why alastair made the leap to lifeguarding at 33


Less than two years’ ago, Alastair Dickson made a dramatic decision. Having built a successful career as a care worker, the dad of two needed a change. And he turned to a boyhood passion for inspiration.

Now 35, Alastair’s decision to become a lifeguard at his local pool has made him happier, healthier, and has opened up career opportunities he had never even considered.

“I was really active as a child and simply loved all sports, from football and rugby to running and sailing. But the thing I loved most was swimming, a fact which made me think it would be one of the best jobs in the world to be a lifeguard”, recalls Alastair.

“As with most people though, the answer to ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ changed as the years went by. I’d never really been what you’d call academic at school so instead my mind turned more to how I could work with people. When I was 20, that objective led me to my first role in the care profession – a profession that would remain my path for the next 14 years.”

But while working with the elderly in various care facilities was rewarding, and a job Alastair was very proud of, something began to change as Alastair entered his 30s.

“I began to realise that while I was doing good, this life wasn’t actually good for me. I was unhappy and felt a bit trapped in a role that I knew wasn’t my calling. I started to get quite down about it, which ran into my home life too. Something had to change but having spent so long going down one path, I wasn’t sure what to do, or how to do it.”

It was then that Alastair saw an advert for a job as a lifeguard at his local Life Leisure centre, an advert which sparked that childhood memory.

Alastair explains: “In some ways it was a big decision. I had my wife Emma and two little girls - Mia and Abby – under the age of 4 to think about. And who becomes a lifeguard at 33, isn’t it a young person’s game? But something inside me was telling me this could really be what I was meant to do, and so something that would ultimately make me happy. I talked everything through with Emma and she agreed. I should go for it.”

Alastair’s passion shone though in his interview, and he was immediately offered the role. Having received specialist training and on-site mentoring with an existing lifeguard, Alastair starting taking his first solo shifts – initially at a Life Leisure facility in Hazel Grove.

“I knew right from the start that I’d made the right decision,” says Alastair. “And that brought out a confidence I hadn’t seen in myself since childhood – the confidence I had when I was doing what I loved. My manager could see it too and started helping me to take on more and more responsibilities around the centre, from opening up to team briefings.

“I then moved to a different facility in Cheadle where things have gone from good to great. I’ve been on management training – something I never thought I would get the opportunity to do - and, in addition to my lifeguarding shifts, I’ve become a duty manager.”

With plans in the pipeline to take on more of the training options offered by Life Leisure and to qualify as an instructor, as well as building his management skills, the ‘dream job’ of Alastair’s youth become a productive reality for the 35-year-old.

“Being happy is what it is all about. Following that belief has led me to a career in leisure that I never thought possible. When I was younger I remember my father, who is a university lecturer, really hoped I would follow a more ‘traditional’ route; that I would be more academic and build a career around qualifications. By following my dream I’m now doing it the other way round and building qualifications around my career. My dad couldn’t be more proud.

“Making a less than conventional career switch later in my 30s has been the best decision I’ve ever made.”

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