When Sam Atkinson made a leap into a new career in community services, he never expected it to pay off the way it did.

 

Sam was studying Criminology at University when an opportunity came up and he decided to go for it.

“I was thinking of a career in law enforcement or something along those lines,” says Sam, “and then I saw the position available, and I do like helping people.”

The position was a social support role with NDIS clients and Sam was keen to try something new.

“There’s not many jobs where you get paid to have lunch with someone and have a great conversation,” enthuses Sam, “and these people have crazy good stories!”

But just how easy was it to change paths?

An easy transition

Sam dipped his toes in the water and successfully applied for the social support role. He put his studies aside working a few hours each week.

Sam was pretty happy to find that trying out a new role didn’t mean doing more study. As a social support worker, the process to get started was pretty easy.

“I did just over two weeks on the job training with a health care worker, I got the blue card, the yellow card and that was it,” says Sam. “Because I was there for the social aspect, I don’t do medication, hygiene or any caring aspects.”

Expecting the unexpected

Like any new adventure in life, Sam wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I knew I was going to be working with people with autism,” explains Sam. “And I know a few people on the spectrum so I knew what to expect personality-wise but I wasn’t too sure what to expect work-wise.”

“Obviously working with autism is very challenging, a lot of meltdowns and whatnot. But it was a lot of fun most days. I was pleasantly surprised.”

Sam has a lot of tales to tell about friends he’s made on his journey and the difference social support makes to their lives.

“I was 24 when I started and usually kids want to hang out with someone young. I started visiting one autistic boy three times a week and I really enjoyed that because it’s a lot of social outings,” explains Sam. “I got paid to play video games with him and chat so that was pretty fun!”

After a while, Sam started working more, visiting different people – the elderly as well as people on the NDIS.

“I visited one fellow and on the first day I was with him I said, ‘Let’s go for a drive’ and we went for a drive down to the beach. It was his first time going to the beach in 10 years he said!

“That was a very powerful experience. I still see him out sometimes and he’s doing amazing compared to how he was before! With the NDIS you see so many improvements for people, and it really improves your own life as well.”

A risk that paid off

After some time, Sam was keen to try a new challenge. His love of working with computers opened the door to a new role with Anglicare and he quickly moved into a scheduling position in the office.

Sam is pretty pleased the rewards were worth the risk. And if he wants to return to criminology this experience will only lend itself to that adventure.

“I do like helping people. That’s one of the reasons I still am thinking about the police in the future,” explains Sam.

In the meantime, Sam is making his mark in Community Services and in people’s lives.

“There’s one young boy who when I first met him, he wouldn’t look you in the eye, wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t do anything. I still see him occasionally and yeah, he’ll have a conversation with me now. Just seeing the change in him over the years is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!”