“The experience made me realise that you have the permission, and the power, to go off and try things out.”


When Helen’s National Health Service job became less about the aspects she enjoyed, she knew it was time for a change. The people she met through the Launch Pad helped her realise that she could make the changes she wanted and find work that connected her to her local community.

What was your work situation before the Launch Pad?

I was working in the NHS, in admin support and front-of-house in a clinical research facility.

How were you feeling about your work?

I was feeling pretty exhausted and frustrated, for a long time. 

I didn’t have enough time to really focus on patient and public involvement and engagement, which was the part I had come to enjoy.

Why did you decide to join the Launch Pad?

I decided to join after a bit of lurking in the background, and reading about the course.

I liked what I read, and I felt that I needed a bit of help in making the changes that I knew were needed.

What had you previously tried to do to make progress on your career change?

I’d made my own independent attempts: I’d attended evening classes and talks, and I was looking at a variety of things that interested me.

So I suppose my curiosity was already there, but it hadn’t actually led me to a new role.

What were your reservations or scepticism about the Launch Pad?

I thought it might be to “life coach-y,” but in actual fact, I think it was a good blend of coaching advice, techniques and practical exercises.

What was the experience like?

It was a little bit intimidating at first, but I quickly got over that when I realised I was part of an online community.

I hadn’t done that before, but everybody was very welcoming and supportive. 

The experience made me realise that you have the permission, and you have the power, to go off and try things out. And you can always feed back to people, and get feedback from them too.

What were the highlights?

Going and doing the practical projects.

Some of them were really crazy things – you’re encouraged to do something very out of your comfort zone. 

I really enjoyed knitting cat blankets at Battersea dog and cat home with a lovely bunch of ladies.

What were the toughest moments?

Motivating yourself when you’re not feeling it is tough. 

At some point, you’re probably going to have to go to talk to a new contact about what you want to do. That can be tough, too.

What was the impact on you?

In terms of emotion, it was quite scary at first – I definitely went through a process of letting go.

Some days, I just thought: well, I’m going to do it anyway, because I learned this technique on the course. 

Practically, I made quite a few adjustments, and I was prepared to see a drop in my income.

What on the course led to that impact?

It’s quite collaborative: you’re in a cohort of like-minded people, and you’re coming together at least once a week to share. 

When we did some of the exercises, there was a good sense of teamwork and support.

Where are you now in your career?

I’m a volunteer coordinator with a small not-for-profit, which involves me working from home.

Most of my work is done on the computer or the telephone.

How do you feel about your work?

My work allows me a lot of freedom to connect with people in my local community, because it’s less structured than working in a nine-to-five admin role.

That’s something I did want to do.

What’s been the impact of your shift on your wider life?

Some of the time I’ll be a volunteer coordinator, some of the time I’m in my garden, some of the time I’m working with people in my local community.

I’ve seen quite a lot of crossover, in actual fact, which has been really satisfying.

How did the Launch Pad help you get clear on and move into your new career?

I think the single biggest influence that the Launch Pad course had on me was exploring community, in all its different forms, and reminding me of the benefits and employment possibilities it brings.

I knew it was important to me, because it kept coming up during the course, and I also knew that I wasn’t looking for a solo career path. 

I could see myself working with other people, but not necessarily in the same space, at the same time.

That's what I was clear on by the end of the course. But that was just the beginning, really. 

I spent the next couple of years working, volunteering, (a LOT of volunteering) and playing, as I explored my interests, and what was going on around me locally. 

I sought out different crowds to those I was used to - working with a local estate agents, and a solopreneur with her own e-commerce business, a community arts festival, and I even ran a couple of launderettes and got to know all the locals.

I learned a lot about community services, small business challenges, the charity sector, remote working, people management, marketing … setting boundaries, prioritising what’s important to me, saying YES! and saying NO (thank you).

Today I still do a lot of admin work - that never goes away, and that may not sound so different to working in patient facing services the NHS; in fact, my Volunteer Coordinator role today has many similarities.

What would you recommend to anyone considering the Launch Pad?

I would perhaps have a look at the website so that you’re familiar with the types of techniques that you’ll be using.

But don’t get too hung up on that – it would be a good idea just to go in with an open mind.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Be prepared to have some money put aside so that you can take time out – and be prepared to try something new.

Photo © Kenneth Chu

You can find full details about the course on our dedicated Launch Pad page.