On the Career Carousel – Rethinking your Career Plans

We are all aspiring professionals seeking that awesome and exciting career. But what does it mean to have a career? Are we thinking about it in the right way?

I see my career as a fair ground ride – at times a carousel with its inevitable ups and downs, but also at times a roller-coaster ride with unexpected turns and maybe even complete changes in direction.

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Carousel – Image Source: pixabay.com

What is a career?

When we are leaving college or university we think of that “dream job”, what career will I have? We’ll enter our first job, which might be a short-term contract and we have to leave, or we might take the decision that it isn’t for us. Therefore, isn’t it more sensible to think of a career not as that perfect, dreamy route to retirement 40 years hence, but that roller-coaster ride where we need to stay alert to negotiate it?

Perhaps a career is a linked set of adventures!!!

I can illustrate the point by thinking about my own career – a hotch-potch of roles. I started out in medical research in a hospital, entered the pet food manufacturing industry, then academia for 15 years, and this year, back to the tea industry. Some of the changes were out of my control. The hospital work was a 2 year contract, at other times left to relocate or because I didn’t like the job or the environment.

How has it worked for me?

My adventures have resulted from me grasping opportunities rather than following a set plan.  I think I’m incredibly adaptable to different environments, I love new challenges (and the more challenging the better), and I seek out positive and inspirational people that I want to work with. The downside is having to keep starting again, but so far I haven’t taken a step down the salary ladder.

So maybe we need to think differently.

I think here is where we may have a problem. Colleges and Universities always talk about ‘skills’. This skill. That skill….University degrees and courses are ‘validated’, that is, quality assured by a panel of people, and part of this is reviewing a checklist of skills – literacy, numeracy, transferable and other. My gripe with this is institutions are turning out students that broadly look the same. Employers tell us that graduates quite often aren’t meeting their needs.

What colleges and universities should be celebrating and enhancing are YOUR DIFFERENCES – this is what will make you unique to an employer. Have a think. What are your talents, motivations and values? What is your sense of humour? How do you express yourself artistically or through sports?

In my last two interviews I was asked about how my values align with that of the company. I was unprepared!

Look further than your careers fair.

Careers fairs are either good or bad in my book depending on the dedication of the staff running them. At their worst, you may get a distorted impression of what jobs are out there and things that interest you may be under-represented.

Ask yourself – does your university careers fair reflect all the potential employers in your city or area? Or are there other companies out there, including small ones like social enterprises? I’m not an expert in this area but a 2017 government report highlighted nearly half a million social enterprises in the UK.

See the report here

This work was done to help define what a social enterprise is, and generally they are organisations with a social purpose, that might put back some profit to the wider benefit of society, who operate with clear ethical values.  So being small, they might not readily appear on jobs searches, but I’m sure there are many of them out there that could offer really exciting and worthwhile career opportunities, and they will be well worth investigating. You could approach one offering to collaborate as part of a project? What about writing and asking for a summer internship?

Are we preparing for interviews in the correct way?

I’m not sure I’ve ever been taught how to really keep a decent record of my experiences and talents. Digital tools like LinkedIn are great for capturing who you are and what you’ve done and are becoming the ‘new CV’. I’m a big fan of blogging where you can be more creative with photographs and media. Having all of your experiences / qualifications and attributes to hand is essential for that job application where you’ll then go on to map what you offer to what the role demands. Highlighter pens are a must for this task. You take the job description – highlight the main points and then tailor your application to those points right?

But is this enough? I’ve seen real changes in selection processes in recent years. The use of personality and performance questionnaires are becoming more common which you’ll be invited to complete before the interview. These are quite terrifying I think, but you can do some research on the company supplying the tests and find some mock questions online. On one occasion I paid for temporary access to their online training so that I could practice the questions.

I’ve also experienced a complete contrast where a company requests you write a covering piece about yourself expecting you to be personable and creative. Some companies today are looking for the ‘right person’ first, and may ask about your knowledge much later on. So be prepared for a mad variety of selection processes. The best advice I can give is to be honest and be yourself.

Your portfolio of You!

So what does a portfolio of ‘you’ look like? Yes, keep records of your qualifications and achievements, and do express them as ‘skills’. But what more do you offer? What type of a person will you need to be to jump onto and succeed at the career carousel?

Dr Vivien Rolfe (Writing in a personal capacity) is the Head of Herbal Research at Pukka Herbs and an experienced academic and scientist. She is also internationally recognised as a key expert in Open Education Learning and Resources and has authored many peer reviewed journals and has spoken at many conferences worldwide.  

Many thanks to Dr Rolfe for her contribution to the APH. At APH we are keen to enable the career development of early career professionals worldwide and welcome our readers to send us articles on their experiences or advice for other professionals or students. You can find other career related articles on the hub or visit our career resources pages for more.

  1. Identify and Articulate your skills on your CV (APH Special – click here)
  2. Successful Transition from PhD to Industry by Dr Monika Stuczen (click here for article)
  3. Does International Relocation mean starting your career all over? by Lola Adekanye (click here for article)
  4. How I got my first Graduate Role by Zohra Ashim (Click here for article)
  5. Graduate Employment: The Things you never get told (Click here)

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#EntrepreneurChat – Is it time to shake up your business strategy?

The business environment around us is constantly changing. Successful organizations have to learn to adapt or face the prospect of their competitors ‘eating’ into their market share. The ability to navigate ‘new waters’ is important to all entrepreneurs – whether you are a sole trader or have 1,000 employees! In today’s article, Adeyinka shares steps aspiring entrepreneurs can utilise to ensure their businesses succeed in spite of a changing internal and external environment.

Let’s take a look at Burger King. Once ranked number two on the list of top fast food chains, it now finds itself number 5 in the top 15, according to Business Insider. In 2012, the top 15 fast food chains ranked in the nation had a combined $115 billion in sales. It may sound like this is a good thing for Burger King with sales of $8.4 billion and 7,231 locations right? The fact is that they are losing market share to Wendy’s, Starbucks and Subway which is reason for concern. Additionally, Burger King have Taco Bell in the number 6 spot nipping at their heels. So what has Burger King done?  They are now one of the first fast food chains to come to market with turkey & veggie burgers – tapping into the health conscious and vegetarian consumer market. Like Burger King, every business, whether large or small needs to be able to recognize when it’s time to shake things up.

It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.

Dr Leon C. Meggison misquoting Charles Darwin

The Entrepreneur’s Corner: Time Management for Busy Entrepreneurs

You’ve taken the plunge and started working on transforming your business from an idea to reality. Things are going well, customers are taking interest, new ideas for expansion but growth comes with its own pains. How do you keep up the pace? How do you grow your business and manage the responsibilities that growth entails? In today’s article, Adeyinka Ojo, a business consultant, shares some ideas to enable you deal with time pressures on your journey to success.

Entrepreneurs are a special breed. You have a 24/7 job. If you are like me, your mind rarely shifts from your business. In the first few weeks of starting my business, I discovered that there never seemed to be enough time in a day to get everything done! Surprisingly, I also realised, from talking to other entrepreneurs that I was not alone. I recently spoke with an entrepreneur in another country and marveled at the commonalities in how we work – which is pretty much non-stop.

Knowing that your job as a small business owner requires you to wear many hats and work long hours – some of my best ideas come into my head between 2:00 – 4:00 am! – you may ask yourself ‘How can I keep up with this pace and avoid burnout?’

Here are four tips that you can use to keep yourself on track.

The Professionals: The Art of Acting

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Image – Shauna Blaize

Interested in acting and dreaming of glamorous nights on the red carpet, a big award speech and champagne flowing parties? Getting into the movie industry or television requires careful planning, grit and a huge dose of business sense. In this two part series, Shauna Blaize, an accomplished model, budding actor, producer and writer, shares her opinions about the art of acting as well as the reality which budding actors may encounter and should prepare for.

When I say actor, I don’t mean the A list celebrities that we see on the red carpet. That is a level that many of us (let’s be honest) won’t get to see. In this business, you are lucky enough to just be a ‘working actor.’ To be a working actor it means that your income comes from acting-you don’t need to waitress, work in a fast food restaurant, basically you don’t need to do any side job(s) and/or mind-numbing work that allows you to eat while going on auditions.

I live in New York and to meet a true actor…it doesn’t happen very often. I meet tons of actors (as a matter of fact who isn’t an actor in this city?) but rarely do I meet any that actually earn their living from acting. So here we are, the “non-working” actors consistently looking for acting work while working that dead end job. Now this is the day to day that you don’t read about too often when you Google “how to be an actor.”

Most people think you take a few classes, get a manager, then a talent agent and then boom! you are on your way. Well not exactly. When you graduate from an acting program at a well-known school like Julliard or NYU for example, they have showcases where agents and managers can come to see you perform and you may get a bite off that. Those of us who did programs at conservatories/studios that are not Ivy League (and for those who didn’t get signed on the spot at a showcase), we have to hit the pavement.

I won’t tell you how to go about getting representation because Lord knows I am not in any position to share the secret as I myself am not privy to it! Also, the truth is that even if you were to obtain representation, your job doesn’t end there. An agent/manager’s job is not exactly to get you a job so much as to put you closer to it. YOU still need to book it. Also keep in mind that you are not the only client your representation has. Even if you are with a boutique agency that has a smaller roster of clients, you still need to have the mind of a hustler. You still need to wake up every day with an intention. You cannot sit down and wait for a call. To be an actor is to be an entrepreneur. There is no boss giving you a “to do list” or a desk where you sit down every day, open up Excel, and then find what your responsibilities are.

Acting is a business with a lot of grunt work and many of us don’t realize how much of that type of work is involved. Many of us focus on the creative side but there is absolutely no getting around the need of having a business savvy mind. You hear it all the time but to actually live it; to get up every day and push yourself when there is no one standing there managing you or telling you that you will be fired if your work is not completed, is a different thing.  Any work, pay checks, professional and personal fulfilment will all be generated by you. The truth is, you can’t have the creative mind without the business smarts.

“You can be creative from your head to your big toe but if you do not have the drive or the savvy to sell yourself, you will not get far”

In a business that people think involves a lot of “pretending” or “faking” you actually need a lot of truth.  According to the late Sanford Meisner, “acting is being truthful under imaginary circumstances.” You want to be truthful in your work of course but you also need to be truthful with yourself-brutally honest to be exact. You need to be able to ask yourself if a life of uncertainty (that can stretch for years with no visible end in sight) is something you can deal with.

“You need to ask yourself if you can motivate and light a fire under your feet when you are tired and there is no immediate or obvious consequence should you decide to skip a day-or two or three”

You also need to be truthful in what you are in this industry and that is the most personal and I think the most important thing I can share with you.

APH: Many thanks to Shauna for sharing this great post with us and we look forward to sharing the second part of the “Art of Acting” with our readers in December.

About the Writer: Shauna was recently in the off-Broadway play The Girls of Summer and last month she produced and starred in her self-written short film Winning.

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The Entrepreneur’s Corner – Graduate Rejects

When you think about the term ‘entrepreneur’, what comes to mind? Major business oligarchs? Wealthy business moguls? Well think again! The idea of entrepreneurship is no longer a forlorn and unachievable dream. In the United Kingdom, there is a major drive to embed entrepreneurship into University curricula. In today’s post, we had the pleasure of interviewing Derek and Keara Mafohla, founders of ‘Graduate Rejects’, a social enterprise with the aim of improving educational standards for young children in Zimbabwe.

APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background?

DM& KM: The founders of Graduate Rejects are siblings Derek and Kearabiloe Mafohla. Derek is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Greenwich studying Computer Science whilst Keara Mafohla is a final year student at the University of the West of England studying Biomedical Science.

Can you give an overview about your business or enterprise?

Initially we formed Graduate Rejects as a charity in November 2011 but in January 2013 we adopted the social enterprise model.

Photo Credit: Nelson Vinod Moses
Photo Credit: Nelson Vinod Moses

Photo Credit: Nelson Vinod Moses

When we began, we concentrated on a small community in Tshabalala, Bulawayo the second largest city in Zimbabwe. We noticed that there was little educational activity within the community which left children and young adults engaging in drinking and other activities that made no contribution to a successful future. We (Graduate Rejects) decided to donate books to local schools and libraries with the hope of developing and encouraging a reading culture within the community.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

Our love for children and knowledge of the poor education systems they were exposed to were our biggest inspiration. Some schools in Zimbabwe have outdated educational systems and infrastructure. The resulting impact is that children fall into a cycle of attending school for a minimum of 11 years but failing to study further or achieving good grades. We are of the belief that if we are able to encourage proper and more modern ways of studying, children who cannot afford a good education can adopt self-study techniques. Importantly, we embrace the importance of a holistic approach to meeting the educational needs of children.

How important has social media and networking been to your business?

Interestingly for the past year we have been trying to raise money to build a website for our enterprise. We greatly acknowledge the importance of social media as it has helped us promote our work. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been our social media platforms of choice since they are free and easy to set up. We engage with a lot of people whenever we write any posts but also we are constantly seeking to learn from others who are interested and willing to share with us.

What are the challenges, if any, you face?

We come from a politically volatile country and whatever form of business or charity you choose, you have to bear that in mind. Shipping costs for the books we donate has always been and remains our biggest challenge. We find that many people are willing to donate books to us but the costs to ship the books are often prohibitive. We are self-funded and that also presents its own challenges. We also think finding the right model for children and adults to get actively involved to further improve study is often tricky but we are dynamic and open to ideas on how to actualise this.

Have you made any mistakes and what lesson(s) did you learn?

Expecting things to work accordingly! It is important to remember that things do not always go to plan but to remember that obstacles do provide an opportunity for personal development and learning.

Finally, what advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

In our experience so far, we suggest that if you are considering starting a business or social enterprise, keep a journal and document all your activities. This provides ‘fodder’ for reflection which is a useful learning tool. Finally, don’t give up when you are faced with challenges.

Please can you share your contact details

We can be reached on:

Facebook: Graduate Rejects Enterprise

The Entrepreneur’s Corner – My Scents-ible Fragrances

We recently caught up with Hugo, founder and owner of an online beauty, fragrance and cosmetics retail store.  After completing an MSc in information systems technology, Hugo started a cosmetics and fragrance business. Hugo’s business started as an SME but has grown into a company that currently trades across Europe, Asia and the Americas and has attracted the interest of major vendors in retail cosmetics services. In today’s Entrepreneur’s Corner, Hugo shares how he transformed an idea into a business. He also gives advice to budding entrepreneurs looking to delve into the business world.

Aspiring Professionals Hub: Please can you tell us about your educational and professional background?

I am an MSc graduate in Networks and Systems Security from the University of Kent and a BSc graduate in Computing systems from the University of Northampton. I have extensive experience in systems architecture and security, network design and specification, programming and telephone and mobile computing and technology. I now provide IT solutions and services for major organisations as part of a large organisational network in the South of England.

What was the inspiration behind Just you business?

My mum was the biggest inspiration and the drive behind the business. As a child, I always liked perfumes; not just the scent, but the psychological effects and the structural design of perfume bottles. I remember my efforts as a young boy to create what I presumed would be the ‘perfect scent’ spending all my hard earned pocket money on fragrance oil…sadly it ended badly. However, I refused to be discouraged, my passion remained and now I can proudly say that I not only create great perfumes but I am also able  to recreate scents that are unique and appeal to a knowledgeable clientele too.

How important has social media and networking been to your business?

I would say it has been very important to my business. As an online retail store, the core of the business is driven by online traffic. The impact and contribution of social media is immeasurable as new products and special offers are driven and publicised using this platform.  I also find it gives my customers a feeling of clones and direct association with the business especially a business that caters for personal items like perfume and beauty products.

What are the challenges, if any, you face?

Starting out in any business can be a challenge especially having an understanding of the type of products and all the paper work that might be required, for example,  legal documentation. In this type of business there are some specific challenges such as trying to gauge or anticipate customers’ tastes. I also found gaining access to the best suppliers in the market another challenge as atimes some of these suppliers work directly with other competitors in the market hence finding these suppliers and building a good working relationship with them is important. And the other thing, pricing!! Knowing what sort of pricing strategies and what the best prices in the market are, especially prices that beat the bigger competitors in the market.

Have you made any mistakes and what lesson(s) did you learn?

This is an interesting question. One mistake I can clearly remember is underestimating the size of the market and the amount of capital needed to get the business starting out and running effectively. Two key lessons I learnt in this business are: knowing when to stock certain products and at the right seasons as this can prevent non-performance of some products and loss of capital. The second lesson is also very important: conducting regular market research and running regular product performance analysis.

Who are your business role models, if any?

I never had any role models in the business world. I just had my interest and I followed it really.

Finally, what advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

Think of what you love and genuinely have an interest in and go for it not what you think will make you money. Except if you are not planning on investing much of your time in the business.

Contact details

For more details on the online fragrance store, purchasing your own specially scented perfumes or creating your own business, contact Hugo on  +44 (0)  7821441313

#StartUps – Just Plain Charming!

Nina Gizzie is the founder of Just Plain Charming – designing , making and selling handmade and bespoke jewellery. She is a creative individual who started her jewellery business while studying for a degree in Biomedical Science, talk about enhancing your academic experience! She has been able to successfully blend her love for both microbiology and jewellery by designing exquisite microbiology themed pieces…taking her ‘bugs’ outside the petri dish. In this article, Nina shares how she converted her hobby into a business, her inspiration and advice for budding entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting something of their own.

Aspiring Professionals Hub: Please can you tell us about your educational and professional background?

I graduated with a degree in Biomedical Science from University of the West of England (UWE) in 2014. My main employment is as a Graduate Assistant Researcher in Microbiology completing small research projects in collaboration with an industrial partner. I also have part time employment as a Climbing Instructor and Duty Manager.

APH: What was the inspiration behind Just Plain Charming?

I have always loved crafts and the sense of achievement that comes from making something yourself. I dabbled in all sorts of creative hobbies previously such as knitting, sewing and baking but first got the inspiration to make jewellery at the Bristol Harbourside festival. I was perusing all of the wonderful stalls and one with copper/bronze jewellery caught my eye. After buying a lovely copper beaded bracelet I asked the seller how long she had been in the business. She said it had started as a hobby but she ended up with so much stuff and had to start selling things. I just had a little passing thought of ‘I wonder if I could make this kind of stuff’ and that is how it all started. A few days later, I bought some items to play with such as beads, chains, and charms. The more I studied different techniques and designs, the more I found to do with different materials and it just keeps on growing! The inspiration for most of my products just comes from looking at existing creations and playing around with them to make them my own. The microbiology themed jewellery I do was inspired by my career path and although it may not have wide-spectrum appeal, I like how different and quirky they are.

I would like to say that the name just came to me naturally but it took weeks of juggling different names. I chose this one as all my products were based on using charms and I thought it was a cute play on the words. Only about half my current products now contain charms but the name still applies to the remainder of products being charming…well at least I think it does!

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Images courtesy of Nina Gizzie. Please do not use without permission.

APH: How important has social media and networking been to your business?

It has been crucial. To start with, social media was the only place I could showcase my products and is where I made my first load of sales. Although I now sell primarily at markets and don’t push sales as much on social media, I still show off items I have made on there to my current followers to get their views and opinions.

APH: What are the challenges, if any, you face?

When I first started out, it was fronting the initial cost. In the 8 months I have been in business, I have spent around £2000 which is a big cost, especially for a student. I have earned most of my start-up capital back with sales but with my more recent pieces being sterling silver and precious metals/gems these upfront costs have increased. It was much easier and simpler with cheaper products but I like the challenge and taking up opportunities to further expand my business.

Another factor is time. I currently have 4 jobs and one of them is full time so having the time to make anything or run stalls is limited, I enjoy my jobs so quitting isn’t really an option. I would still like to further my career in Microbiology so for now this venture is about making money from something I love! Finding the balance can sometimes be an issue.

You also have to make a lot of stock which you may or may not sell leaving you with products that have cost money and time which no one wants. This cost is amplified when using semi-precious metals as you could be sitting on many unsold pieces of jewellery that may cost £20 or more each! It is annoying but unavoidable!

 APH: Have you made any mistakes and what lesson(s) did you learn?

I have a habit of getting carried away with hobbies putting everything into them and rushing ahead. In all honesty you can say I did the same with this…bought A LOT of stuff, some I have still never used. I am also quite impatient so practising is not something I like to take time with so I have wasted material in failed attempts. I have also lost money buying the wrong items. However, when it came to playing around with the precious metals, some sense kicked in and I invested in a 6 week course so I could develop my skills and I am glad I did! I would like to say I have learned to be patient and not so carried away but I could still do with some work!!!

APH: Who are your business role models, if any?

Cliché as it sounds the ‘Dragons’ (from Dragon’s Den) give me inspiration, especially Duncan Bannatyne. I have a lot of respect and admiration for those that have made their way by coming up from nothing such as him. He started off with no wealthy family, having many odd jobs all the way up to his 20’s and not particularly excelling in anything. He then bought an ice cream truck, building up his business into an empire that includes his famous health clubs. I find this inspiring because it means that no matter who you are or your background…if you find something you want to do…then do it!

APH: Finally, what advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

Just do it! Give it all! Start off simple and don’t get ahead of yourself (like I do), test the waters if it works build on it. It may not be perfect but if you give it time, effort and passion you can build something amazing.

Contact details – 

www.facebook.com/PlainCharming

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.