Careers support helped Natalie to turn her childhood passion into a career reality in her fifties.
An educational background
Natalie Gudgeon is originally from Scotland but now lives in the Vale of Glamorgan. She left school at 16 and started her career journey. She worked in education, teaching science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and also arts and humanities.
Natalie taught all age ranges, from pre-school, through secondary school and degree level adult learning. She worked in a range of sectors, including schools and colleges, utilities, IT and cyber security. She spent a chunk of time in the UK armed forces, where she travelled the world.
Natalie had a love for cooking and baking, which she’d had from an early age. She had never pursued this professionally. Natalie says, “The only work-related experience I had in the food industry was in the late 1990s when I taught food technology and nutrition for just under a year to children and young adults and to aid my students, I completed a food hygiene course”.
Ill health and a change of pace
Natalie suffered with ill health in her forties, and she started to think about her work/life balance. She decided to take voluntary release from the military in 2013.
After this, Natalie worked in jobs more suited to her health and family commitments. She also enjoyed doing voluntary work, using her experience to help others on their release from the military.
Life changing Ill health struck Natalie again in 2021. She caught flu, which worsened her health condition. She became bed-ridden and was left with a registered disability.
Getting careers support
During her recovery, Natalie looked at various areas of her life. She needed to get careers support for her unemployed daughter who also has a disability.
Natalie came across Careers Wales. She found that through the Working Wales service, both her and her daughter could access free careers support.
When she was well enough, Natalie met with Working Wales adviser, Andrea, who was based in the Cardiff careers centre. Natalie says, “Within the initial sessions with Andrea, we started exploring my career aspirations that could work around my health and the restrictions I face. Through the guidance, I also began to talk about my childhood passion for cooking and baking”.
Natalie’s career journey paused again when she suffered three falls, which left her unable to walk. She used this time to focus on aspects talked about during her career review with Andrea. Natalie decided to renew her food safety certificate which she completed online.
Looking towards the future
Natalie started her career change slowly. She began with small catering jobs on a self-employed basis. She was then successful in getting a position as a chef-de-partie on a flexible, part-time basis. This suited Natalie because she could work around her health conditions.
Talking about her career change, Natalie says, “I have been able to rediscover my childhood passion and love for cooking and baking quality wholesome food and have started to make this my new career in my fabulous fifties!
“It had never previously occurred to me that my joy of cooking and baking could become my career at the age of 53 until I had guidance from Andrea.
“The sessions with Andrea were key to inspiring me and reinvigorating my self-confidence. They also helped me to find the courage to simply ask prospective employers for a job.
“I feel fortunate to be in paid employment in a career that I love in an excellently run commercial kitchen. I receive on-the-job training and am continuing to learn so much”.
Looking towards the future, Natalie would like to build a home-baked goods business which she calls the 3Gs: Gorgeous Gudgeon Grub.
If you've been inspired by Natalie's story, you can book a free career review to help you make a career change.
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