Courtney Warren originally embarked on a career in hairdressing, but too much holiday chit-chat left the 21 year-old from Bradford wanting more.
A brave job change brought her a new career in care.
Now, after more than two years working at Bupa’s Cottingley Hall care home near Bradford, she says she’s never been happier and wants to stay in caring for the rest of her working life.
This comes as recent research from The Work Foundation and Totaljobs shows that increasing numbers of people are applying for social care roles, with one in four 16 to 25 year-olds reporting they are likely to pursue a career in the sector in the near future.
Why did you choose hairdressing originally?
From a young age I’ve always been into beauty. I’ve got older cousins and used to help do their hair and makeup before they went out.
I enjoyed it and thought, why not make a career of it?
What put you off it?
While there were some things I enjoyed about the job, I always had a feeling that there was something missing.
I’m a social person but was getting bored of having the same conversations with clients about holidays or their plans for the weekend.
The job satisfaction just wasn’t there. I didn’t feel appreciated or supported by my team and, more importantly, I didn’t feel I was making a difference.
Did you think it would be possible to change career?
I knew I wanted to change my career but couldn’t decide how to go about it. I’d considered care when I left school, but I wasn’t as headstrong at that age.
I thought I couldn’t deal with the emotional side, or that I’d be too squeamish. My family joked that I wouldn’t stick it out. I’m known for being a bit of a drama queen but working in care has brought out a different side of me.
I was a completely different person before this job. Caring has not only brought out the best in me but has helped me bring it out in others, too.
Were you nervous about starting something new?
I was nervous before I started but as soon as I walked into the care home for my interview, I knew it was where I wanted to be.
Whereas I used to doubt myself, almost immediately after starting at the care home I realised that I could do the job.
Everyone was so welcoming — I felt like I fitted in from day one which helped take the pressure off.
The team were supportive and my confidence grew quickly. That was in May 2018, and I’ve loved every day since. It sounds like a cliché, but I’ve gone from feeling trapped in a job to finding one where I can end every day with a smile on my face.
Did you get any good advice — and from whom?
My aunt works as a nurse in a care home and she always said I’d fit right in. I’m quite talkative and bubbly and she said the residents would like that.
Why was care of interest?
My Nana was in a care home. After that, I’ve always wanted to make a difference to others in her situation. I know sometimes care homes don’t have the best reputation but I want to change that and show the reality of care.
Our home has such a positive atmosphere. We are one big family and I want people to see that.
How did you find the job?
I ended up on a training course with the local job centre, which pointed me towards a vacancy with Bupa. That was two years ago and I’ve not looked back.
Did you need extra training?
I’ve learned you don’t need experience to become a carer. You just need to want to help people, and you can learn everything else on the job. Bupa provided all the training I needed.
Firstly, I had a week-long induction which covered the essentials of being a carer, such as food hygiene, personal care, moving and handling.
Then I did a week of shadowing shifts around the home, to make sure thatI was able to put what I’d learned into practice.
What was it like starting your new job?
I felt in my element straight away. It’s like I have found what I’m meant to do. Of course, I had questions to begin with but there were always people around to help answer these.
Two years on and I’m a team leader, so people come to me for advice now. I can’t imagine another job as rewarding as this, and genuinely think I’ll be working in care for the rest of my working life.
Most memorable moment?
The other day, I had a resident tell me how happy she was to have met me, and how she always knew she had someone to talk to.
I also get to use my hair and beauty skills, whether that’s blow-drying the ladies’ hair or painting their nails. They love it as much as I do — it feels like a little pamper session.
Do you meet interesting people? What do you learn?
I’ve met so many interesting people and learn something new from the residents every day.
I used to love history when I was at school but hearing their stories about the war is even more impactful. It’s given me an important sense of perspective.
My team are brilliant, too. Our head of care, Megan, has been really inspiring for me.
She’s only been in caring for four years but seeing how quickly she’s progressed, and how good she is with residents, reminds me to keep at it.
What do people not know about the job?
Care doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. It’s so much more than cups of tea or helping people to the toilet.
It’s helping people live their best lives and residents end up being your extended family.
Plans for the future?
Before joining the home, I’d never realised that you could actually make a career in care, but now I see there’s huge potential for development, and I’m excited by that. I have already progressed to a team leader role, supporting the nurses around the home.
Next, I’m going to do my National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in healthcare and train to be a senior carer. I’d also like to learn to administer medication. Whatever happens, I’m in care for life.
Some of my colleagues have been at the care home for 20 or even 30 years — and I can see why.
Advice for others who want to change career?
Go for it. You will surprise yourself about how much you’ll grow as a result. In two years I have seen such a change in my confidence and self-esteem. I didn’t think I would stick it out but here I am.
Find a job that makes you smile. It makes such a difference and you will know that even on the days it’s not easy, it will always be worth it.
Believe in yourself, too. Experience isn’t everything, and you’ll be surprised what transferable skills you have.
I am the eldest of six children, so have naturally spent a lot of time looking after my brothers and sisters. Before working in care, I never thought of this as a skill but it really is.
I have already had the same conversation with my younger sister, after she was considering a job in another care home. Like me, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to stomach it but, on my advice, she took the plunge. That was over a year ago and she hasn’t looked back either.
Inspired by Courtney? Here’s how to get a job in care
Is it popular?
Covid has changed perceptions of caring careers leading to a 39% surge in applications. One in four 16 to 25 year-olds says they are likely to pursue a care career.
There are over 120,000 vacancies at any one time, with most jobs in adult social care — either helping people in nursing or care homes, or in their own homes (domiciliary care).
None required — but Level 2 or 3 in Health and Social Care is desirable. Employers look for the right attitude (they may check this using online aptitude tests), and some experience of care, even if it is for a family member.
You will also need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to ensure you are suitable.
What’s the pay?
Many jobs are minimum wage and zero hour contracts are fairly common. However, skills shortages mean some employers are paying £11+ per hour even for new starters.
Opt to work as a personal assistant (working privately for a person in need of care) and the pay rises to £15. This is a sector where career progression is fairly easy — care home managers earn £30k-£45k.
And the prospects?
Health and social care can be a route to working as a personal assistant (there’s 130,000 people working in these roles), management or even nursing.
With a Level 3 in Health and Social Care you can apply to be one of the new nursing degree apprentices.
Is it for me?
Carers work long shifts (sometimes 12 hours), take on a huge amount of responsibility and provide personal care.
However, it can be very rewarding. Take the quiz at everydayisdifferent.com to see if it’s for you.