What do you do for a living?

I hope you don’t mind me asking. I’m currently at a tricky juncture, seriously considering the future of my working life and where I go from here. I’m genuinely interested in discovering what other people do for a living. I’m lacking direction and finding it hard to find the right path which compliments my family life, so I would greatly value inspiration and different perspectives.

I’m interested in the following…

Do you work from home or away from home?
Are you full or part time?
Have you been in the same career since leaving school/college/university?
Or have you changed jobs a lot?
Does or has illness or disability ever affected your work/career?
Have you ever had dramatic career changes?
How do you juggle work and family life?

etc, etc, etc…

I’ve been working since I was 10, no really! I babysat for pocket money in our village when I was 10. At 13 I worked as a stable hand, then for the rest of my teenage years I worked as a hairdresser’s assistant, a waitress, a fish and chip shop girl and some more babysitting.

I struggled at school because of undiagnosed ADD and years of bullying. As a result, I left after A-Levels feeling despondent, lacking in confidence and with no direction. I excelled at literature, creative writing and art, but as a result of very poor career advice, went to college to train as a beauty therapist!

Beauty therapy didn’t stick, I quickly became bored and uninspired - it just wasn’t me. Then because of a fluke meeting, I spent the first half of my 20s working as a live in nanny for the rich and famous in London and Boston Mass, with a few other odd jobs in between such as picture framer, shop assistant and a life model for a sculptor.

At 26 I became a manager of a private nursery school in Gloucestershire where I was advised to train as a teacher by an OFSTED inspector. So at 27 I began a three year teaching degree at Bangor University and absolutely rocked it. I felt I had been made for teaching and enjoyed an amazing stint of voluntary teaching in Africa. I was a top student and got head hunted by two local schools before I’d even graduated.

First teaching position was tough. An hour’s commute, a class of 31 with a wide range of abilities, one autistic child and no assistant. Then I got bullied by another teacher. The bullying went on for a year and broke me. The school handled the case very badly. I eventually left under the wing of the teaching union who were adamant I should take the case to court, but I had nothing left to give and had an emotional breakdown.

I tried to go back to teaching - part time at a secondary school. But I’d lost all my confidence, found discipline difficult and only lasted 2 years.

For three years afterwards, I went into retail and marketing, working for local businesses and retraining to fit the role. Then the 2007 - 2008 financial crisis led to the business I was working for at the time, close down. I then became pregnant with Angharad, so unemployable.

This is when we started SSiW.

Since then I’ve been the woman behind the man, have helped with SSiW, have done some supply teaching, lots of volunteering and raised two kids who are now in full time education.

So here I am, wanting to be of use again and needing to raise income. I’m tied to an extent because of the school run - we’re a one car family and live out in the sticks. I also give my elderly parents two days a week (one being a Saturday). My mother is disabled and I help with cleaning and errands and general emotional support when times are tough.

I’m beginning to embark on a writing career in Welsh - but this is fulfilling a dream and an ambition, not an attempt to pay the bills. I would love to spend every day writing, but life doesn’t allow for that kind of indulgence!

I’m very creative, I can draw and am crafty, love to write, love to cook and garden, love interior design. I’m social but not extrovert. I’m sufficiently tech savvy. I’m not always the most confident of people. I have a secret desire to be the lead singer of a rock band, as well as a serious stage actor. I love wildlife, especially birds and would actually love to be paid to narrate stories to children.

I guess in an ideal world we would have our chalet completely renovated and I would run mini Bootcamps and skill sharing weekends for Welsh learners, from home. But I first need to earn the money to renovate the chalet!

So, where do I go from here, I wonder, and what’s your story?


I’m a workbased learning tutor/trainer/assessor. Mostly apprentices, some 16-17 year olds who’ve not ‘taken’ to traditional education.

Like most in education I love the teaching, love the sense of making a difference but despair of the paperwork, targets, funding limitations and the constant sense that any good you’re doing is in SPITE of, not because of the system you’re working within.

I’ve been doing it over 12 years and every year for the past three or so I’ve got closer to throwing it in as my tolerance for all of the latter gets thinner!


Now I know what I would have done with the hypothetical £10,000 gift from a mysterious benefactor (in a previous thread…). Unfortunately, it hasn’t arrived so far. No other suggestions rŵan hyn, ond pob lwc mewn dy ymchwil di.


Do you work from home or away from home? Away from home, in the sense that I drive for a living, but I am based near to home.
Are you full or part time? Full time.
Have you been in the same career since leaving school/college/university? Or have you changed jobs a lot? No. When I left school I worked for a well known pizza company (the one with the hat-shaped roof). Started as a delivery driver, then trained in kitchen then front-of-house before becoming a manager. 8 years later I became a bus driver. During my career I have driven most types of vehicle, done public transport, private hire, rail replacement, a secondment for the London 2012 Olympic Games ferrying broadcasters, journalists etc between the Olympic Park and their hotels, and I’ve even done continental excursions. I’ve worked at depots in Kent, London and now Cardiff. During my time in London I was also briefly a controller, managing bus services either out on the field or by radio from a control room. Oh, and while I was at school I had a paper round for 5 years!
Does or has illness or disability ever affected your work/career? No - or not yet at least!
Have you ever had dramatic career changes? Changing from restaurateur to a bus driver was dramatic I guess. The pay increase was even more dramatic to me, as I’m doing an easier job!!
How do you juggle work and family life? I currently have no family so I’m not juggling either life so much. But even with a family the work schedules can be tailored to requirements (not exactly to requirements mind, but reasonably suitable to fit around family life as much as possible - it will depend on personal circumstances of course).


Oh yes, this! Teachers are having the soul completely sucked out of them!

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That’s such a very sweet thing to say, Mike. :slight_smile:

I’ve always admired anyone who does this. The amount of concentration, stamina and patience needed is absolutely beyond me, although I enjoy driving!


When looking at the book review, I thought how useful good stories with simple vocabulary are for learners. If you wrote a book and sent it to Gomer or kindle, maybe you would get paid and launch the career you always wanted?
I got sidetracked into Chemistry and only side-stepped into Health Physics. I didn’t have the guts to make a real leap! Lwc dda iti!


Well Catrin, that’s quite a story.

I travel to work, as a qualified nurse, in the local hospitals. I work part time, doing nights because there is more money. (I used to say less work, more money, but that isn’t the case now). The unsocial hours payments really do mean I can work fewer hours. Less travelling, no problems parking, less ‘liason’ work. At nights it’s just me and my patients. If there are doctors around it’s because I’ve asked them to come, not because they are interrupting me by doing ward rounds. No physios (sorry Anthony) OT’s, Social Workers.

I work directly for the NHS but I work on the local Nurse Bank. (I’ve never worked as an agency nurse as I feel, whisper it quietly, it’s a bit like stealing from the NHS) This is like being a supply teacher. I can’t always choose when to work, but I can always choose when not to work and this gives me great flexibility for the rest of my life, If I want to go to Bootcamp, or Slovenia I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. I’ve worked on the nurse bank since 2004 and there has NEVER been a month without enough work for me. Occasionally, at the start, I would get to the beginning of the last week of the month and think ‘This is going to be the month’ but it’s never happened.

Because of the unsociable hours pay and because I am beginning to be tired, I aim to work 10 nights a month but actually often work a bit extra. 9 months in Asia next year isn’t going to pay for itself.

I didn’t go straight to University when I left school (at 18, in 1979) as i didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I worked in a Steiner School for disturbed children for a year as a Community Service Volunteer and then, for 9 months or so, as a cleaner, washer upper in a Conference Centre. Then I did my nurse training. That was in the days when the hospitals, rather than the Universities taught us, and we even got paid as we went along.

My first nursing career was really only a couple of years. I worked in South London at a time when all newly qualified nurses were being given temporary contracts so that they could be made redundant when local hospital were being closed, when the NHS did most of the care that is now farmed out to nursing homes and the situation was being changed. Because I was young and fancy free I didn’t feel obliged to stay long and was with them for probably about 9 months. I went and worked on a caravan site run by a Christian community down in Dorset for a summer and then got my best ever nursing job in a newly opened hospice.

While the job was wonderful the management wasn’t. If I tell you that the Medical Director and the Matron left (not together!) with a month of each other, and within a year of the place opening, you may gather things were not very good.

But I was still young and fancy free. The idea of Christian Community was still very interesting to me and I went to Scotland to become 50% of a church based group in Dundee. I earned money cleaning part time in the church/community centre and did various unpaid church work at the same time and lived in a council flat in an area that was so unpleasant they have since knocked it down. After 20 months I married the other half of the group who was studying in St Andrews and he got a dependent’s allowance as part of his grant.

(It’s only in writing this down do I see how times have changed. Paid to be a student nurse. Got a council flat. University Grant with extra for dependents. I hope my children don’t read this!)

While he was a student I did do some more cleaning (my job title on the marriage certificate says cleaner) but really only a few hours a week. I volunteered in the CAB for 4 hours a week as well and hospital visited in the local psychiactric hospital which kept me out of mischief. After he graduated we spent 6 months in India and then he had a year (more grant, this time from the church) in theological college in Edinburgh which I spent producing our son. Church flat and then church income (very modest). A couple of years later our daughter and an unhappy first church job saw him become an Army chaplain and we were in Germany for a while. Diagnosis of depression, medical discharge with depression. So there we were, maybe a bit like you, working out how earn a living. He was far too ill to work for the Army but quite fit enough to do teacher training. But we didn’t know that he was, in the end, going to get a military pension, so I went back to nursing after 13 years out. He finished the course after some persuasion by his wife and his tutor but never set a foot in a classroom again. It’s also how we ended up in Wales. Suffolk, the last army posting was very nice but not really affordable on a nurse’s salary.

When we were in Germany, with 2 small children (home educated until I went back to nursing) and the possibility of himself being away on exersise, or even at war, I started an OU degree which I gained 7 years later. I also did a fair amount of nursing studying as the original, hospital based course, counted for nothing in university terms. I got some career advice from the OU when working out what job to go back to and physiotherapy would have, apparently, been 3% more satisfying than nursing, but I didn’t really want 3 years of university before I started earning for an increase of 3%!

So I suppose disabilty/illness has affected our choices. I’m definitely the more social outgoing person. He’s stayed at home doing what even today is thought of as ‘women’s work’ and I go out and have a lot of fun. Work is fun, mostly. Although it hasn’t always been and I too have been bullied. Welsh is fun. Spinning and swimming are fun. I’ve done some ESOL volunteering stuff. I still do church stuff. I’m a minor player in a group supporting Syrian refugees in Sir Gar. He’s really a hermit who found himself married with 2 children.

No dramatic career changes. I’m beginning to think about retiring now, but can’t really afford to although I’m on an NHS pension scheme that allows me (because of when I rejoined the NHS) to finish now. I’m paying for the 13 years out.

How do I juggle? When the children were small, he was always home to let them in. We do have animals and when he goes walkabout (pilgrimages, from a week to a couple of months) I have to arrange with my son, who lives at home, unemployed and not signing on, that they get fed. But other than that, no juggling. When my mother was diagnosed and treated for cancer, a period of a year a couple of years ago, I did spend an awful lot of time on the bus backwards and forwards to London.

I remember my friend asking me once what I was going to be doing the following week.When I had got to about about number 4 on the list she stopped me and said “You sound just like a man”. And when I complained about work, if something had gone wrong and I was unhappy, she counselled me to be grateful that I had work at all. Her cancer took her far too early and she had four years of not being able to work. So, I know how amazingly lucky I have been, with both my work choices and choice of husband.

A few years ago, for some reason which I can’t quite remember, I came across the ideas of Charles Handy. One of his ideas is Portfolio working. A bit of this and a bit of that and a bit of the other. You’ve already lived this sort of life, now just plan for the next bit of it.

I’m aware that this is amazingly long. If you want me to PM it as well and delete from the main thread, that’s quite OK with me.


I deliver fish around North Wales but am based 10 miles from where I live
In between I guess but my hours do fluctuate and drop slightly during the winter
No I left school with good GCSE and A level results despite bunking off school a lot and messing about but my head wasn’t in a good place at the time and I chose not to go to university and ended up working in a fast food restaurant. The next few years were very hard for me but I came out the other side and looking back it was part of my life which made me who I am today
I have had a few jobs over the years ranging from labouring , gardening to parcel delivery
Thankfully no.
Not really but from a very young age I have always wanted to be a meteorologist or a storm chaser in America so who knows :wink:
I manage very well now but this wasn’t always the case . I have brought my daughter up as a single parent and have always juggled various unstable jobs to fit in around her but a few years ago I was out of work for the first time and had to sign on which I hated . I just couldn’t find anything that fitted in around school hours etc . Luckily 3 years ago I saw a job advertised working for a fishmonger delivering fish . Instead of e mailing them my CV I went straight there to give it to them in person. I couldn’t believe my luck. They were some of the nicest people I have ever met . A family run firm. I sat down , had a brew and chat with them and they offered me the job and even guarenteed that the hours would always fit in around my daughter. I drop her off in breakfast club in the morning and start work at 8:30am and I finish around 3pm , in time to pick her up from school . It can be difficult during school holidays but if I am stuck for child care then I can bring her around with me in the work van . I quite enjoy it as it’s not too monotonous as I go on different routes every day and never know where I will be going until I get in. Also my route can take me in to Welsh speaking areas quite often so plenty of opportunities to practice my Welsh

It sounds like you have a lot of talent Catrin so I am sure it will all fall in to place for you very soon :slight_smile:


Hmmmm love to draw, write (possibly in Welsh), have a wealth of life experience… ever thought about writing and illustrating Welsh language kid’s books/stories @CatrinLliarJones ?

I had a fairly bumpy start in adult life - lots of time faffing about starting and failing courses, and working cafe jobs for not much money and no prospects. I was convinced I was going to do something creative, and started two art degrees - dropped out of both, more due to lack of confidence than lack of talent.

Then had a baby and immigrated to New Zealand… did another course in digital design and did a temporary graphics software testing job while I was looking for design work.

I’m still testing software 12 years on…

Would love to do something more meaningful… and would still love to illustrate books… would love to do a properly illustrated children’s wildlife book - not a cartoon one.

I’m told I am talented, but the idea of opening up to public critiscism is too scary! Confidence is key to success in anything I guess!


What an interesting (and motley) history, @CatrinLliarJones! Mine isn’t half so, but it did have a complete about turn twist in it.

I’m ashamed to say I never did any of those character-building jobs like babysitting, waitressing, picking up hair… I’m sure it would have done me good, but as a music student I was never short of cash from gigs so I never bothered.

I spent my life up to the age of 26 playing the violin and viola with little regard for anything else. (And had some pretty amazing times too!) Then I got hit by a rather serious health problem which put a sudden stop to it. I decided to come back from Germany, where I’d been living, to live with my parents and study computers for a year in Cardiff University. Luckily, my cariad followed me to Wales, and I got a good part time job in Cardiff University, so personally I’ve been pretty lucky, and rather sheltered.

Regarding what to do with you…

You’re already thinking along the lines of bootcamps - but I do wonder whether there would be more scope for running Welsh learners’ courses than just your usual kind of bootcamps? I think your mini-bootcamping ideas would be extremely popular and loads of fun, but having seen the number of potential takers for Aran’s latest intensive beginners’ course, it seems that there would be scope for various different types of courses as well. I wonder if you would be able to take over the main work of running various different offerings? (With Aran contributing when he sees fit.)

And I don’t think that renovating the chalet would be a prerequisite at all - you may need a bit of creative thinking about the time when the kids aren’t in school, but it wouldn’t be your responsibility to entertain people 24/7!

And when you’re not running courses, we’ll look forward to the novels, acting, singing and storytelling…!


Well, what a life! You’ve certainly no shortage of transferable skills. I have little aim or ambition so any advice I can give is probably not going to be worth much, but here goes:

I’ve been self employed for 17 years, and when I left full time work I had no idea of what I wanted to do. I had some experience in organisational development and community work; and an academic grounding in race and equality but no training skills. I had a friend who was an experienced trainer, so I shadowed her for a while, picked up skills and learned through emulation and experience. Since then I’ve kept my options open and taken what work I liked, where opportunities came up and where my skills fitted: I’ve been an equalities trainer, a project manager, run children’s and community projects, I ran a small urban festival with refugee musicians, I investigate complaints for social services… I work from home and in other people’s spaces, sometimes full time, sometimes part time. I’ve had a couple of complete changes of direction and I think I would get really bored if I didn’t do this from time to time, but my core interests have remained pretty constant. My main questions in taking on a piece of work are: ‘does it interest me?’, ‘do I have the right skills to do it well?’, and ‘what’s the point of it? (Is it going to make a difference)?’ That’s worked for me so far and I’ve been involved in some fantastic projects, though I’ve been more lucky than organised.

If being paid to narrate stories to children is what you want to do, have you thought of exploring how to get into delivering storytelling, or other children’s workshops? If you could find someone who does that for a living and persuade them to let you work alongside them for a while, it could be a way to expand your skills and find out more about that area of work. Plus, working with children is a good way to work in school time and therefore work around your own children. It’s unlikely to be well paid, but working schools and festivals can be fun, it would help you partly fulfil that acting dream, and if you can get into a local network you might find regular work. (I haven’t a clue what’s available in your area though!) Just an idea…

I realise that this might just sound like an airy-fairy ‘Oh, you can do anything you want’ and that isn’t the case, but having a child while I was fairly young taught me that adaptability and a willingness to try new things and sod convention is far more important than any solid plan - plans have a habit of going to pot anyway. So don’t be afraid to try a few things out before you find what you love.

On a practical note: being out in the sticks with limited transport is a real problem, and probably one you need to solve sooner rather than later if you want to broaden your options.

I don’t know if any of that helps at all, but if enough of us throw stuff at you, something might fire a spark!


I’m a full-time software developer and I work in an office.

We have the option of working from home for the occasional day depending on the communicative needs of your current task, after getting approval from our boss.

When I started out, we mostly did project work in teams who sat together in one office; however, in recent years it’s been more and more distributed work, with many of us having co-workers who work in other branches across the country or sometimes even overseas. And if you’re the only person in Hamburg on your team, it doesn’t really matter if you phone or email them from your office desk or your home.

When my daughter was younger, I found working from home more distracting then being in the office since she would often come up and want something since “Daddy was home” - hard to tell them that no, he’s “at work”. Now that she’s a bit older that is easier. I only do it occasionally but have thought about moving to a more regular one day a week or the like.

One co-worker of mine works one day in the office, three days at home, and has the fifth day off (so not quite full-time). So there are various approaches.

When I finished school I thought I’d do something with numbers and facts since that’s more my cup of tea and a lot of interpersonal interaction such as teaching, so I applied with some banks and software companies and got accepted at one of the latter.

I’ve been at my current job ever since I started working – I had two-and-a-half years of training when I was 17 and then got a job offer with a permanent position at that same company, and I’ve been here ever since.

The name on my pay slip has changed a couple of times since our small company was bought and sold, and the nature of the work has changed, but other things have stayed the same.

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Hi Catrin

It’s never easy when life is uncertain so you have my best wishes. Here’s my story, in case it’s of any use:

Do you work from home or away from home?
Are you full or part time?
Have you been in the same career since leaving school/college/university?
Or have you changed jobs a lot?

I work as a psychiatrist but I’m currently working for Cardiff University doing a PhD in psychiatric genetics. My day to day work involves research, teaching medical students and seeing the occasional patient. I went to university straight from school and, since qualifying, I’ve always worked as a doctor. However, my path hasn’t exactly been a straight one - I spent 2 years in hospital medicine training thinking I wanted to be a neurologist before seeing the light and deciding on academic psychiatry. This is not something I regret. When you first qualify you have to do 4-6 month jobs for training which means lots of upheaval at just the time you start to settle in. So I’ve worked in lots of the hospitals in South Wales. Like you, I’ve been subject to bullying in one of these places (in fact, a group of us were bullied) and it was handled very poorly. I’m very pleased to say that the situation in my current department is very different indeed and I’m now really happy. I live in Merthyr Tydfil and work in Cardiff. I commute around 50 minutes each way by train - at least it means I can do something on my commute eg listening to Say Something in Welsh!

Does or has illness or disability ever affected your work/career?
I had quite a nasty illness which landed me in hospital when I was a medical student. It took me at least a year to get better with certain allowances from the medical school and my very practical mother who pushed me to get back on my feet.

Have you ever had dramatic career changes?
Not really dramatic but I switched from the neurology to academic psychiatry path which, it’s fair to say, caused a bit of consternation amongst my colleagues (I still don’t think they understand).

How do you juggle work and family life?
I don’t have children (long story) but I find that, the best way I can cope with quite a demanding career is to be very organised and to keep very definite boundaries between work and home (easier said than done, I know). It is very rare for me to do my research work at home and that’s deliberate. I think it’s good for my sanity.

I’m not sure I have any specific advice regarding your career path. What I would say is that none of your experience so far will be wasted. It all comes together to influence who you are and how you behave and that’s not a bad thing. You have lots of skills.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I know we don’t really know each other but if you ever want to bounce ideas off someone, I’m happy to talk.

Pob lwc

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This is turning into a wonderful way of learning more about the widely ranging and endlessly fascinating bunch of lovely people we have on this forum. Thank you all for your openness and support!

Catrin has a way of triggering closeness with and between other people that always leaves me amazed (and happy to be living with her)… :slight_smile:


@margaretnock Your story is amazing, and I can relate to so many bits here and there! Thank you so very much for sharing! I was greatly inspired whilst reading it and the idea that all of us are on a very personal journey, was at the forefront of my mind with every sentence. I guess what I’ve been failing to do, is look at my journey in it’s entirety and recognise myself in it. I sometimes think back and see all the things ‘that have happened to me’ as something external. But I’m guessing that before I move on to the next chapter, I need to own my journey and recognise that it has made me who I am today. Diolch! x


@Sam84 you are a inspiration to me! From meeting you and spending a little time with you and your daughter, I can say that I’m very much in awe of how you handle life. Your daughter is a credit to you. She has obviously benefited greatly from having a hard working, kind, warm-hearted Dad like you. My brother has been a single parent for nearly two years now and I’m only too aware of the struggle… You’re doing an amazing job!!


Oh, I hear you, @Samantha! Sounds like we may have quite a bit in common! I was always told in school that an art degree would get me nowhere and that I should stop dreaming! I still regret not having gone to art college like my sisters and cousin did - huge chunks of my family are artistic, and I feel like I missed out greatly!

Confidence is indeed the key, but if other people believe in your talent, then you should go for it… thinking of possible later regrets and all of that… But I know it’s not easy when your juggling work and family as well. A children’s wildlife book sounds wonderful!

How about a UK holiday with a week spend following Beatrix Potter’s footsteps in the Lake District?

I’ll look forward to seeing your work some day. :slight_smile:

Diolch Catrin that’s very kind of you to say :slight_smile:

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