Name: Simon Wootton

My job title: Pupil Wellbeing Officer, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, the charitable arm of Blackburn Rovers

How I got the job… I left school unsure of what I really wanted to do. But, as my biggest interests were economics and commerce, I decided to do a degree in international business at Lancaster University, which was an incredible experience.

After my degree I spent a couple of years in finance-related jobs, then joined Deloitte as a corporate tax analyst. But, to be honest, although I found the role interesting and challenging (and well paid!), I realised quite quickly that I wasn’t using skills that gave me job satisfaction.

So, after five years, I decided to be brave and try something completely different – and retrained as a primary school teacher. It was definitely the right move to make and everything I hoped it would be – I loved every second, and spent 14 happy years at a primary school in Blackburn.

But teaching is incredibly demanding, in terms of hours and the feeling of having to be alert to the different needs of every pupil. I’m a passionate person and that devotion to the job caught up with me and I became unwell. I needed to rethink my career, which was hard as I loved the job.

I wrote to lots of local organisations for voluntary jobs – and it just happened that Blackburn Rovers was recruiting for a specialist education role.

My position in a nutshell… I’m responsible for managing and delivering the ‘Premier League Inspires’ programme for secondary school children, which focuses on the personal development and pastoral side of education. Supporting those who need it the most.

My typical day… I work in two partner secondary schools, delivering one-to-one mentoring for pupils chosen for support from the programme. It mostly involved face-to-face conversation in an informal setting – eg, walking around the playground, or kicking a ball around a pitch. My role is to listen and facilitate personal development, help young people find opportunities for growth, inspiring them to become the best, most confident and healthy version of themselves they can be.

Like most roles I also have office admin time, but I’m also involved in the wider football club, including on most match days, which is phenomenal as I’m a big kid at heart, with a lifelong passion for football.

There’s so much that goes on at a modern day football club – and a huge variety of skills needed that don’t involve kicking a football!

My most memorable moment… Seeing some of the work I’ve been doing featured in match day programmes has to be up there! Another big moment was the decision to retrain as a teacher – but a risk that turned out to be the right one. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice!

The best part of my job… Making a real difference to the lives of others. When I look at pupils in schools now and the challenging circumstances that many are facing, particularly with the pandemic, I know that programmes of support like this are so important.

The key skills/attributes needed in my role… As a project manager I need to be detailed, organised and good at planning. I also need to be a good evaluator, because the growth of any project depends on your ability to reflect on what you are doing well and the areas you need to develop in. You also need a lot of determination and ambition to see things through.

As a mentor, it’s key to be passionate about helping others, and to have good interpersonal skills – to be a good listener, someone who can empathise and can find ways to support someone without telling them what to do or think. You also need to be humble, learn from your mistakes and choices. No one’s perfect.

Advice for someone looking to go into something similar… Follow your passion – you spend a long time working and if you think of your job just as a means to pay bills, that can be really demotivating. Passion means work won’t feel like an obligation. Find skills you enjoy and base your career around those.

If you love sport there are so many jobs out there – and most are hidden behind the athletes you see on TV. Start gathering information about the roles that exist and what interests you, then keep looking at club, or industry-specific websites.

And it’s never to early to start volunteering – write to organisations, it just needs one letter to land on the right desk. Not only do you get experience from volunteering, you also make valuable connections and gain great skills for your CV.