From Events to Support Work

“I'd become disillusioned... I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life.”

Image of Ian Rowland

From Events to Support Work

Fed up with the waste he saw in his industry, Ian Rowlands cut back his expenses to allow him to move into work that finally felt right for him. Here's how he did it.

What work were you doing previously?

I was working in the events industry as an events manager.

I sold, organised and ran a range of different events, such as team-building days and parties.

What are you doing now?

I now work as a support worker for a national charity called MacIntyre, supporting young people with autism and other learning difficulties.

Why did you change?

Three main reasons:

I wanted to spend more time with my family (working on events meant I was away quite a bit and worked a lot of weekends and evenings);

I'd become disillusioned with the events industry;

I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I thought about making the change for a few months but finally decided to go for it after going out for a meal with my wife for my birthday last year.

I told her that I'd been researching the role of a support worker and was thinking of making a significant career change which would mean less income and making changes to our lifestyle. When she told me that she would support me 100%, my decision was made.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes, it is without doubt the best decision I have ever made.

I said to my wife recently that I'm now the happiest and healthiest I've ever been in my entire life.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

The only thing I miss a little bit from my previous career is the 'banter' I had on-site with my colleagues when working on an event.

I don't miss the long hours, the travelling to and from events, staying away from home, dealing with annoying / rude clients and attendees, the stress of events, the drunk idiots at Christmas parties, the pointless waste of money that is spent on events.

Basically, I don't miss the events industry at all!

How did you go about making the shift?

Due to the stresses and strains of the job I was in, I fell into a vicious spiral of anxiety and mild depression.

I managed to take a step back and realised I couldn't continue with the way things were going as it was having a very negative effect on me, my wife and my little girl. I thought back over my life and tried to think about when I'd been at my happiest in regards to work. I realised it was when I'd been teaching out in Taiwan in my early twenties. I had really enjoyed seeing the kids learn and develop.

I did initially look into primary school teaching but was put off by the number of stories I heard about teachers trying to teach huge classes and leaving the profession after only a couple of years.

I then came across an advert on a job site for a support worker position and started doing some more research into what the role actually entailed. I did a couple of online personality tests and spoke to a few friends, who all suggested I had the right personal traits to become a good support worker.

After chatting to my wife about making the change, I attended an open day for a charity called MacIntyre close to where I live. I got to chat to a range of different people from the charity, several of whom had also made significant career changes, and had been at the company for over ten years.

The role, the training on offer and the chance to make a difference to young people's lives really struck a chord with me. I came away from the open day thinking "This is what I want to do and this is the organisation I want to work for".

It was then full steam ahead. I filled in an online application form, attended a one-day assessment centre and was then offered the position as a support worker. I had a to wait a couple of weeks to get my DBS checks done before handing in my notice at my existing job. It was an amazing feeling and I had no doubt in my mind that I was doing the right thing for both myself and my family.

I haven't looked back since.

What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?

I've been very lucky in that everything has gone well.

There have been a few moments of self-doubt and slight concerns about the challenging behaviour of some of the young people I support, but I've been very fortunate that I have found a career and a company that I love working for.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

My wife and I sat down and reviewed all our bills and expenses.

We now have the most basic TV package (no Sky Sports for me anymore!), cheapest phone tariff, we shop at Aldi rather than Tesco, we are more selective about going out, we'll be holidaying in the UK rather than going to any far-flung destinations, and we are just a lot more careful with our weekly expenditure.

Although my salary has effectively halved, it hasn't actually been that difficult to adjust (a lot of my old salary was going on petrol and eating out – these expenses have significantly decreased as I work much closer to home now).

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

The two most difficult things have been getting used to working with young people who can demonstrate challenging behaviour (kicking, hitting, biting, shouting, etc.) and also working shifts (I either work a morning or an afternoon shift).

What help did you get?

I read a lot of career-change websites (particularly Careershifters) and read plenty of articles about being a support worker.

The training provided by MacIntyre has been excellent. It's given me the skills I need to be a support worker.

What have you learnt in the process?

I've learnt that life is way too short to be miserable doing a job that you really don't enjoy or get any satisfaction from.

I've also learnt that you really don't need to earn a huge amount to be happy. Sharing a smile or a laugh is more satisfying than any pay cheque.

And, probably most importantly, time spent with friends and family is the most important commodity in the world and far outweighs any financial reward.

What resources would you recommend to others?

The Careershifters website.

I'd also recommend a book called Career Change: Stop Hating Your Job, Discover What You Really Want To Do With Your Life, And Start Doing It, by Joanna Penn.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I should have made the change sooner.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Go for it!

If you're not happy in your chosen job (particularly if you're working long hours and not spending quality time with your family) then make the change. Do plenty of research and perhaps volunteer before making the move.

Life is too short to be unhappy.

What lessons could you take from Ian's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org.