How the pandemic changed my career for good.

Written by Natalie Doyle

March 24, 2023

Natalie Doyle smiling and leaning on a football pitch barrier

March 2020.  The first UK lockdown.  My phone and social media keep serving me up memories of that time, which already feels so long ago.  So much has changed since then and it’s made me reflect on the impact the pandemic had on my career.  I don’t think I would have believed you if you’d told me in January 2020 that this is what I’d be doing now, but here I am, and I thought I’d share how I’ve got here.

Before we went into lockdown, I remember an eerie feeling for everyone around COVID-19.  I was working at The FA at the time and I was running a workshop at a conference.  People were using hand sanitiser and the conference finished early because there were concerns that someone in attendance was showing COVID-19 symptoms.  I went to Liverpool v Athletico Madrid on 11th March and the doctor I sit next to every week said “I think this will be the last time we’re here for a while”.  That turned out to be very accurate!

After a few months, organisations started becoming aware of the financial impact COVID-19 was going to have.  I was put on furlough for a while and then The FA made the decision to make around 100 roles redundant, including mine.  When I looked at the new roles and structure, I felt confident I would be leaving.  The roles weren’t really what I was looking for. Other potential roles were discussed but didn’t come to fruition.  It was a challenging time, although I actually enjoyed the extra time at home.  My sons were 5 and 2 so it was intense!  We were homeschooling our eldest, which was interesting!  I remember having a Teams call with my line manager around the redundancy process and my youngest was in the background, giving his best ‘Terrible Twos’ display! The joys of the juggle.

Anyway, once it was confirmed that I would be leaving, I started to think about my options. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always had enjoyable jobs and I didn’t want to feel forced into applying for jobs for the sake of it, so I decided to give the world of consultancy a try.  I started to mention this to my contacts and a few opportunities came my way immediately, which bought me some time.  I thought I’d do it for a few months whilst I decided what my long-term plan would be.

And I’ve never looked back!  Very quickly it became clear to me that I loved this new way of working.  Being in charge of my own time, being around more for the kids, building a business from scratch and seeing where I could take it.  This was the sort of challenge I loved.  Work continued to flow my way, and I worked on some really interesting projects for some great clients. From then, Sport Sister has been constantly evolving and this is what we do to help organisations grow female participation in sport.

I often say to people now that I could never go back to being employed.  Sometimes bad situations force you down a path that you would never have been brave enough to take on your own.  And from these situations amazing things can happen.  The COVID-19 pandemic caused unbelievable heartbreak and challenges for people, which I think some people are still processing.  There were some challenging times for me, but I’m grateful for what I came out of the other side with. I’ve found real empowerment through the business and I’m excited for where I can take Sport Sister next. 

If you’re looking for a career in sport then check out our blog post exploring exciting careers in sport. You might be inspired!

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