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Career coaching

Is Oxbridge right for you?

By | Career coaching, University advice, University student's advice | No Comments

Everyone knows that Oxbridge – which means Oxford and Cambridge – are top universities, but does that mean that they suit all high flyers? What are they looking for, and more importantly, what are you looking for, in your higher education experience? Natalie Lancer from MyUniApplication demystifies the Oxbridge application process for us.

One of the key things that set the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge apart is the way they teach. Work is set and discussed in tutorials (which are called ‘supervisions’ at Cambridge) which are led by the subject tutor. These can be in a ratio of one to one, i.e. just you and the subject tutor or maybe up to four students and the subject tutor. Although these tend to be in an informal setting, such as the tutor’s college rooms, there is nowhere to hide in the tutorial – you really need to have done your work and contribute to a feisty discussion in the tutorial. Some students will relish this – but this is a far cry from school. Work is not spoon-fed and regurgitated a few months later in an examination. So if you are able to think on your feet and can explain your views to others, as well as study independently and cope with the pressure of one or two essays a week to present, then Oxbridge would suit you well. Furthermore, both Oxford and Cambridge have amazing sports facilities and well-funded extra-curricular activities in which you can participate, which also attracts applicants.

Something to bear in mind is that Cambridge and Oxford universities do not offer all subjects and very few combinations are possible. So if you are keen to study Politics with Spanish, for example, this is not actually possible at either university. You may have to study Politics with something else, or Modern Languages with something else. Consult the course pages on the university websites to check what subjects are on offer. If what you want to study is not an option, then either you can tinker with your choice or decide not to apply there – you have to weigh up whether what you want to study is more important, or where you go to university. Remember, there may be some solutions of which you are unaware such as the possibility to study a language informally in the Language Centre.

Once you have worked out what you want to study, you need to make sure you can demonstrate your commitment and interest in the subject. This is most likely to be through reading about your subject. There are book lists and other resources readily available on the Cambridge website. Be sure to keep a note of what you read and lectures to which you have listened, so you can discuss them in your Personal Statement.

Something else to bear in mind is that as an Oxbridge student, you are a member of a department and a college. You live, eat, make friends, use the library and have tutorials at your college so it is like a mini-university, within the larger university. The best way to decide what college to apply for is to visit some and speak to current students. You cannot apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year, so you also need to choose which university best suits you. A large factor will be the course content as even courses with the same titles will have different structures and modules. If you do decide to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, remember the application deadline is earlier – October 15th, and you may well have to sit an extra examination, for which you will need to prepare. If you meet their initial criteria, you will be invited for an interview with subject specialists. They offer you a place based on consideration of all aspects of your application, including your teacher’s references, GCSE scores, predicted A-level grades, personal statement, admissions test and your performance at interview. After all your research, you may decide that Oxbridge is not for you. We are so lucky in the UK to have so many top universities – Oxford and Cambridge are not the only ones, so shop around and find five universities that will suit you.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Can you see both sides of an argument?
  • Are you open to changing your opinions when presented with new facts?
  • Do you like coming up with innovative ideas and discussing them?
  • Do you have motivation and enthusiasm for your chosen subject?
  • Do you like reading and thinking critically about what you have read?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then Oxbridge may well be for you!


Natalie Lancer is an expert in mentoring Oxbridge applicants and can advise on subject choice, personal statements and interview technique. She can help you choose a college and prepare for the admissions tests. She will discuss a strategy with you to help you maximise your chance of success. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513. www.myuniapplication.com; www.natalielancer.com.


 

Getting the most from tutoring

By | Career coaching, Study advice | No Comments

The tutoring industry is burgeoning but how can you tell a good tutor from a bad one? And how can you make sure your child gets the most from the sessions? Natalie Lancer from MyUniApplication asks Leah Warren, Director of Watling Tutors (www.watlingtutors.com) all about it.

One way to tell a good tutor, says Leah, is from the types of questions they ask about your child. They should ask what level they are working at and what is being covered at school. It may not be necessary to spend the entire first session doing a ‘strengths and weaknesses’ assessment; instead, your tutor should ask to see examples of work, which you could scan and send to the tutor in advance. They need to have a clear grasp of what your child is struggling with in order to create a bespoke work plan to help your child.

It is important that the tutor is familiar with your exam board’s specification as different exam boards have different expectations.  For students going for an A* at A-level, make sure the tutor knows how to move from an A to A* answers. Leah explains that for English, this would mean introducing the student to a wide variety of texts and criticism. Similarly, make sure the tutor knows how to move the student to a Level 9 for GCSE.

If the school are not setting enough homework to develop your child’s skills then encourage your tutor to set work every session. To get the most from the tutoring sessions, encourage your child to do the homework and look at it as a formative exercise, i.e. it helps the student identify with what they need further help.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tutor about their track record, but do be aware it’s not all about A*s – it’s about the value they have added. For a student projected to get an E, a B grade is a massive achievement, more so than moving from an A to an A*. Ask for references and other parents’ testimonials about the tutor.

It is important that tutoring is a positive experience for your child. Check there is rapport between the tutor and student. Of course, verify the tutor is DBS checked. The tutoring session should be a safe space where the student can feel they can ask any questions and be supported.  Until the student is 8 or 9, they can probably only concentrate for 40 minutes. Beyond this age, one hour works well. Make sure the tutoring takes place in a quiet place, away from any interruptions. Also, in each session, the tutor should give clear direction to the student about how to move forward. This might mean they give notes, examples or set things to learn. Older students shouldn’t be afraid to be clear with their tutors about what they do and don’t understand and what methods help them learn.

It is important to cultivate an open relationship with the school, teacher, parent and tutor – tutoring does not need to be a secret. Remember, we all want the best for your child. When the teacher writes a report on your child’s progress, it would be helpful to show this to the tutor so they can address points directly.


Natalie Lancer is an expert in mentoring students and can advise on GCSE and A-level subject choice, UCAS personal statements and interview technique. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513.  www.myuniapplication.com; www.natalielancer.com.


 

Getting the most out of internships

By | Career coaching, Schools subjects advice | No Comments

From about the age of 15, it is important to start accruing some work experience. Work experience can be for any length of time, from one day to several months. Work experience serves several functions. Firstly, it gives you first-hand knowledge of the working environment such as the importance of turning up for work on time, developing new skills and professional relationships and strengthening your CV. Most importantly, it gives you an idea of what type of work suits you in terms of your interests and abilities and also the working environment. Your placement may help you realise that this is not the field for you, or conversely, it may confirm that this is the sector you want to enter.  For this reason, it is a good idea to have carried out varied work experience, to have reflected on it and to maximise the learning potential from each placement.

Getting the most out of your placement or internship begins with researching the organisation and what they are offering thoroughly.  Look at their website – see what type of work they do and if they offer work experience. You may have to fill out a form and go for an interview. However, you don’t just have to apply for advertised internships. Approaching organisations ‘cold’, or even better, if you know someone who works there, is a good idea and shows you have initiative. Remember, if you ring up the organisation you will either speak to a receptionist, or get put through to Human Resources.  Make sure that whoever answers the phone knows you are appreciative of their time and their help to get you to the right person.  You can get work experience at any type of organisation – large or small. At a large company, you may have a more structured experience and be with other interns. At a small company you may well get more hands-on experience.  You can even ask for virtual work experience – completing projects at home to fit around your studies. This will save the organisation finding you desk space but you can still get feedback and attend meetings.

Be clear how long the internship is for and what hours you are expected to work. What type of work is involved and what new skills will you learn? Is it paid? It is reasonable to ask for expenses and they may give you lunch tokens, pay for travel or offer other perks. Whether you are willing to work for free depends on where you are in your career. As a 15 year old, you are after any experience, but if you have more qualifications, remember you are supplying them with skilled labour. Are you assigned a mentor? Even if you are not, try to speak to the person who is supervising you for five minutes every week, and ask what you are doing right, how can you improve and what you can do to help them further. Find out what it is they are looking for in an employee and live up to that – it may be that they offer you further internships or a job! Make yourself as useful as possible which might include suggesting work you could do for them (if you can tailor it to your interests and skills, you may find it more rewarding).

Be prepared to be taken to meetings and make sure you network – meeting many different people who you may approach in the future for work or other internships. Add them to your LinkedIn account (and if you haven’t got one – sign up for one – it is a useful way of keeping track of the people you meet professionally).

Take time to reflect on your experience each week. Ask yourself what you have gained from the last week, and what specific skills you have enjoyed cultivating and using. Do you see yourself in this job in the future? If you do, how can you increase your chances of employment? Are their specific qualifications that you need? Ask your colleagues what path they took to secure their jobs. What other jobs use these same skills? Can you try these out? If you are not learning anything and not enjoying the internship, then consider leaving. Remember – this is cheap or free labour for the organisation but a learning experience for you. Even if you leave, you have learned something valuable – this type of work is not for you.  Finally, at the end of each week, set yourself some learning objectives for the following week and review these at regular intervals.

When the internship is over, write an email or letter to thank all the people who helped you in the organisation, giving them your contact details. Make sure you note down their contact details for future reference. Ask your supervisor or Human Resources for a reference that you can keep on file. This might be useful when you apply for other internships or jobs, and can be incorporated into your reference for university applications. Remember to add the work experience to your CV together with a brief description of your duties and responsibilities at the organisation.


Natalie is a career coach and can help with all aspects of the job and internship application process, including writing CVs and covering letters. She also offers one-to-one practice interview sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513.  www.natalielancer.com


 

Make a great job of that interview

By | Career coaching, Corporate coaching, Life coaching, University advice | No Comments

Natalie Lancer from Lancer Coaching explains how to prepare for an interview.

Getting an interview is a massive compliment – the organisation has decided that they like what you have to offer on the basis of your application form and that you match their requirements. There are many different types of interview – maybe you will have to give a presentation about a topic, or perhaps it is a panel interview where different people ask you questions.

With a little thought, you can think what questions are likely to come up. Go back to the job description and person specification and write a question for each item. For example, an item from the job description might be “Contribute to collaborative decision making with colleagues”. A reasonable question to expect, therefore, is “How have you contributed to collaborative decision making in the past and how would contribute to this process in the future?”. Jot down a few bullet points for each question. It might be helpful for you to structure your answer according to the acronym ‘SPAR’ – Situation, Position, Action and Result. This involves starting by describing the context, what was the situation and challenge. Secondly, what was your position and what did you do personally to effect change? Thirdly, what action was taken and how did you come to that decision. Finally, what was the result – was it a success? Were there setbacks?

After you have written your own questions based on the job description and person specification, it is time to consider some more general questions, such as “Why do you want to work here?” and “Can you tell us about current developments in this sector?”. This requires some research – start by looking at the organisation’s website. What is their mission statement? What do they think they have to offer? Make sure you read some current information about your sector, such as trade journals, newspapers, information from professional bodies if relevant (see their websites) and up-to-date books. Ask your local book shop for recommendations. You need to demonstrate that you are fully aware about the organisation and the sector.

You may be asked a question along the lines of “What do you have to offer us?” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses”. To prepare for this, it may be helpful to consult a friend about your aptitudes and motivations. Be sure to prepare a clear answer – write some bullet points. When detailing weaknesses make sure you explain how you overcome them.

It is very helpful to have a practice or mock interview. This can be with someone in the field (use your network to find someone) or a careers professional. Not only will you be able to rehearse your answers but you will get some feedback about how you come across and if there are gaps in your knowledge that you can plug.

Plan what your are going to wear. Dress formally, even if you think the interviewer will not. It never hurts to be overdressed – it shows you have made an effort and that you are professional – but you will look silly if you are underdressed. Plan your journey and make time for the inevitable delayed trains. If possible, visit the site of your interview in advance if you are not familiar with the area.

Before the interview itself, go through your application form again. Go over your examples of prior work and make sure you can talk about them. Arrive early – you will look efficient and it gives you time to have a coffee or go to the loo without panicking. Turn off your mobile – don’t leave it on silent. Smile when you walk in, shake hands and wait to be told to sit down. Maintain eye contact.

When answering questions in the interview give yourself time to think. Do not answer with the first thing that pops into your head. Wait two seconds, consider your answer, and briefly think about why they have asked you that question – what are they really getting at? What are they trying to test? Make sure you frame your answer in a way that attends to their underlying reasons. Ask for clarification if you do not understand the question.

Also, think about your body language. Don’t cross your arms as it looks defensive. Instead sit with your arms open or on your lap and lean forwards to show interest. When you speak it is a good idea to gesticulate with your hands as it adds expression – but don’t overdo it. Don’t bite your nails or fiddle with your hair. Often we exhibit certain mannerisms when we are thinking. It may be worth getting someone to video you when you talk to see if you have some unconscious mannerisms that are unflattering.  We speak much more quickly than we realise – so slow down! Do not speak in a monotone –moderate your voice by using highs and lows.

They may say “Is there anything you want to ask us?”. Do ask about something interesting that came up in the interview, but do not ask something that you could easily look up on their website. Don’t bring up salary until you get an offer!

Finally, remember that you are also evaluating them and the job. Having spent some time with the interviewers, are you sure you would like to work there? Are the organisation’s ethics in line with yours? Were you treated well? Were employees you came into contact with happy? Do you like the environment of the office?

A few hours after the interview, write down your impressions, the questions asked and your answers. Do you wish you had answered anything differently? Jot down your amended answers. These will be useful for you when you have another interview.

If you do get the job – well done. Consider if you actually want it! If you do not get the job, remember you cannot control the employer’s decision. You do not know who else was interviewed, and how well they fitted the job description and organisation. There can be many reasons why you did not get the job that have little to do with you. The experience was valuable and a stepping stone to your winning interview.


Natalie is available for one-to-one practice interview sessions and can help with all aspects of the job application process.  For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513.  www.natalielancer.com


What can coaching do for me? 

By | Career coaching, Corporate coaching, Life coaching

Are you in your final year of uni or have just left? Have you made some career plans? Have you started a job but not finding it fulfilling? Maybe you need some career coaching. A coach is someone who can help you identify your strengths and devise some sort of plan based on your goals.
I have been coaching since 2010 in my two businesses NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. I focus on young people dealing with a variety of issues from increasing their confidence, to career and university guidance.
I am an accredited coach (I am a member of the Association for Coaching) and I have just published Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring (2nd edition) with the renowned coaches David Clutterbuck and David Megginson. The book brings together our expertise on coaching and mentoring in a variety of different settings and organisations.
I devised several original coaching techniques which are showcased in the book such as the ‘Free Imaginative Variation Technique’. This involves writing your ‘dream CV’ populated with potential job roles and qualifications. Now, here is the ‘imaginative variation’ part: ask yourself what you can change or leave out whilst still preserving your ‘dream CV’? Actively experiment by changing and deleting skills, roles, companies and qualifications until you have a clear picture of the core items that must be present for your CV to be ‘ideal’. Identifying what you are aiming for is a great start – many people find it difficult to express their end goal. Next – how to make this goal a reality. Break down these goals into small, practical steps. Some goals seem overwhelming, and it may be that you need a professional coach to help focus on how to make your ambitions achievable.
If you already have a job, rather than leave your current employer, another way to make sure you are doing your dream job is to maximise the value of your role. What is your current job description and what would you need to add to make it more enjoyable or challenging? Use this ‘dream job description’ as a springboard to explore how your role can be developed. Will you need to develop some new skills? What value would these new components add to your organisation? How do you think your line manager would react if you propose that you should do it? How can you get your ideas off the ground?
We often forget who our contacts are and how they can help us (and we help them). The following exercise explores how people we know can develop us further and help us get to where we want to go. Draw three concentric circles, each one slightly bigger than the last on a large sheet of paper. Label them inner, middle and outer. Think about who you know, in whatever context and however loosely, and write their names in the appropriate circle. Your inner circle might include close friends, family and trusted work colleagues. Your middle circle might include people you are in contact with who you value but you are not in touch with as frequently, and the outer circle are acquaintances you could potentially contact but haven’t done so yet. Now ask yourself: What networks or relationships do I want to develop further? For what purpose? How? Can you leverage this for mutual advantage?
The benefits of coaching are now being reaped by students looking to maximise their potential and go into the world of work with their eyes open. This shouldn’t be a surprise – after all, who wouldn’t want professional support to make changes or realise your ambitions?


Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring (2nd edition) by Natalie Lancer, David Clutterbuck and David Megginson is available from Amazon.co.uk. Natalie is available for one-to-one coaching sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513. www.natalielancer.com


How to sell yourself when your work experience is limited

By | Career coaching, Study advice

A frustrating cycle exists when young people apply for internships and work experience: you have to submit a CV and demonstrate experience but the young people haven’t had any work experience yet – that is why they are applying for it now! Natalie Lancer from NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication explains how to overcome this situation.

Most people know how to write a CV and, indeed, there are many pro formas on the internet one can use. The issue isn’t what format to use, however, but what to put on it, as for most young people, it will look fairly sparse. In fact, there are different types of CV. The chronological CV is where jobs are listed most recent first and is the CV most people are familiar with. This is the CV to avoid for students as they haven’t had enough (or any) jobs to list. The skills (or ‘functional’) CV is the one that is the best for students as it draws attention to skills that have been developed rather than jobs.

Skills can be developed in many ways including during school projects, by participating in extra-curricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, attending youth groups, by way of independent study, volunteering experience, hobbies and travelling abroad. I advise students to think about what skills they have, such as IT, interpersonal, analytical, numerical skills, team work, leadership, organisational, creativity etc. Then list the ways they have evidenced this. For example, maybe they were part of a sports team, or were team captain which demonstrates teamwork and leadership skills. Maybe they have written for the school newspaper, created or updated websites or made some “How to…” YouTube videos which potentially demonstrates communication, writing, IT and presentational skills. The “Key Skills” list should form the bulk of the first page of the CV, the second being occupied by Employment History (which can include any work experience or jobs such as babysitting), and Education and Qualifications.

Potential employers take about 2 seconds to decide if a CV goes on the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’ pile. There is therefore evidently an advantage of putting key skills at the beginning – the employer is wowed straight away by your skills, and the thought that went into your CV. It is important to note that you will need to tweak your CV for each job/internship you apply for, making sure your skills marry up to those they are looking for. For each CV, focus on five or six relevant key skills. If you find that your skills do not match those that are required, find ways of boosting your skillset, such as undertaking voluntary work or getting involved in more activities, either in or out of school. Demonstrating that you are an interesting person who participates in what life has to offer, makes you an interesting candidate to employers. A focus on your skills will also give the employer a sense of your personality and what makes you an individual.

Other tips are not to include your date of birth – employers may well be looking for expertise rather than experience. Make sure your email address is sensible – create a new one if necessary. Limit your CV to two pages and make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors.

Natalie is the founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can help you create a winning CV and cover letter and give you expert guidance on your A-level choice, university applications, Personal Statement, interviews and dissertations. She also offers personal development sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com


Natalie’s top tips on writing a CV for young people:

  • Spend some time thinking about your key skills and your evidence for them
  • If you haven’t got many skills, develop some by participating in activities, volunteering etc
  • Update your CV every time you do more work experience/get a job
  • Check your CV thoroughly for spelling and grammatical mistakes
  • Speak to a specialist for advice about which skills to emphasise and how to showcase them, as well as overall guidance for your CV.

 


 

Mums are back in business

By | Career coaching

Many women choose to create new paths when they have children, using their experience to set up on their own. This gives them the flexibility and hopefully the income they crave. I experienced this first hand. After ten years as a BBC producer and two children, I decided to go part-time. Somehow, working part-time felt like I had been demoted and I started to feel there was something missing. I noticed a gap in the market for many new parents who were at work. I saw them returning to work but still struggling with weaning, with sleepless nights or with childcare issues. Within a short space of time, I founded Parents Matter, which provides corporate clients with in-house seminars for working parents on a huge range of topics. Staff members were invited to leave their desks at lunchtime and immerse themselves in a parenting topic delivered by an expert speaker. Ten years down the line, Parents Matter has expanded to Employees Matter (www.employeesmatter.co.uk), offering a full range of seminars and webinars for all staff. Parenting seminars are still an integral part of my business offering, but in addition to that we offer sessions on resilience, work-life balance, stress management, bereavement and many other topics. In 2014, Employees Matter ran more than 250 seminars across the country, involving corporate banks, law firms and management consultancies. While the BBC gave me invaluable experience, I love being my own boss and seeing my company grow.

REWRITING THE FUTURE

Meanwhile, Heather Trefusis has taken a similar approach by forming a new copywriting, editing and proofreading service called The Writing Works (www.thewriting.works). `I’d always wanted to have the freedom that comes with working for yourself and felt that even more keenly once I became a mum; she says. `I do feel I’m lucky enough to have the best of both worlds now because I have lots of time with my little boy but also get to keep doing the work I love. Heather worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years and has been lucky enough to write for some of the country’s biggest brands. But when she had her son in 2013 she decided it was a good time to ‘go it alone’ and set

up her own business. set certain days aside to work when my son is being looked after by his grandparents; says Heather, but the challenge I find is that on the days when I’m not “working”, if I need to make phone calls to clients or send emails, these small things are not always easy to do with a toddler around. `I like to respond to clients and to new enquiries promptly, but I often have to wait until his nap time to do so. I guess that’s the difference. If you’re employed part-time, you can just switch off on non-working days:

A FLEXIBLE APPROACH

Louise Leach, who owns Dancing with Louise (www.dancingwithlouise. co.uk), has built a business teaching dance and fitness, including tap, ballet, Zumba, hip-hop, Strictly Ballroom, musical theatre, drama and breakdance. Her pupils range from toddlers right through to retirees. `I was in a girl band and hosting a radio show following a stint on ITV’s Popstars in 2001; she shares. ‘I then wanted my focus to be on family life and not a career in showbiz. That is when Louise opened her first branch of the dance school back in 2002. She now facilitates more than 100 classes per week with more than 20 qualified instructors on her books. `The flexibility to be my own boss and, for example, go away when I want to and stay at home if a child is unwell without having to answer to anyone or let anyone down is immeasurable:

HIDDEN TREASURES

Past experience is also a common theme that empowers mums to set up on their own. `So many of my friends were asking me to sell their bits on eBay as a favour for them as they didn’t know how to use it, says mother Deborah Roberts Mendoza. Deborah previously worked for bereavement charity Grief Encounter, and many people gave her things to sell for the charity, which gave her the experience she needed. Her Hidden Chest of Treasures (http://www.ebay. co.uk/usr/wearehcot) store started off taking anything and everything but is now far more selective about what

it takes. Having started off primarily selling clothes, the company now sells furniture, kitchens and bathrooms and a range of other goods on its customers’ behalf. Deborah says: life is a constant juggling act. I have to arrange to get to a client, go through everything and/ or measure as well as dealing with all enquires and keeping people up to date. You can get a phone call at any time and don’t really have a switch-off period, especially as so much is done online now:

CAREERS COACHING

Natalie Lancer  offers coaching for adults who want to go for a promotion, change career, go back to work after maternity or upskill. She loves the diversity of that work that she does: I am very fulfilled both in terms of being a professional and a mum: However, she recognises that not everybody has a clear-cut idea of how to change careers or set up a business when they have children, and that often it takes a while to get the wheels in motion. ‘Businesses take time to get clients so, if possible, don’t give up your day job, but start your business on the side; she advises.

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March of the Mumpreneurs

By | Career coaching

Last Wednesday (19th November 2014) was the first  proclaimed Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, so it seems apt to reflect on the Mumpreneurs – the unsung heroines of the 21st century. No longer having to decide between a career or children (circa 1980) or as career women who slot their babies into their work (think putting babies into work crèches circa 1990), the Mumpreneurs slot their work into their lives, kids and all. They are there for the kids when they come home from school, never miss a school play or sports day, and work on their own terms in between the school drop off and pick-up.

These mums have always been successful career women working, for example , for the BBC, law firms, in retail strategy, advertising, art directing for magazines and teaching. Fed up with the daily commute, asking for permission to pick up a sick child at school and missing out on attending their child’s teddy-bear picnic, these women decided to go it alone.

I am a career coach , advising adults and students on their next move, whether it be university study, mums going back to work,  changing career or going for a promotion. Having spent seven years as teacher, which culminated in becoming Assistant Head of a comprehensive school in West London, the birth of my baby gave me the impetus to set up my coaching business, Lancer Coaching, for both employees in companies and individuals. I also deliver leadership training and write books about coaching and education. What I love about my work is the variety it brings and that in between clients or telephone calls, I can put on a soup, take my daughter to nursery or be at home for a delivery.  I wanted to find out what other businesses mums had started, their motivations and how it worked around their lives in practice.

The first mum I interviewed was Belinda Lester, mother of 2, and founder of Lionshead Law. She was previously a partner in private practice specialising in employment law. Realising that billing by the minute was unpopular, she came up with an innovative solution – to offer the same service for fixed fees and monthly retainers, removing the nerve-wracking financial uncertainty that enlisting legal help so often entails. Her clients know that they can call her anytime, (“always here for you” is her company’s tag-line) but they might be on speakerphone if she’s en route to collect her children. This doesn’t make her less professional or good at her job. This makes her a real and approachable person just like them.

Jo Goldberg, of Gold Consulting, was a management consultant who was also disillusioned by the cold billing process at her accountancy firm. She decided she wanted to work in a more caring sector and got a job at a Jewish Charity. Having learnt many new skills over a five year period at the charity and realising that her working hours did not suit the school run, she decided she could offer advice about a specialist area – trust fundraising – as a freelancer. She, along with her associates, train employees in charities and offer strategic advice to help charities maximise their income. She loves the diversity of her role, meeting new clients and forming new relationships through networking and her post as the Treasurer of the Institute of Fundraising Trusts and Statutory Special Interest Group. Jo explains that the challenges of her work are that you have to be very organised both in your family and work life so that you are prepared for those times when you aren’t working because your kids are off school.

My journey then led me to Lucy Barnett, who wanted to create a company that would fit around her baby – and so RSVP Lucy was born. Using her talent as a former magazine Art Director she designs bespoke barmitzvah and wedding invitations. Deploring the “white square with silver writing” invitation, she offers a creative, modern alternative.

Leah Warren set up Watling Tutors, an academic tuition agency that combines her teaching and marketing experience. After having her first baby, she wanted to avoid her daily commute but also to utilise her skills. Leah points out it is the flexibility and scalability of the business that contributes to its success. She can scale down her marketing or rev it up according to what is going on in her life.

Julia Obrart drew on her experience in merchandising for big high street retailers and founded LittleBeauChic.co.uk, an online boutique for children aged 0-8, with her husband. They launched after the birth of their second child and offer affordable but different clothes to those available on the high street. Julia runs the business and harnesses social media to market her products. She points out that she doesn’t have to pay for childcare and she works when she wants.

Finally, I interviewed Zoe Sinclair, who was a producer at the BBC for eight years. She realised that it would be helpful for parents going back to work to have some kind of support. She developed the idea into Employees Matter, a company that provides lunch-time top-notch speakers about parenting, stress, work-life balance and caring for the elderly to companies such as banks, law firms and management consultancies.

What is remarkable about these women, is that they are all earning the same or more than what they earned before and they have a real sense of achievement. The mumpreneurs have redefined career success.  It is not how far you can be promoted or how much money you can earn. It is how well you have achieved work-life balance. If you want to discuss how you can utilise your skills and get your ideas off the ground – you might want to contact a coach, who is a mum just like you!

Natalie is available for one-to-one coaching sessions for individuals of any age. She also does corporate coaching.  For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or 01923 85 0781. www.natalielancer.com

Changing career or going for a promotion?

By | Career coaching

Life and career coach, Natalie Lancer, explains how further learning or training may be the key to landing the job of your dreams.

Gaining further qualifications may be necessary to progress to higher positions in your workplace, and employees may find they hit a ceiling without them. However, there are other reasons to study further.

Firstly, you may get formal accreditations for skills you have already picked up in the workplace. This recognition of your skills could be crucial for when you are applying for other jobs or going for promotion, as qualifications are a standardised way of representing the information that you know. Secondly, undertaking a qualification can breathe new life into your job. Frameworks within a course may make you consider new ways of working. Thirdly, you may start to see your job from different perspectives, perhaps the viewpoints of your customers, helping you to empathise with others and get new business as a result. You may also broaden your existing network of contacts.

Many adults change careers at some point during their working life and a new qualification may facilitate, or even be necessary, to do this. There are many courses, such as Psychology or Law, that are suitable for Distance Learning, where you can study from the comfort of your own home, whilst remaining in paid employment.

Your previous experience is always valuable, for example, a business person will be in strong position to train as an Occupational Psychologist as they understand the issues businesses face. They could study for a Psychology degree via Distance Learning without quitting their job, and look into training at a specialist company following this. Of course, many people study out of pure interest and enjoyment.

There are many good reasons to continue learning. Now, due to the proliferation and success of Distance Learning, it is easier than ever to study courses at any level, including Certificate, Diploma or Master’s. The world is your oyster.

Natalie Lancer set up findanonlinecourse.com to help individuals find courses to study by Distance Learning. She did a Distance Learning course in Psychology, whilst in full-time employment. “I found it difficult to know where to start. There was no website where all the on-line courses were listed and I realised that creating one would provide a valuable resource for all types of people interested in upskilling, whether that be employees, mums, carers or career changers”. Natalie can discuss your course and career options in one-to-one coaching sessions. She can also give you expert guidance CVs and interview technique.

For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com

Graduate Employment Prospects

By | Career coaching

Natalie Lancer, life and career coach, looks at the facts and figures about graduate employment prospects.

Every year, the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) collate the results from a government survey which asks graduates about their current employment. The latest (2011) edition of ‘What Do Graduates Do?’ provides a snapshot of how graduates from 2010 were employed six months after graduation.

Of the 233,865 graduates who responded to the survey, 9% were unemployed and 60% were in UK employment (including anything from a temporary to a graduate job). The majority of graduates outside those two categories were continuing their studies.

The six graduate subjects yielding the highest employment rates (percentages shown in brackets) were: Marketing (71%), Media Studies (66%), Art and Design (66%), Business and Management (65%), Architecture (64%) and Sociology (64%). These data remain largely unchanged since 2008, with the exception that Engineering graduates have fallen out of the top six.

Many graduates go on to further study to help secure a job. For graduates seeking employment in the science sector, a Master’s degree increases employment prospects significantly, explaining the absence of Science subjects in the list above. In fact, 18% of Biology graduates, 27% of Chemistry graduates and 29% of Physics graduates went on to study a Masters or PhD on completion of their first degree. Furthermore, to practise as a lawyer or barrister, it is necessary to undergo further training. Although only 38% of Law graduates were in employment six months after graduating, 26% remained in education, the largest number of non-Science graduates undertaking further study. The discipline with the highest number of graduates studying for for a teaching qualification was Mathematics (8%). Although Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science are not listed as separate subjects, data from HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) shows that 99% of graduates from these disciplines were in employment or further study, sixth months after completion of their undergraduate degree (2010-11 data set).

As well as the importance of degree subject, the university you attend also enhances employment prospects. According to the High Fliers survey 2012, the top ten universities most targeted by employers are Manchester, London, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford, Bristol, Warwick, Durham, Birmingham and Bath (in that order). Employers often exhibit at careers fairs or ‘milkrounds’ at universities, aimed at students in their penultimate or final year, to attract top calibre applicants. In addition, your degree classification is paramount. According to the High Fliers survey, seven out of ten employers require a 2:1 or above.

So what can you do to maximise your employment prospects? Apart from securing a place at a well-respected university and working towards obtaining a least a 2:1, it is important to find work experience. Many employers recruit for work placements a year before the intended start date, so do your research early. You may have to do some on-line aptitude tests which you can practise using widely-available books. You can improve your performance by analysing your answers with an adviser.

Other companies operate a less formal work experience programme, where speculative applications may result in successful outcomes. For this, you will need to send in a CV and a covering letter explaining why you would like to do work experience at the company and what you can offer them. These documents need to be well-prepared and drafting them with the help of a professional may prove to be money well spent.

There are various websites that also can help you find work experience, including www.getworkexperience.com and www.prospects.ac.uk. Perhaps the most successful way to get work experience is to network. Make sure you swap details with family friends, as well as any speakers and lecturers you meet and ask about any opportunities they may know about. Contact the development office from your school or university who will put you in touch with relevant alumni, who will often go that extra mile to help you. You should also visit your university’s Careers Service which will have its own connections for you to explore.

Getting involved in committees, from fundraising to sports, or getting a part time job whilst at school and university, will develop and demonstrate valuable skills, enhancing your employment prospects further.

Natalie can discuss your course and career options in one-to-one coaching sessions. She can also give you expert guidance CVs and interview technique.

For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com