Thursday, 17 March 2011

Blog Series: Laura Anne

I am really tickled to introduce Laura to my blog. It isn't just because she's a home and away fan (she gets kudos from me though) or has one of the most insanely kindest hearts I know of (and I haven't even met her...yet) but I also I find what she does just incredible. I have no idea how she fits everything into her busy lifestyle (she has a secret twin I just know it). Yet, I very specifically wanted Laura to guest post for a particular reason and by the end of this post you'll know why.  So here's Laura, a wee lassie fae Leith...

Hi. It's an honour to be asked to be a guest on Rebecca's very first blog series! Especially as Rebecca was my first guest (you should totally check out her guest post here).

So how did I get from my dream of being a Geography teacher to where I am now - more than a decade later - the manager of a pregnancy resource centre? It was quite a journey, and it was a journey I didn't realise I was on until years later when I came back to the capital (of Scotland!) after 6 years of living in the Doric speaking North-East!

I had a number of different jobs during my time at university. I would always apply to jobs I felt a gut feeling that I should go for - I never once got rejected for any of them. But some of them I couldn't work out why I had felt led into made no sense to me at the time.

Sales Associate at GapKids/BabyGap, Bartender, Night Club staff, Youth Advice Worker, Care Worker, Receptionist at the sexual health clinic...

From doing these jobs I discovered very quickly what I was skilled at, what I hated, what I wanted to do. It was working as a Youth Advice Worker in Community Education that showed me a career I never knew existed but LOVED. The difference between Comm Ed and teaching was huge. In schools I'd watch power plays between teacher and pupil, people be made to learn they way that was set out for them - even if it wasn't a way or environment in which they could learn well.

So I took a big step - I was in my 3rd year studying Geography and I transferred to a degree in Health Promotion at the medical school. My parents were none too happy at first - but I knew I was unhappy studying Geography, and I thought that Community Education was where I wanted to head, and Health Promotion would be more useful for that.

It was. :)

I got a temporary contract for 7 months working as a Community Education Worker after I graduated. It was a huge task. I was 22, and I had 23 staff to manage. They had been through a lot when I walked in, and I was totally unprepared for how to deal with that. I was fairly thrown in the deep end. At the same time I was training in pregnancy crisis counselling with a local charity that were about to open a pregnancy resource centre in Aberdeen.

The 7 months in a highly stressful job took their toll and when my contract ended I decided I would head to Australia, before returning to my hometown. I had no idea what I would do.

While I was searching for a job, I went along to a pregnancy resource centre to see if I could finish my training and volunteer with them. I walked out that day with a job application.

3 months later, I was working there. And all of a sudden I got to see how there were so many skills and just life lessons I'd learned from all my previous jobs (even working in the Night Club!) and got to combine my university degree and my work in Community Education into one role.

Now I get to train new volunteers in counselling skills and youth work skills. I get to develop our education programme. I do all the admin that is involved with running a pregnancy resource centre (not too dissimilar from running a community centre!). I get to go meet different people from other organisations. And most recently I got given a role with the national organisation we're affiliated to in helping support teams running centres across Scotland.

I love my job!

But that doesn't mean there aren't hardships. Working for a charity in our current economic climate is stressful and hardgoing. Technically I work 'part-time' but I'm expected to work a lot more than I'm actually paid for. Sometimes there hasn't been money to pay me straight away. Sometimes there is no money to fund training so I can get better at what I do. I had to move back in with my Mum & her husband because I couldn't afford to live independently anymore. I can't afford a contract phone or go shopping for new clothes, or get my haircut regularly (or get it coloured!), or get proper dental care or get my car fixed, or replace broken laptops, phones or iPods. I've been on 1 holiday in 4 years.

It might sound petty, but those are things I'd got used to being able to do and often get frustrated at the limitations living hand to mouth can bring. It's also been a lesson in accepting help and generosity from others. :)

My advice to anyone is - you don't have to take the conventional route. Go out and experience! You can learn from the jobs you dislike as much as the ones you hate, and don't rely purely on a degree. Job experience is in some ways a great deal more valuable. There's also a limit on blaming your parents for your life decisions - there comes a point where you have to make your own choices. My parents within a few months saw how much I was excelling in my new degree & realised it was the right thing to have done.

Some of us are lucky and know what we want to do 'when we grow up' and some of us do not. Laura thought she knew what she wanted to do for quite a while, and it is so interesting to see what she thought she wanted to do never went the way she expected it to...and you know what? That's okay because you may just find something so much better than you bargained for. You can read Laura's blog 'Learning from Sophie' here. Thank you friend!


Starlight said...

I love this series more and more and I enjoyed reading Laura's story.

Steph{anie} said...

Major credit to you for being so passionate about what you do, Laura! It's incredibly obvious how much you enjoy what you do.

Alex(andra) said...

I admire the fact that you sacrificed so much to do a job that you love, Laura! I could never do what you do... many props to you.

Laura Anne said...

Thank you - don't think I should take too much credit though - I don't think I could do a job I hated so I guess it's not so much of a sacrifice, but trading one set of frustrations for another.


Kristen said...

I really enjoy hearing stories like these. We always think we have it worked out but sometimes it is better the let the road develop itself. The charity sounds very well run and that you have a good team working with you. All the best Laura Anne.

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