Nicola Adams


Box clever with LifeSkills and Nicola Adams

26 February 2020

As Barclays extends its LifeSkills programme to support people of all ages across the UK, we hear from double Olympic champion Nicola Adams about her move from boxer to presenter – and why it’s never too late to make a career switch.

In the boxing ring, on her way to gold medals in London 2012 and Rio 2016, Nicola Adams needed to be prepared, dedicated and flexible. “I’ve learned a lot from boxing,” she says, “I know I have that drive and focus and will be able to push myself in any new career.”

Her career change, after retiring from boxing aged 37, involves a move into commentating and presenting. She says: “It was a tough decision at first, but after that it’s been fine. It’s about getting over the initial first step.”

That advice applies to other career-changers, as new Barclays research suggests mental blocks can often make it difficult for people to give up hard-won careers in pursuit of something new. Seven in ten UK adults say they don’t want to stay in their current career for the long-term, yet the time and effort they think it will take to make a career switch – along with fears of being too old – means that only 21% have ever taken any action to try and move into the job they truly want.

Nicola’s advice is to “push forward”: “The first step is always the hardest step. It’s always important to be happy, and any change should be made with that in mind.”

“I’ve always made my own opportunities in life,” she says, “whether that’s pioneering women’s boxing or starting out in a new field. To me, making a career change is all about that mindset: identifying what you want to do, and building on the skills you have to make it happen. That’s why I’m getting involved in helping others understand their true potential and get the advice they need to make the most of their careers.”

The journey to success is never a straight line – there are bound to be ups and downs when making a new start. I’ve found that while things might not always go as expected, if you’re staying focused, open-minded and optimistic, you’ll get to where you want to be

Nicola Adams OBE

Nicola Adams in a boxing gym

Make the change

Barclays LifeSkills is designed to give people the tools to take those first steps. The initiative, which began in 2013, has previously focused on helping young people to build transferable skills for the workplace and grow the confidence to succeed in life and work. It has now been expanded to UK adults of all ages, from those enhancing their skills in their current industry to people looking to work more flexibly, start their own businesses, or change careers.

LifeSkills provides free practical resources to help anyone in the UK make the changes that allow them to find the right career. Online advice and tools cover the biggest current areas of need for the workforce, including workplace wellbeing, flexible working, and understanding the future of work. Lesson plans and learning modules are available for charities and local authorities to benefit adult learners as well as those in full-time education.

Nicola Adams wearing boxing gloves

Nicola’s top tips for changing career

  • When I started boxing, there were very few opportunities for women to train or compete, so I learned early on that I had to make my own. Embarking on a career change has been the same; opportunities aren’t always handed to you on a plate, so I’ve needed to think about what I’m passionate about and go make it happen.

  • TV presenting is a world away from boxing, but I’ve treated learning lines, facing a teleprompter or researching commentary statistics like I would any opponent in the ring. At the core of it is needing to apply yourself with discipline to the task at hand. That mindset has seen me through to where I am today.

  • I didn’t plan on retiring from boxing when I did, so I had to take a step back to think through what I wanted to do next. My advice before starting a new career would be to spend some time working out what you like and what you’re good at, and speak to as many people as you can about it, whether it’s friends and family, or people already in the industry you’re considering.

  • I’m entrepreneurially minded, and plan to set up my own chain of gyms one day. I’m in the stages of sussing out business plans, locations and investors, so have needed to get advice on how to go about doing this. It’s the same for any new business, whatever the size; make sure you’re getting help on how to navigate the practical aspects of launching your idea.

  • The journey to success is never a straight line – there are bound to be ups and downs when making a new start. I’ve found that while things might not always go as expected, if you’re staying focused, open-minded and optimistic, you’ll get to where you want to be.

According to the Barclays-commissioned research, which polled 2,000 UK adults, almost half of workers (48%) think there is a cut-off age to being able to make a career change.

Baroness Karren Brady CBE, Chair of the LifeSkills Advisory Council, offers an alternative view: “I’m a huge believer in the value of making a career switch, and I’ve learned something new from every change I’ve made along the way in my career.

“Not only is making a much-needed career change better for the individual”, she adds, “but having a workforce that feels motivated and rewarded can only bring benefits to UK businesses and the wider economy.”