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The new skills you learn are completely transferable, no matter what your career path

Gemma worked at Candlelight Care as a care and support worker during her gap year and university holidays. 

When I was 18 I had been offered a university place studying psychology but I wanted to take a gap year first and urgently needed to earn some money so that I could go travelling before knuckling down to another three years of education. This meant I needed a full time job to save up, but I wasn’t keen on working in a shop and couldn’t get enough hours with my current waitressing job. My granny was receiving care from Candlelight Care at the time and when my mum suggested that it might be worth giving care work a go, I agreed that it might be a good idea as it was relevant to my career path.

After sending off my application I was asked to an interview and offered the job! It was exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. When I first started the job I had a three-day induction course to give me some basic training and knowledge and then I spent three days shadowing another care worker. I had a bit of a shock on my first day of shadowing when I walked in to a house and saw a lady starkers in her bathroom – it was quite an eye-opener and then it became clear exactly what I had let myself in for! 

The first week

I must admit, the first week out on my own in the community was quite hard and I did consider giving up. I was travelling lots of miles, got lost a lot and managed to dent my car. But I had a lot of support from my manager and after the first week things got better. I would definitely advise anyone new to care work to stick it out no matter how hard it might seem at first; a week is not long enough to decide whether you are cut out for the job. It does get easier and is a really rewarding job, especially when you start to get things right and leave people with a smile.

I was a bit worried how I would cope with doing personal care for people, but I realised that it must be worse for them than for me and so I just decided to get on with it and approach it in as professional a way as possible. In the end it wasn’t so bad – it just became part of the job. 

I would advise anyone new to care to stick it out, no matter how hard it might seem at first.

I didn’t just look after elderly people; there were some children and young adults as well. It was quite challenging – one of the children was autistic with an alcoholic mother and another young lad had epilepsy and learning difficulties. But this all added to the experience I gained and added to my personal development. 

Flexible employment during the holidays

With the money I earned I was able to go travelling for six months, which was amazing, and when I came back it was time to go to university. But during my holidays I would go back to work for Candlelight, even if it was just for a few weeks at a time. That was the best thing – they were so flexible and the work was there when I needed it.

The skills I learned at Candlelight were extremely transferable and my experience at Candlelight has helped me with subsequent job interviews, it even helped me obtain a recent job offer in occupational therapy. 

The best part of the job is helping people from all walks of life, hearing their stories and being able to help them.

A great option for students

Care work gave me some really great life experience and the confidence to deal with different people from all walks of life. Actually, that is the best bit about the job – meeting all the different people and hearing all their stories, as well as being able to help them. I gained such invaluable experience and I really did enjoy it.

I hadn't actually realised how much personal development I had gained from this job until after graduating when it was time to further my career and look for a new job. By this time I had decided I wanted to go into occupational therapy specifying in mental health, so had been applying for assistant OT jobs. At my first interview I was able to answer the questions calmly and with such confidence (when before I would have turned red and been unsure of myself) that despite my lack of specific OT and mental health experience, I was offered the job. Had I not worked for Candlelight I would not have been offered this job. University gives you a good education but working has given me the practical experience and skills needed in health care. 

The work gave me masses of confidence and I grew in experience and personal development. I really did it enjoy it too.

Although I had gaps in working at Candlelight, I didn’t have to go through the training again every time. If there were any training updates I was able to do these through the Workbooks, which was really handy.

I would really encourage other students to give this job a go because:

  • it's a great little money earner whilst living at home to contribute to living costs during term-time at university; there is always work available during the holidays;
  • the additional life and work experience and confidence you gain is amazing;
  • all the skills learnt are completely transferable to any job within the health care profession and many of the skills are transferable to jobs in other fields;
  • it teaches you how to be flexible and how to work on your own as well as part of a team; you get to meet lots of new and exciting people;
  • every day is different. 

I’d recommend a career in care to anyone who thinks they would enjoy it. The relationships you form with the clients are the best part of the job. Nobody wants to get to the stage in their lives when they need care, it’s not something that any of us expect or necessarily wants, but they really appreciate it. And you see them all the time and they become part of your life and you become part of theirs. For some people, we’re the only people they see and if it wasn’t for us they may not have seen or spoken to someone all day.


A career in care can be really rewarding. If you think you've got what it takes to support people through homecare, and you live in or around Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire or East Sussex, contact your nearest branch to find out about available opportunities.

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