing children for hospital procedures and everything that they might experience during their stay in hospital. As my role developed I also visited CLAN House to deliver a talk to parents and I was struck by the tranquillity of the centre as a whole.
“When I was growing up, my brother was diagnosed with cancer and I think because my family had experienced cancer first hand the potential of what could be done to help families really struck a cord with me. It has certainly made it even more special to me to offer support to families who are going through what is such a difficult time.”
An opportunity to split her time between her role within the NHS and that of child and family support worker within CLAN came Leigh’s way – an opportunity that was too good to miss and one she feels has had a huge impact on her life.
“I held a senior position at the hospital and it was a big gamble to take, however on the other hand, I knew the opportunity was just too good for me to turn down. Thankfully everything has worked out better than I could have hoped and with the support of CLAN my role has developed within the team, and I have such a sense of fulfilment that I have never looked back.”
Although the gamble paid off for Leigh, anyone thinking of following in her footsteps should be aware of what working for a charity entails, and ensure they make the decision after some consideration.
Leigh continued: “Working for a charity like CLAN is not a 9 to 5 job – it becomes a way of life. Through the nature of your work you become totally client orientated which often means you have to be flexible to ensure you can support the client when they need most.”
One of the things Leigh enjoys the most about her job is the fact that no two days are ever the same.
“One of the benefits is definitely that my working life is much more varied now. Whether it is meeting a family that is affected by cancer or even just being at the end of a telephone or answering an email or text from a client.” Leigh added.
“CLAN’s children and family service is unique in Scotland and I feel privileged to be part of a great team developing this service for people in this area. My work takes me all over the North-east, Orkney and Shetland, visiting schools and community groups, talking to both staff and pupils and supporting them in a number of ways. I am in the very fortunate position of loving everything about my job.”
CLAN is an independent charity which offers support to anyone affected by cancer. Based in Aberdeen, the charity covers the whole of Grampian, Orkney and Shetland.
For further information about CLAN visit www.clanhouse.org