Caroline Boyd – Strategic volunteering as a route to new career

After a successful career in marketing with some big-name consumer goods companies I took a break to have two little girls in quick succession. After about 4 years of being a full-time Mum I was desperate to get back into the working world but my confidence was pretty low and I was reluctant to head back into the corporate world. At an NCT meeting I met up with a good friend of mine who showed me the Parent Gym magazine and suggested that it was exactly the kind of thing that might suit me. I had a wonderful moment of the hairs on the back of my neck standing up and shivers down my spine, I knew 100% that this was for me – this was exactly what I needed to get back on my feet and make a difference. I’d always loved the presenting and relationship side of my work and loved the idea of being able to use that constructively in a new way.

The selection process was nerve-wracking. It’d been a long time since I wanted something quite so badly but I came through it and started the wonderful three-day training academy, getting to grips with all aspects of being an effective trainer/facilitator. I then headed off to my first school in the depths of Tower Hamlets. Over my first three terms I met a huge variety of parents, many in desperate circumstances and often from very different cultures to mine, yet I discovered that – as parents – we all have a huge part of our lives in common and can learn a vast amount from each other. I very quickly realised that the Parent Gym programme makes a massive difference; I’ve had laughter, tears and parents saying that their lives have been changed. Some of the stories I’ve heard have been hugely humbling. It’s been a wonderful privilege to be able to make a difference to people and at the same time break out of my very comfortable, protected world to broaden my mind and stretch my skills.

After a year of coaching with the Parent Gym, I started talking to The Mind Gym [the L&D company that developed and continue to fund Parent Gym]. By this stage my confidence was restored and I had a good track record of coaching and developing the Mind Gym skills under my belt. From there I became a Mind Gym coach and now spend 3-4 days a week delivering the Mind Gym material to a hugely diverse set of organisations. Meanwhile I am still involved with the Parent Gym. I try to run a Parent Gym programme once a year to keep my hand in and also run academies for new Parent Gym coaches. A whole new career has opened up for me, so joining Parent Gym turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!