Kathy Hanwell has had an eclectic mix of jobs. From working in the newspaper industry and becoming a BT phone engineer to running a holiday home business alongside her husband in France, she’s remained light-footed and agile throughout her career.
Sadly, Kathy had to make yet another pivot in 2017, when her husband, Allen, passed away. Not wanting to run the business alone, 62-year-old mother-of-two Kathy sold up and moved back to the UK to be closer to her daughter and elderly mother.
Here, she found work as a member of the seasonal security team with Haven, the UK’s leading holiday operator, at one of their parks in Dorset.
We spoke to Kathy to find out about her role; including what a typical day looks like and what she enjoys most about it…
“I needed something to do a couple of days a week to pay the rent”
Despite her experience in a wide variety of roles, Kathy found it challenging to find a suitable position when she returned to the UK from France, where her holiday home business had been.
Unfortunately, due to her age and lack of credit rating, she was also unable to get a mortgage, so she moved into rented accommodation with her daughter in Weymouth.
“I didn’t want to touch my savings – because that’s my nest egg,” Kathy explains. “So I needed something to do a couple of days a week to pay the rent.”
Looking for an administrative job, Kathy sent as many applications out as she could. But she didn’t receive any responses.
“I think it was because I was out of the country for so long and a lack of [formal admin] skills – even though I know I could have done the jobs. I also think my age went against me.”
However, things started to look up when Kathy was invited for an interview at Haven. “I was petrified,” she says, “because I hadn’t sat in an interview for such a long time. But my now-boss, who was doing the interview, was great and made me feel at ease. He told me I got the job there and then!”
Now working her second season at Haven’s Weymouth Bay Holiday Park, Kathy has become a treasured and reliable member of the park safety team.
“I really enjoy meeting the new people that come onto the park each week”
As Kathy explains, she mainly works two different types of shifts at the Weymouth Bay Holiday Park: ‘the gatehouse’ and ‘the complex’.
“The gatehouse shift involves monitoring and documenting who’s coming in and out of the park – which includes checking guests in and out. I love this part of the job. We’re always waving them through with a smile on our faces.
“I really enjoy meeting the new people that come onto the park each week. Especially when someone says, ‘Thanks for that, we’ve had a really lovely time on our holiday and we’ll see you again’ – I find that really rewarding.”
However, the complex shift, Kathy tells us, is a little bit different. As the main hub of the holiday park, the complex features entertainment and leisure facilities like arcades, restaurants, and sports bars. It’s where guests go to eat, drink, and have fun.
“When working a complex shift, you either patrol the area around the complex or stay at the front door. You’re there to make sure that everyone’s safe by checking passes and bags, and generally keeping an eye out.”
The premises are manned by security 24/7, so while they aren’t a part of Kathy’s regular shift pattern, she occasionally works nights too…
“When I’m on a night shift, I go around and check to make sure everyone is behaving themselves and investigate any noise complaints. I don’t mind dealing with things like that because 99% of the time people do as they’re told and apologise.
“The night team also has all sorts of maintenance jobs to cover – from making sure people have gas and electricity to fixing TVs.”
“People look out for each other here. We’ve all got each other's backs”
As for her life outside of work, Kathy says that she likes to visit her elderly mother in London as much as she possibly can. She also enjoys spending time outdoors – doing things like gardening, walking her dog, or going paddleboarding with her daughter and friends. So flexibility is important to her.
She says, “We have rotas that are published every three weeks, but there’s a lot of flexibility. As long as you can get cover and permission, they don’t have a problem with changing your shifts if you need.”
Haven, as Kathy tells us, is keen to build roles around their employee’s needs and commitments…
“Say a couple of team members only get to see their children on a Sunday – they won’t be given Sunday duties.
“Haven knows the value of keeping good employees and making sure that they’re happy in their work.”
As for Kathy, she prefers to work day shifts instead of nights, so her boss makes a conscious effort to consider this when possible. “We all work very well as a team,” she explains. “People look out for each other here. We’ve all got each other’s backs.”
Plus, the seasonal nature of her job (Kathy tends to work from February to November) means that she has most of the winter off, which gives her the chance to spend time with family and go abroad. This year, she’s looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas with her girlfriends.
“[Security work] is a very good job for women because I think we’re good at spotting arguments when they’re brewing and talking people down”
While it’s preferred, you won’t need previous experience in a similar role to apply for many of Haven’s seasonal security positions. This is because, in many cases, they offer comprehensive on-the-job training. “We’re trained to look for signs and to diffuse situations before they can escalate,” Kathy says.
However, there are undoubtedly a few qualities that are particularly useful in the role…
“It’s important to have a lot of understanding and empathy towards other people and to always be vigilant – especially when children are concerned. It’s a good role for people who can put others first.
“You also need to be positive and outgoing. Because some people save up all year for their holiday and they want to see a smiling face.”
Kathy also makes a point to encourage women to consider security as a possible career option. While it’s estimated that only 10% of the UK’s private security workforce is female, Kathy says, “It’s a very good job for women because I think we’re good at spotting arguments when they’re brewing and talking people down. I don’t know, maybe it’s a woman’s touch.”
“I work with a fabulous team in a really beautiful place. I love my job!”
As for the future, one thing that Kathy isn’t thinking about right now is retirement. She says, “Unless family circumstances change, I’ll carry on working as long as possible because I’m not a person who can sit at home watching TV and twiddling my thumbs.”
Plus, with rent to pay and the increasing cost of living, she’s keen to keep earning. However, these aren’t the only reasons Kathy would like to keep coming back…
“I hope to stay at Haven as long as I can because I enjoy it. I work with a fabulous team in a really beautiful place. I love my job!”
From retail and hospitality positions to receptionist and management roles, security team members aren’t the only vacancies Haven’s looking to fill this summer.
There are thousands of opportunities across all 39 of their stunning seaside locations, each with plenty of perks and flexible shifts to suit your needs. So, if Kathy’s story has inspired you, why not take a look at what’s on offer?