Archive for the ‘Careers advice’ Category

A Guide to Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships have never been more accessible and attractive to both employees and employers than they are in the current job market climate.  But if you’re looking for an apprenticeship where do you start and who can you go to for advice on getting on the right track?

Apprenticeships are an exciting way to make your mark in industry with some of the UK’s brightest and most innovative companies.  From Burberry to Dove to Costa Coffee and Converse shoes these are just some of the innovative companies you can join an apprenticeship scheme with.    The British Army has one of the most extensive and trusted apprenticeship schemes with about 75% of new soldiers taking part and over 5,500 completing their apprenticeship training each year.

Being an apprentice can give you an amazing edge over university graduates.  Why?  Because in the four years it takes a graduate to qualify and apply you’ve already spent four years getting to know the company and your role inside out.

So how do apprenticeships work?  Well they are just like a permanent job in that you get paid for the work you do.  The government has set a minimum wage for anyone taking part in apprenticeships.  Currently this is £2.65 per hour.

Apprenticeships can also be a route to attaining special technical certificates, such as a BTEC or City & Guilds Progression Award whilst giving you the benefits of being paid to train and earn your own money. In many circumstances, an apprentice can essentially be paid to progress their way through Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5 of the NVQ.

The majority of apprenticeships involve learning a trade skill through manual labour, manufacturing or creative industries – you will find them very hands roles that will require a knowledge for working with complex machinery or apparatus specific to that job role.

If you’re looking for where to start in applying for an apprenticeship visit your local council website as they have sections dedicated to apprenticeships and getting started.  The National Apprenticeship Service website has a wealth of information to get you started ( and covers all the valuable information such as getting paid, holiday entitlement and even a search option to help you find the right apprenticeship scheme for you.

You can also use social media to help you in your search for an apprenticeship. Employers are realising the benefits of social media to reach new employees and through the web you can find companies in your desired field, and connect with them directly to find out about apprenticeship opportunities.

There are a number of useful resources to be found on Twitter. Head-hunters, government labour organizations, large corporations, and job placement agencies all use social media to advertise positions and job vacancies.

Worth a follow is the account @apprenticeships which is the British government’s official apprenticeship program account, and the @millionextra account for City & Guilds Million Extra Apprenticeships drive who both post opportunities and info daily.

Facebook is another great tool for finding information about employers and apprenticeship programs one of the most regularly updated profiles to check out is




Internships & work experience – paid versus unpaid

These days, with so many people looking for work and so few jobs, it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd.  That’s compounded by the fact that so few employers even acknowledge receipt of applications, let alone give feedback on why you haven’t been successful (a personal bugbear of mine).  You can’t get a job without experience and guess what, you can’t get that experience if you haven’t got a job.

Given all of these factors, it’s no wonder that so many people seriously consider offering to work for an employer for free or think about an alternative route to getting the valuable experience they need.  We hear so many horror stories about unpaid internships going on for years and work experience that generally gives no more “experience” than how to make the tea. This article looks at whether these arrangements should be paid or unpaid and highlights some key points to look out for.

Unpaid internships and work experience

Technically, an internship is another word for work placement or work experience.    It should mean a defined period of time, usually up to two weeks, that a student is given an opportunity to work in a company.  The period of work is unpaid but forms part of their studies in some way.  The employer in this case is not obliged to pay the student and they don’t get any employment rights during that period of time.  That refers to students either of compulsory school age or those doing work experience as part of an agreed and accredited course.

Therefore unless you are a student, an unpaid internship or work placement takes advantage of you and is against the law.  In theUKwe have rules about minimum wages and a company who employs you under this type or arrangement is breaking the law.  In fact, HMRC set up a response unit to carry out unannounced inspections of businesses to ensure that interns do get paid at least the minimum wage.

Paid internships/work experience

It could well be the case that you are offered a paid internship and if you are, you should make sure that you are being paid at least the minimum wage that applies to your age group (  Aside from the issue of getting paid, you should also be very clear on what you’re going to gain from this arrangement.  If your prospective employer doesn’t offer up the information from the start, here are some key questions you should be asking:

  • What areas or departments of the business will I be working in?
  • Who will I report to?
  • Who will oversee the work that I do?
  • What experience can I expect to gain from working in your company?
  • How will you monitor my progress and performance?
  • Is there any possibility of a full-time position if I do well on the work placement?
  • How will you give me feedback on how I’m doing?
  • What happens if I’m not meeting your expectations?
  • What do you expect to gain from this arrangement?
  • What can I bring to your company?
  • Are there any key areas you’d like me to focus on?
  • Do you have any special projects you want me to work on?
  • I have xyz experience – how do you think I could best use that experience in your company?

There will be other questions depending on the circumstances and arrangements but these will give you an idea of the kind of things you should be asking.  While this type of arrangement does benefit you by giving you valuable work experience, it’s not a one-way street and the employer will benefit from having you on board too.

In conclusion

You might be considering putting yourself forward for a work placement but before you do, you need to be very clear on what you’re going to get from it and of course, whether or not the employer in question is willing to pay you!

Written by Katherine Connolly, Managing Director of Keeping HR Simple 

Keeping HR Simple. That’s who we are and what we do.  There are complex HR issues in today’s workplace; however we believe most of what your business needs can be kept very simple and straightforward. With practical hands on advice, we help you with your day to day HR needs, giving you the confidence to handle situations correctly.

You can also follow Katherine on Twitter @hr_katherine


How to find work in payroll


Guest Blog this week is from Portfolio Payroll Ltd

Payroll is an extremely competitive industry, with a great deal of candidates searching for work in payroll and a lot of interest in the top payroll positions. As with the vast majority of careers, there is no substitute for experience. However, there are a number of top tips and hints which can be followed to give you the best possible chance of securing your ideal payroll position.

Interviews are daunting to many people, but they do not have to be. Learn to see an interview as a showcase of your skills, rather than a test. By following these simple tips to interview success, you give yourself an excellent chance of leaving a lasting impression on your interviewer and securing the payroll position of your dreams.


Confidence is especially important for payroll manager jobs, as you will have to successfully manage a payroll team through the many challenges the position brings. With strong competition likely for any payroll position, exuding confidence in your interview will help you stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression on your potential employer.

Knowledge of the company

Researching in depth about the company you are applying to work for can help you to demonstrate your skills which are most relevant to their needs. For example, if the company has workers in several different countries, knowledge and experience of running an expat payroll would give you a significant advantage. Similarly, if you are applying to a smaller company, explain how your skills could help the business to progress and expand.

Demonstrate your experience

Stating your experience on your CV is all very well and good, but how does it demonstrate in practice? Come prepared with examples of how you have previously produced positive results, as well as how you dealt with any challenges or struggles which may have arisen over the course of your payroll career. Qualifications are important, but showing how you have been successful previously is certain to leave a positive impact on your employer.

Ask questions

Nothing demonstrates interest and knowledge of the company better than asking relevant questions about your position and the business. While you should always avoid salary related issues, positive and relevant questions demonstrate you care about the position and have put effort into the application process.

Standing out from the payroll recruitment crowd

Following the advice above should help to give you the edge in an interview for a payroll position. Getting an interview in the first place can be a challenge, but it is important not to get disheartened and give up. The overwhelming majority of businesses require a payroll department, and as such there are numerous opportunities for employment.

If you have made several unsuccessful applications, try making slight changes to your CV and sending them out to employers. This will give you an insight into which versions of your CV work best, helping you to impress potential employers and developing your CV into a more employable state.


Guest blog: How to write a personal statement

Guest blog from Debbie Gingell, Career Coach at Leg Up Careers

Three keys for a successful personal statement in a job application:

1) Focus (on the job)

2) Structure (your statement)

3) Sell (yourself)

Some top tips…

 Carry out a self assessment

 Look at the requirements of the job description and person specification

 Match your experience, skills and abilities to the employer’s requirements

 Be enthusiastic!

The employer is looking to buy some skills and experience – you need to demonstrate that you have what they are looking for.

Opening and closing paragraphs are key. Work hard to present a positive and punchy introduction to grab the reader’s attention. Use your closing statement to stress the personal qualities that make you an asset to the organisation.

Don’t make random or unsubstantiated statements – You might very well have excellent presentation and negotiation skills but to state these as mere facts will not convince the reader. However, if you provide evidence and examples to back up what you say, this will. An example – Setting up and chairing monthly meetings for all factory staff to report on management/strategic developments has developed my presentation skills.

Personal statements should usually be approximately 1200 words. Some people will use an extremely small font and think they can squeeze more information in. This will not help your application. The reader will have had enough at 1200 words and will know to stop! Keep it easy to read.

Refrain from writing long winded sentences. If your sentences consist of more than 32 words or more, then for the reader’s sake, reduce them!

Starting too many paragraphs or sentences with ‘I’ is off-putting for the reader. Consider alternatives: My ability to… During… When… Although…, Whilst… An example of…etc

Structure is key to a good statement, you need to take the reader on a journey. Start with a solid enthusiastic introduction and say why the job appeals to you. Continue with how you match their requirements, providing examples and evidence to back up any statements. You will often find that the personal specification has a structure to it and you can follow this to ensure you cover all of the key elements in it. Bring your statement to a good strong conclusion that shows off your personal qualities and commitment.

Check it, then check it again and then ask someone else to check it! A spelling error or silly mistake will spoil all of your hard work!

About Debbie Gingell:

Throughout my career, I have worked with people from a variety of backgrounds including: students, senior business executives, refugees, mums returning to work, ex-offenders and long term unemployed. I have worked hard to support people who need to secure their first/next job or University place and genuinely love what I do!

We are all unique individuals and I believe that it is important for us to secure the right job because it can lead to a sense of worth and personal satisfaction. My freelance work involves professional CV writing and career coaching for the Times Education Careers Department in London. Providing local and on line career advice and support via Leg up careers, and working with students at an Independent School in Cambridge, supporting students with their University applications and career decisions.

I am extremely committed to helping people to overcome barriers to employment so that they can move forwards and become more successful!

Feel free to email me on: or visit


Boosting your job prospects with a coach



If you’re a professional sportsman or woman then it seems only natural for you to invest in a personal coach or trainer to take you to the next level and be the best you can.  The same thinking however is often not applied to candidates looking for a job and many candidates fall short in interviews because of lack of confidence, or they don’t know how to sell themselves to the best of their ability.  Using a coach can be a great way of boosting your job prospects, especially with the job market being crowded and competitive.

The truth is, that whatever aspect of your life you wish to improve, it’s likely that life coaching will be able to help you in some way.  Whether you wish to enhance your work performance and career opportunities or you are looking to boost your confidence and get your motivation back these are all areas that a professional coach can help you with.  Let’s look at some of these areas in more detail.

Listed below are a few specific areas for which Life Coaching is renowned for addressing:

Career Coaching

It may be that you’ve spent years performing in the same job role or been stuck in a role that hasn’t fulfilled you for some time.  Either way you may find that you have begun to lose motivation and the passion you once had for the role you are in.  In reality very few of us will achieve our ‘dream job’ and we have to remember the practicalities of why we need to go to work and often sideline the path we wish to pursue.

We may enter a job with good intentions of pursuing what we really want at a later and more convenient time but many of us never get around to doing this.

There are many reasons why people suddenly feel stagnant and unfulfilled and life coaching is a valuable tool which enables individuals to review their options and make positive changes in their careers which could provide a new found energy for their role or alter the direction in which they are heading.  A coach can help you re-assess what your goals and passions are and how you can use your dreams in a realistic situation to get back to enjoying what you do now or find a way to move from that role into something that will offer you long term fulfilment.

Confidence & Self Belief Coaching

Confidence is a vital asset for succeeding in the job market.  Not enough of it and you won’t put yourself forward for roles for fear of failure and too much of it and you may find yourself coming across as cocky and over confident in interviews.  This is an area of our persona that many of us need to work on but in reality don’t know where to start. Suffering from low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence can have a huge impact on a person’s professional and personal life, often resulting in individuals not feeling as though they possess the qualities needed to achieve their goals.

The word confidence means something different to everyone. For some it may be the ability to give a speech in front of friends and family at a wedding, to others it may be about applying for a promotion or presenting an idea to a group of colleagues. Confidence is all about having belief in yourself and this is something coaching could help with.

By using a coach to help boost your confidence and self belief you may find yourself going for the ultimate promotion at work that could just be the dream job you’ve always wanted.  Confidence coaching can help you to turn these visions into reality by working with you to form a programme by using certain techniques such as setting empowering goals to help keep you on track for obtaining that perfect job or role.

Using a coach to improve your job prospects in the employment market can only be a win win situation for you and will help you move to achieving your desired outcome and also enhancing your CV as you may discover new talents or skills through hobbies that you have previously been reluctant to try.



How to become your own boss


Guest blog: Freelancer employment company, Parasol offers advice on self employment and becoming your own boss. From the development of your business idea right through to financial management.


The current economic climate has resulted in a large number of people being made redundant, while it has also prevented many from even getting started on their career ladder. As a result of the downturn, more and more people are thinking about becoming their own boss.

If you are sitting on a good business idea, but believe that it is a risky time to make the leap to self-employment, you may want to think again. With reduced competition and lower prices for office space, marketing and advertising, a recession can often be a good time to get creative.

Where to begin?

There are a number of different paths you can choose to take in order to become your own boss. Whether you want to set up a limited company, become self employed or work through an employment outsourcing specialist, it is important to make a decision that is best suited to your goals and requirements.

Running a limited company or being self-employed means that you would be responsible for your accounts, invoicing and records, while an umbrella company would take care of all your financial management. Once you decide on the most suitable path, you should:

1) Develop your business ideas – you must research your idea to make sure that there is a viable place in the market for your product or service. It is important that you aren’t too precious about your initial idea as it may need to be tweaked to make it as successful and profitable as possible.

2) Construct a business plan – if you are setting up a business, you will need to construct a detailed plan that includes information about your business idea, strategy and objectives as well as your market and realistic forecasts regarding your finances.

3) Plan your finances – with a viable plan, a bank will lend you money for your business venture. Alternatively, you may have family or friends to financially support the project, or your own start-up funds.

If you want to become a contractor or freelancer, or use an employment outsourcing specialist, you may only need financial support or back-up savings at the early stage of your career as your pay may be sporadic. This will allow you to build a reputation and establish yourself in the industry, without having to worry about your outgoings.

4) Understand the legislation – this can often become a hindrance for new start-ups and the self-employed. Getting specialist advice on topics such as tax and employment can help you to avoid such stumbling blocks at the start. For example, contractors can look for the best umbrella company around for payroll support so that they can delegate tax calculations, National Insurance deductions and business expenses to the professionals, allowing them to rest assured that their pay is correct.

Completing these four tasks will stand you in good stead for success. However, the work doesn’t end here. Setting up a business or becoming self employed can require you to set up and manage a workplace, working schedule, workforce, partnerships as well as a marketing and advertising strategy. While becoming your own boss does require plenty of hard work, this effort is essential if you are to thrive in self-employment.


Guest blog: How to write a good cover letter


Guest blog from Debbie Gingell, Career Coach at Leg Up Careers

A good cover letter is one more opportunity to sell yourself!

Many job seekers view the cover letter as a mere courtesy and will write one or two lines to accompany their CV or application form. This is a missed opportunity!

Whilst it’s not a good idea to overload the recipient with reading material, a brief structured letter will definitely grab the interest of the reader, especially if you highlight your unique selling points that match the job specification!

Some top tips…

No more than 4 brief paragraphs:

 Brief introduction – please find my application for above position etc

 Paragraph 2 – This role particularly appeals to me…

 Paragraph 3 – I have worked within Logistics for 14 years and have extensive experience in (state what)

 Conclusion – I believe I would be a real asset to your organisation (state why) and hope to be invited to interview to discuss the opportunity further.


Things to be careful of:

 There are some jobs that require a letter of application to be submitted along with an application form, particularly within the education sector. Treat this type of letter very differently. What the employer is after is a personal statement, but in a letter format.

 Do not repeat information or copy and paste from your personal statement or application form

 Don’t be tempted to write too much

 Ensure you include what will sell you the most – if is the brand of the company you currently work, make reference to it, if it is your qualifications that make you stand out, then highlight these. You really have to be selective in order to keep it punchy and brief.


About Debbie Gingell:

Throughout my career, I have worked with people from a variety of backgrounds including: students, senior business executives, refugees, mums returning to work, ex-offenders and long term unemployed. I have worked hard to support people who need to secure their first/next job or University place and genuinely love what I do!

We are all unique individuals and I believe that it is important for us to secure the right job because it can lead to a sense of worth and personal satisfaction. My freelance work involves professional CV writing and career coaching for the Times Education Careers Department in London. Providing local and on line career advice and support via Leg up careers, and working with students at an Independent School in Cambridge, supporting students with their University applications and career decisions.

I am extremely committed to helping people to overcome barriers to employment so that they can move forwards and become more successful!

Feel free to email me on: or visit


How to use LinkedIn for jobhunting


Social media is one of the fastest growing ways of landing yourself a job, or developing your career further through networking “virtually”.

Linkedin is by far the fasted growing network site for professionals and businesses world wide and the most useful features for jobhunting and self promotion are free to use. It is the best platform to get your professional CV or company credentials out to potential employers or new clients. So, how do you use Linkedin? Here’s our top 5 tips!

1. Get a profile! Firstly, you will need to get yourself a profile over at Once you have filled in your details you will be sent a confirmation email. You must click on the link sent to you to activate your new Linkedin account. Once its activated, do not hesitate and go and complete your profile!  Completing your profile should include your contact details, current employment position, previous posts, a profile picture, emails for references etc. Make sure you include your skills as these are your most marketable qualities. Put the relevant keywords in for your specialism.

2. Once you have double checked all your details – start networking! This is your opportunity to reconnect with your graduating class or colleagues. Look and learn from their profiles and take note of who they are ‘Linked in’ with. You can optimise your searches to find clients through their industry or location.

3. Reach out to people and start to join and create groups. By using group forums you can demonstrate your expertise. Help answer people’s questions. Help connect other people. Look for new connections of your own. Try and dedicate even half an hour a week to maintaining your network.

4. Interact with others and update your status regularly, but remember, LinkedIn is not like Facebook! Keep it professional and not updates about where you are going tonight or what you are having for tea!

5. Link in to your other professional-use social media networks such as Twitter and Google+. Use the tools Linkedin has to offer to add apps to your account enhancing your profile.

Linkedin is an easy to use site which will aid your business or professional status. Explore all the facilities available on Linkedin and create your own opportunities!

Let us know your top LinkedIn tips in the comments below!


What To Expect In Your First Week Of Work


Congratulations! You have made it through the interview process and are about to start your new job, but what do you expect to happen in your first week at work?

On a personal level, it is advised to be prepared both mentally and physically for beginning your new role. Set your alarm half an hour earlier than you need to be ready so you are early to work. Have your uniform or clothes ready for the week ahead so there is no last minute panic in the morning. Being prepared will calm your nerves and leave you ready and willing to start work.

The first few days of entering the work place you will probably be assigned a mentor. This mentor will be a person delegated to show you around your work environment and give you your personal ID and log ins. He or she may then go through a staff handbook or manual as part of an induction process.  This is your chance to ask those all important questions about your payment process and company procedures and anything else that isn’t covered in the manual. Make sure you pipe up if you have a question. In one job I worked at many years ago, everyone kept referring to the term “proforma” as a term of payment. I didn’t want to appear stupid by not knowing. Believe me, I certainly looked daft when I finally asked three years later what it meant!  It may help if you have your questions written down in case you forget them in all the excitement of meeting your colleagues.

You will be introduced to a lot of new people on the first few days and you will probably not remember everyone.s names. Why not go back in your spare time to re-introduce yourself and make a note of important contacts in relevant departments.

As your training begins, you will probably take part in some team building exercise if you were hired as part of a group intake. If you were hired as an individual intake, you may get to work on a one-to-one basis with your team leader or manager.

Towards the end of the week, you may be given a chance to start work on a current project providing you have fulfilled the required training targets. If you are not ready to start work so soon, do not be disheartened. Use this time to arrange your work space, learn from observing your colleges, and ask more questions. Managers will be looking for eagerness. I once recruited, well, inherited really, a new starter in a call centre who didn’t grasp the job at all. I asked her to keep a note of any issues she was struggling with as she listening into calls with an experienced team member. At the end of the day when we met up, her notebook was covered in doodles of flowers. I showed her the door!

Do not expect to start working on projects or with clients until much later. Do not set your expectations too high remember at this stage you are trainee and in time you will have your chance to shine.

Good luck! Let us know of any of your tips in the comments below!



How to be your own life coach

Stop press! We are in a recession. How sick and tired are you of hearing about this sustained economic down turn? In times like this it is important to remain positive, it is important to take every facet, skill and ability we have and turn it to our advantage. Not only to obtain new careers, but to better the job that you are already in and improve your personal well- being.

There is a lot of advertisement  about life coaching and why we should invest in it to improve our lives; from our doorstep to our offices. Though as much good work as these people do, I do not believe that they are nearly as required as they think they are. Every one of us is able to be our own life coach, merely by thinking properly, remaining calm and doing the right things for the right reasons. This enables us to maintain a state of mind that we are both content and happy with, whatever our material situation may be.

The following is my guide as to how to simply thinking things through, remain positive, and see the best in a bad situation to keep you emotionally and spiritually and well equipped. Invaluable tools for life.

The most important thing in being your own life coach, is constantly reminding yourself of what is important to you.  It has been said that if one doesn’t know what is important, you should take all you have from yourself  and ask yourself again in a few days. Your answers will most likely be not that of material possessions but ambition and the love of those closest to you.

So how do you reach your ambition and contentment?

First, set yourself a goal – but don’t aim directly for the end result. You need to work your way up the ladder one rung at a time. It takes thought, planning, precision, and commitment. Without the magic three, you may as well drop to your knees.

You have to fight through the currents and streams, paddling into the deep to hit the buoy. Its about getting from A to B  and back again. Getting from yourself as you are today, to absolution and back to reality with a new frame of mind.  You can tell yourself how good you are, how capable you are, not needing someone else boosting your ego for you. You can do it all yourself with the power of will. Willpower is the key and with a few daily exercises you can hold that power in your hands.

One exercise could be keeping a personal journal, mapping your journey from where you are now to where you want to be. It is a great tool for reflection and learning. You can keep it as informal or formal as you wish with bullet points or phrases which depict your progress. The point is be honest.

Another idea is the encouragement of one’s inner self. This can be done in several ways one: write three positive things on your mirror or a notepad such as I am beautiful, I am confident, I am…, I can… and I will… . Then say these things out loud to yourself three times per statement and by the end of the fifth day this will start to convey through your outer self.

You could also do a life S.W.O.T  analysis which is simply an assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities available to you and the threats towards you. Conducted properly you can then decide how your strengths and opportunities will prevail over your weaknesses.

In life you only have three options: “Give up”,  “Give in” or “Give it all that you’ve got”.  Only you can decide your future.

With that I wish you good will and good luck!

If you are a life coach, please feel free to add your comments!



Follow Us!


Recent Posts

Recent Comments