Alecia Girdler is a 31 year old support worker, born and raised in Perth. Alecia lives in Ellenbrook with her two primary school aged daughters and has been a support worker at One2One for two and a half years.
We asked Alecia what drew her to support work and how she got her start with One2One.
What made you decide to become a support worker?
I had worked in a pharmacy since I was 14 years old. I felt I was not enjoying pharmacy work and decided to look for work in an area where I could utilise the skills I had and feel more fulfilled. I have always had an interest in medicine and helping people. I have been a volunteer paramedic at various events and would love to have studied to be a paramedic or a theatre nurse. Having children redirected my focus and made it difficult to study full time.
How did you get your start in support work?
My mum is a coordinator at One2One. After hearing about my decision to find alternative work, my mum mentioned that support workers were needed at her work and for me to think about it as an option. I looked up everything I could about support work and knew it was something I had to get into. The more I read and researched, the more interested I became.
Is being a support worker your only job?
Outside of my support work I am a full time mum which means I have a multitude of roles – taxi driver, nurse, cook, cleaner, teacher, financial manager, counsellor, event planner and conflict manager.
Have you undertaken any study?
I have just finished my Cert 3 in Disability. I completed various training to increase my knowledge as I know this will benefit the people I support.
Would you say it’s a flexible career?
It is very flexible. I work 5 days per week for 4 hours each day during school hours which is a bonus for me. I support three very different and individual people. I love how each day I have something exciting to look forward to.
How would you describe support work to someone who isn’t familiar with it – or thinks it’s just about personal care?
Every individual person you support is different; no two people require the exact same support. I would explain the importance of knowing individual abilities, goals, interests and dreams.
Every day is unique and rewarding. Having an understanding of each person I support allows support work to be varied accordingly. When you have finished your shift you just feel amazing inside because you have empowered someone to be their best self, encouraged them to get through tasks and assisted where needed. Helping each person I support reach their goals and being a part of their journey from the start until the achievement of the goal is an amazing feeling. Support work is literally a dream job, it doesn’t even feel like work.
Is there such a thing as a typical day?
There’s no two days alike, which is great as I love when I’m not doing the same thing. There may be a few things that remain a stable routine for some people over a week e.g. a weekly physio appointment, food shopping on Thursday, budgeting, meal prep etc. However, for the most part, days are as individual as the person. I love that each day is different, and so do the people I support, it makes life so exciting.
How would you describe the relationship you have with the people you support (to someone who doesn’t know much about support work)?
I don’t even know a word to describe it. It’s the familiarity of a family member, the closeness of a friend; the trust and mutual respect from the people I support is remarkable. Seeing the person I support achieve goals they have worked so hard to master independently, or even trying something new for the first time ever, overwhelms my heart with pride. I get excited when they are excited, I am sad when they are sad, and we always have heaps of fun together. The relationship can’t be described in any single word, the relationship between myself as a support worker and the person I support can only be felt.
What do you find most rewarding about support work?
Seeing confidence bloom in someone normally shy, happiness in someone who is sad or just learning something new is something I like. Seeing them tackle challenges head on and completing them fills me with pride. Seeing how they overcome difficult situations, as well as seeing them more and more independent over time is amazing. Having the warmth and admiration displayed when arriving to work is a great feeling and makes every day rewarding.
What do you find most difficult or challenging about support work?
The most difficult thing for me has been learning to understand the personality and behaviours of each person I support, and ways to engage when they are not feeling motivated. There may be days when someone doesn’t want to get out of bed or follow plans in place to achieve goals. Or it could be behaviour out in public when someone is overwhelmed or anxious. That’s the most challenging part, but I just remind myself there are some days I don’t want to get out of bed, some days I don’t want to clean or exercise. We all have our ‘off’ days. In these instances I find if I chat to them, there’s generally a reason why they don’t want to do that particular thing, such as a really busy week or a bad sleep. I try to accommodate where necessary. There’s no reason to force someone to do anything just because it’s on their ‘My Plan’, there’s always tomorrow.
What would you say to someone who hasn’t thought about becoming a support worker but might be a great fit for a career in support work?
I would point out all of their qualities and how it would benefit people. I would explain about the job role and all of the new things you can learn, not just learn about supporting a person but promoting independence in someone, teaching them new things, opening up a window to a whole new world full of experiences and opportunities. I would explain it’s not all about helping someone but also them helping you, as you can learn so much about yourself such as patience, perseverance, acceptance and how to problem solve and think out-of-the-box.
What’s the one thing you wished you’d been told about support work before you go into it (and that you’d tell others thinking about getting into it now)?
The old saying – ‘Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life’. That I would find out so much about myself and learn so much more from the excitement of each and every day. Seeing the person I support reach their goals, see them be more independent, see their personality change over the months as they become more confident within themselves and their capabilities. It really is a rewarding job in so many ways.
What are your hobbies outside support work?
I enjoy spending time with my girls, hiking, doing KONGA workouts, drawing and painting. I love to take photos and go on holidays to different countries. I love anything to do with relaxation, such as yoga, meditation and massages. I enjoy watching my girls play basketball on the weekend.