#UNIADVICE – Never too late or too old to learn something new

Widening access to higher education to non-traditional students has become quite an important target for Universities in the UK. It is known to improve the outcomes and opportunities for people who would not otherwise get such chances. On the aspiring professionals hub, we like to share inspiring stories about people from diverse backgrounds with interesting and inspiring stories about their experiences or career successes. In our latest ‘Reflections’ article, Anna shares her experience of higher education as a late-starter aka mature student and hopes her experience would serve to inspire others.

I am 46 years old and in my second year of an MSc degree in Social Work. I was one of 5 children raised by both parents who struggled financially due to unemployment. I left school at the age of 16 with two standard grades- Music and Art. I then went onto work in a shoe shop under the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). At the age of 17 in 1988 I started working in a electronics factory, this led me to working in international companies. However, as the electronic industry began to decline, with many people facing redundancies, I decided to take the step and go to college where I achieved a national certificate and higher national certificate (HNC) in social care in 2005.

So how did you end up at University at a later age?

At 35, I gained full employment as residential child care worker in a residential school for girls with emotional and social problems. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the organisation closed down. I also became a mum and was left again thinking of what the future held for me. When my daughter was 2 years old, I applied and was accepted at University of the West of Scotland in 2010 on the Social Science Programme. I graduated with a BA Hons in Politics and Social Policy in 2014, age 44. Sadly, during my final year my Mother died unexpectedly, and I took a year out to care for my Father and daughter and then applied to do a Post grad/Masters in Social Work. I began this is 2015 and have 80 days placement to complete to become a fully qualified social worker.

What was university like considering you were a late starter?

Starting University was daunting!!! I was forever getting lost, but I made friends (some mature) and some in their 20s. We all got on great and student support between us was great. We were all in hand to support each other. I formed great relationships with lecturers who offered great support and guidance. As I went from first year to my final year I was lucky enough to build on these relationships and even today I still keep in touch with my lecturers.

What challenges did you encounter as a mature student and parent?

As a lone parent, I had to manage my time efficiently. I found it difficult to study around my daughter and didn’t want to be distracted studying when I was meant to be with her. I am an early riser, thus, getting up early in the morning and studying for two hours before my daughter wakes up is more productive for me as I find studying at night harder. Financially, I did ok, I was unable to work due to childcare issues, but I managed through financial support from the University which eased the pressure. I would be worse off on benefits. The University paid a considerable amount towards child care, so I’d advise to always check to see what support is available to students at their respective Universities.

Really useful advice. How are things shaping up in your career now?

Currently, I am about starting the last year of my masters’ programme. As it is a social work degree, there are many positions I can apply for. These are normally within children and families, criminal justice or community care teams and covers a whole range of needs.

Would you say your degree course is moving you towards your career?

There are always jobs advertised in local authority social work departments. So in terms of my career, I should be able to find employment within six months of qualifying.

Why did you choose to follow this career path?

I was drawn to this career path where I hope to work with disadvantaged children who, like me do not have the same life opportunities as other children. Every child should be given the same opportunities and encouragement to fulfill their dreams and inspirations, whether it leads to University or otherwise. I was the only person in my family to enter further education. I had a great experience at college and at UWS, and I cannot thank the lecturers for their support I received throughout my 4 years at the University. Without their encouragement and enthusiasm I would have struggled to manage as a mature student who would never have dreamt that university would be an option for someone like me. The believed in me and saw qualities in me that I didn’t know existed.

Every child should be given the same opportunities and encouragement to fulfill their dreams and inspirations, whether it leads to University or otherwise.

What advice would you give others in a similar position considering going to university as mature students/parents?

I would say to anyone considering University to go for it. If you want something bad enough you will work for it. Yes, it can be stressful and at times you wish you can walk away. Personally, I always wanted to support and help people and I wanted to be a positive role model for my daughter and give her a good life.

You are never too late or too old to learn something new. Follow your dreams because it can be your future.



Anna Scullion was a late starter to higher education and is currently in the second year of an MSc degree in Social Work at the University of the West of Scotland. To follow Anna, you can find her on twitter @scullion_anna


If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and subscribe to our network! If you have an article you would like to share with our readers, please get in touch – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

Navigating a #Career as a Makeup Artist – Lessons Learned

It’s near spring and this year has been busy so far but we are very pleased to be back with our readers. In this article, Christelle Pellecuer, expert make-up artist with tremendous experience and high many high profile clients and events across the UK shares her experience as a make-up artist and lessons she learnt along the way 

Did you know? –  In 2015 alone, the beauty industry generated $56.2 billion in the United States, with hair and skincare growing very fast and projected to generate revenues of near $11 billion by 2018.

Christelle was born in Madagascar, raised in South of France, now living in the UK, Christelle has been working as a makeup artist specialised in the fashion and editorial since 2010. Christelle has worked on many different aspects of the fashion industry including music videos, TV shows, magazine shoots, product launch and fashion shows. Her work has been published in several magazines for example The Resident, a South West London magazine.

(Christelle’s voice) – I was asked to talk about the most important lessons that I have learnt through my career as a makeup artist and what advice I would give to prospective makeup artists or someone starting out in the industry.

The five most important lessons I have learnt are;

Never compare yourself to others

You can be inspired but do not compare yourself to other people. I did this many times comparing myself to makeup artists with longer stints in the industry (10,15 or 20 years) but I found this to be detrimental to my progress. In reality, we do not really know what other people have experienced to be get to where they are or the struggles they have had to face. In addition, in an area of work where technology has taken on more and more importance and where pictures are heavily photoshopped, it is difficult to identify the original make-up work thus, it is never a good idea to compare your work with someone else, as you have no idea how the original was compared to the published image.

#CareerChat – 4 Ways to Kickstart your Productivity in 2017!

productivityHappy New Year! It’s the second week of January and we are;
on our detox diets, #wholefoodchallenge, cringing when we look at our credit card statement, waiting for a treadmill at the gym (give it a few weeks) etc. We are also being bombarded by a plethora of adverts about the latest books, articles, podcasts etc. teaching us how we can lose weight, get a better job, find love etc. in 2017!
In the spirit of our tradition in the Hub of starting every year on a reflective note, I started thinking about how I would like 1 January 2018 to look like. Then I worked back to what I would need to get done in 2017 to ensure I hit my target(s). This ‘Beginning with the end in mind’ exercise was a great reminder that to have different outcomes in 2017, I would need to do things differently. In the words of Maya Angelou, ‘Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.‘ In this article, I’ll share four things I am determined to do differently in 2017.
1-computernotepad‘Not resolutions but determinations!‘ – I have no problems with making resolutions at the beginning of the New Year because it indicates at least an exercise in reflection! I didn’t make any resolutions this year because sometimes my list of resolutions ends up looking like a wish list. I decided to change my verb from ‘resolve’ to ‘determine.’ If you have a list of resolutions, try adding ‘I am determined to…’ in front of every action. Making it personal is a reminder that we have an important responsibility in ensuring we get the outcomes we want.
How many people start each year with a resolution to find another job? If January 3 was a tough day for you because it took everything to drag yourself out of bed to a job you hate, why not make 2017 the ‘I am determined to get a new job’ year. There is a way using the word ‘determined’ forces one to set realistic goals. Make a list of 3 things you are determined to do this year and set at least two Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound goals underneath them.
For example, for someone determined to start a new job in 2017, some goals could be,
a. Update CV and LinkedIn profile by January 31 2017.
b. Upskill by attending x number of training workshops.
c. Send x number of job applications off each month.

Be #Healthaware in 2017 – Save a Life, Learn Basic CPR

It’s that time of the year when we all try to set new goals and new targets for the year. There are many ideas that people have at the beginning of the year usually packaged as New Year’s Resolutions. Some things people want to stop, change or add to their lives or activities in the New Year. In 2016, on the Aspiring Professionals Hub, it was our target to get to our one year anniversary, then continue the growth of the Hub…we have now as a result seen a rise in global readership to near 170 countries.

To start the New Year, we would like to get our readers to start the year with a health focus. There is a popular saying “health is wealth” and in line with that, staying healthy or keeping a healthy lifestyle in 2017 would be paramount to achieving any plans or targets for this year.

So what’s the health focus to start the year with? Learn CPR to save a life in 2017!

What exactly is CPR?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has been defined by the as a procedure to support and maintain breathing and circulation for an infant, child, or adolescent who has stopped breathing (respiratory arrest) and/or whose heart has stopped (cardiac arrest)1. To the lay man or woman, CPR is usually known as mouth-to-mouth or chest compressions usually due to cardiac arrest.

#CareerChat – 7 Steps for preparing your first lecture


This was the statement made by a friend of mine who was invited to deliver her first lecture on an important but sensitive lecture topic. This feeling is not uncommon amongst early career academics. Unlike professionals developing their careers in primary and secondary school teaching who tend to be more prepared having gone through teacher training, for those going into lecturing in academia, your training comes on the job, usually after you have started teaching!  In many cases, after completing a Masters degree or a PhD/postdoc,  you could land your first lecture invitation. So what should you keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation? The handy tips below will give you a good starting point.

STEP ONE – Find the guidebook: The first bit of research you’ll need to do if you are about to teach at University, college or school is the curriculum. At University, this will the course/module specification. Here it will  be important for you to know what the anticipated learning outcomes are for the students within the year group. What type of assessment(s) have been designed for the course? How does the topic you are about to lecture on connect with the learning outcomes and assessment? Do you have the skills to deliver this material?

#MyUniStory – The Dilemma of an African International Student

11669993-collection-of-african-flags-with-continent-stock-vectorRecently the APH met up with two vibrant individuals Brian and Belinda, recent graduates from a higher education institution in the UK. They are both passionate about supporting issues around global health and about Africa. In their two part opinion piece, they share their experiences as African students  as well as of interning in Africa (Part II). Enjoy reading and do share your opinions in the comments section.

Many Africans can only “dream” of the opportunity to pursue  quality training overseas at  Ivy league and Russel Group Universities of this world. Institutions to which the local education system that has nurtured our knowledge and skills through years of learning, contribute to the almost blind belief that there is no better source for top quality education and I dare say, developed intellect. It doesn’t help that our African education systems have hardly changed for decades, left behind by colonial masters whose teachings of everything from the alphabet to our understanding of African borders in geography and scientific discoveries of Alexander Fleming we still cling to. An archaic system that still equates learning with memory and teaches the partition of Africa, the prairies of Canada, and for some of us, a grid by grid map of New York City.

#CareerChat – 5 Ways to Deal with a Passive-Aggressive Colleague

alone-62253_1280It’s Monday morning and rather than being excited about the start of a new work week, your heart drops because you wonder what is in store for you from a passive-aggressive colleague. Will it be a snarky email, sulking, unreasonable behaviour, not responding to emails or full on aggressive behaviour? In this article, Grace shares some ways to deal with difficult colleagues while keeping your sanity.

Thud! I looked up to see the retreating figure of my colleague as she walked out of the office slamming the door behind her. She had just thrown a pile of paperwork on my desk. Ten minutes later I received an email informing me what she would like me to do with the documents. 
This was not the first time she had acted aggressively towards me and I knew it wouldn’t be the last.  However, this incident proved that things were escalating and  and it was time to do something about it. The strategies I share in this article are based on my personal experience, particularly from the mistakes I made. I hope these steps can help someone else going through a similar experience.