It’s time to excel (at Excel)

I am delighted to announce that I have now got over a quarter of a century’s experience in the use of Excel. It is the first analytical package I used during my university studies and I have used it ever since.   I had a brief flirtation with Lotus 1-2-3 back in the mid 1990s (remember that one?) and have more recently dabbled with Apple’s Numbers but my loyalty to MS Excel is unwavering. 

It permeates my work life on a near daily basis and has even found room for use in my home life. My wife refers to me as ‘the spreadsheet geek’, amongst other things, and the tool is used at home for everything, from monitoring how my football predictions are going (conclusion, not very well), budget planning for our wedding or holidays, to Xmas card lists.  Yes I am proud to admit, I am a spreadsheet geek. 

It seems that I am not alone – Forrester research has found that 81% of businesses use Excel. Data Science purists will tend to look down their noses at Excel and want to demonstrate how you can do a lot more with Python or R, but these are not really tools for the masses. There are a number of excellent Business Intelligence (BI) tools, such as Tableau and Power BI, to help with distribution of fancy dashboards across the whole organisation, but Excel will always be a staple tool for data collection, aggregation, visualisation and analysis.

A good analyst will have a toolkit of software applications at their disposal and their choice will depend on the amount of data analysed, the time needed to get results, and the intended output/audience for the analysis.  There will always be a need for Excel. 

Choose the right training for you 

A year ago, we started planning our first formal training course in Excel.  Excel does not tend to be taught at University, or even at School or College, and so most people gain their Excel skills from learning ‘on the job’.   We had feedback from a number of our recruitment clients that Excel knowledge is rather lacking amongst graduates and saw the need to create some content for students. 

It is fair to say that there are plenty of online resources (free and paid for) that provide training in Excel, which serve a purpose for some.  A lot of these courses tend to focus on the volume of their content, covering a wide range of features across many hours of learning.  I personally struggle to stay focused on my favourite Netflix series, never mind watching someone speak on a pre-recorded video about a range of features and functions that I will never use outside of the training class. 

With most people being time poor we have decided to create a course that offers participants minimal investment of their time and maximum output for their learning.  In planning the course we took a representative sample of client businesses and contacted analytically focused individuals at those companies to better understand the most commonly used Excel features and functions. This is what we cover in the course. 

The Theory and the Practical 

We have taken on board our learnings from other training courses and have adapted our content accordingly.  Each participant on our Excel course will benefit from the following: 

  • 5 x 1 hour workshop sessions (via Zoom) where we run through all the required features and functions (with plenty of breaks in between). 
  • A deliberately restricted number of delegates to ensure that learning is optimised.
  • A set of clear and concise slides that outline the capability and syntax of each feature and function. 
  • An opportunity in the session for participants to try out each function using some training data. 
  • Further live demonstrations from the tutors on how to implement each function if required to re-inforce understanding. 
  • A detailed session into Excel best practice and hints and tips to make your workflows more efficient. 
  • A formal document (Spreadsheet) that covers each function and also provides examples of the uses/outputs. 
  • A self-study ‘real world’ exercise (typically taking between 2-4 hours) which tests each participants’ understanding of the workshop learnings and applies them to a test that closely mimics the type of request that an analyst may get in the workplace. 
  • For this exercise the tutors are available for support (via email, phone or Zoom) and, following submission of the answers, will provide each participant with a grade (pass or distinction) and constructive feedback. 

From Face to Face to Remote Training 

Our technical training courses have traditionally been delivered face-to-face in a training suite or lab.  We have re-purposed this course to be able to deliver it via live video conferencing (Zoom) and in doing so have been able to offer additional benefits to participants: 

  • Value for money – additional overheads, such as travel, room hire, lunch and refreshments are eliminated allowing us to offer the course at a very competitive price. 
  • Available to all – face-to-face courses will always restrict access for some due to travel practicalities.  In today’s ‘new age’, where travel will likely need extra justification (particularly on public transport), this means that participants are able to do the course in the comfort of their preferred location (be it home, office or co-working space). 
  • Scale of tutors – We tend to operate with 2 tutors per session.  One will be delivering the training whilst the other will be responsible for workshop management tasks: admitting participants, helping with any technical issues and monitoring the chat.   Whilst we do deliberately restrict the number of participants, it also means that we could get extra help on board to teach if required. 
  • Recording of sessions – All the workshops are recorded and shared with participants immediately after the session.  This means that those participants who are unable to attend a session (it sometimes happens) will be able to catch up, and those who are wanting to go over learnings again in their own time and at their own pace are able to do so.  It also negates the need for much in the way of participant note taking which means more time to dedication to understanding and application. 
  • Flexibility of courses dates and times – We are able to offer courses to suit participants’ availability, be it a full daytime course or over a series of evenings. 

Different Base, Different Pace 

The pre-requisites for the Excel course (aside from a Mac/PC running a recent version of Excel, plus the ability to use Zoom) focus on a basic to intermediate knowledge of Excel.  In any course it is rare for all participants to have exactly the same knowledge from the outset and we also recognise that pace of learning does differ from person to person.  We structure the course so that the very basic Excel training is done in the very first session and this isn’t compulsory for those who are at an intermediate level.  The course deliberately builds in complexity through the 5 workshops at which point all participants will have a renewed confidence in their own Excel skills.  

Whilst it would be unfair to adjust the pace of the content to the quickest or the slowest participant we deliberately plan the content to allow for extra time for further explanation and questions – so the sessions don’t tend to be rushed or overburdened with learnings.    

Those who are naturally slower, I would argue, prefer the online course as it is easier to discreetly take it at your own pace.  Face-to-face courses make that much harder.   They have the fallback of the recording and slides and we are also available for one-to-one support on the very rare occasions when specific concepts don’t really seem to be sticking. 

Learn and Adapt 

Each course is delivered live, with no pre-recordings, meaning that we can take comments and learnings from participants and implement changes for next time.   For example, the ‘real world’ exercise is supported with a set of instructions that start off very structured and gradually become less structured as the participant progresses through the answers.  We have now created a specific set of instructions for those intermediate participants, or those who would like to test their knowledge with a slightly harder task.  These instructions are consistently less structured, but participants can be safe in the knowledge that they can refer to the easier instructions if required. 

Excel for the Masses 

It is our view that most people deserve to have a reasonable level of understanding in Excel. Our course focuses on the key features and functions that are most useful for analysis. It arms participants with a range of support materials which will be useful for refresher training as well as ongoing application in their work, home or studies.

It is our mission to deliver the content of this course to a variety of participants, regardless of location, age, academic status and stage of their career.  With over 100 participants successfully completing this course to date we are confident that all will increase their confidence in Excel. 

For more information please click on the links below: 

  1. Course brochure (including details of the content)
  2. Course Dates and Fees

Or contact (07979 756257). 

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Photos by Lukas from Pexels

Class of 2020

Final year GCSE and ‘A’ Level students across the UK will have a range of emotions on the back of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. These groups are to be known in this blog as the ‘Class of 2020’. Our household is no exception, with my stepson in year 13 and due to sit his A levels this summer. This blog takes my experiences and tries to present a balanced view of the issues impacting these two groups of students.

The Longest Holiday Ever 

I recall my school summer holidays with fondness. At the start of the summer the six weeks seems like such an unimaginable expanse of time – so much opportunity to be with friends, go on family holidays and, in my case, spend endless hours playing football in the park or playing computer games. The end of my holiday was filled with great memories but also, regret, at how quickly this 6-week period came to an end. This was over 30 years ago and in some respects things haven’t really changed. Fast forward to May 2020, my stepson still spends time with his friends (albeit online rather than face-to-face) and the communication mode of choice has moved from speaking on the house telephone to a range of digital solutions from Messenger, Discord and Facetime. Tangentially, on the rare occasion our house landline phone rings we all momentarily pause and then carry on with what we were doing, it never gets answered as it is usually automated sales calls.

There are talks of schools opening in coming weeks, which may happen in some capacity for other year groups, but for those with cancelled exams it means that the total amount of time off will likely be at least 23 weeks. The ‘class of 2020’ have already had 6 weeks off. Other year groups have been given homework and have been home schooled but the cancelled exam students have largely been left to do what they want. Some are working to earn money (mainly supermarkets), but, based on my sample of one, it will largely be focused on sleeping, watching Netflix, eating lots and playing computer games.

The Halsall family – My children on the left and step kids on the right

The time should be used for relaxation and recharge but my advice to students would be to set some clear objectives in the coming months to ensure that you have some tangible achievements to show from this time off. It could be learning some new skills, for example my stepson has been working through our “Excel for Business Analytics” course and has now gone from an Excel noob (apparently the lingo of youth, meaning beginner!) to someone who is confident about using a range of Excel functions in his future studies. There are plenty of training courses out there – ranging from free to paid for. Is it just me or are Udemy bombarding everyone’s timelines with adverts from sourdough to at home hairdressing?

Use the time to think about what skills may be needed in the next stage in your study or career. For GCSE Students going on to study ‘A’ Levels it would be worth at least ensuring you are familiar with all the content from your GCSE study guides if they are subjects you intend to take next year. For ‘A’ Level students wishing to study at University a topic you have covered at ‘A’ Level you could do the same to ensure you hit the ground running when in your first year at University.

The time doesn’t have to be used to further develop your skills. It could be updating your CV, or if you are wishing to do an Apprenticeship it may be worth researching the types of work you would be interested in and establishing contact with potential local businesses that may be able to offer you something. Now is a good time to speak to a number of people to find out about specific professions (plus you are learning a good skill in being able to speak to a range of people via phone).

My advice is to use the time wisely and remember that this gap may need explaining to potential employers. Demonstrating initiative and clear achievement in this time will set you apart from the competition. Completing Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PC may not be that relevant unless you wish to pursue a career as a games tester!

Grade Regret or Grade Elation? 

Regarding final grades, school teachers are instructed to make a fair and objective assessment of each ‘Class of 2020’ student to be submitted before the end of May 2020. Their grade assessment will take account of any prior exams or coursework in order to make an estimate of each students’ likely grade. This may be subject to further adjustments once submitted to the Examination boards in order to achieve a bell-shaped distribution. I believe that the ‘Class of 2020’ will fall into two distinct camps:

  • The regretful crammers – There are students who only tend to take their final exams seriously (possibly fuelled by a late realisation that these are quite important) and were aiming to at least achieve a grade higher than their predicted grades.   These students are now likely to miss out on higher grades but, conversely, a proportion will always under-perform in their exams and achieve grades below their predicted. 
  • The consistent performers – These are students who show consistent commitment to their coursework and mock exams.  These students are likely to be happy with their grades as it will be reflective of the consistent hard work they have put in.

When the results are published in August 2020 there will be an option for students to appeal their results and students can opt to re-sit in August or Summer 2021.   My advice would be to avoid the time spent on resits if possible, particularly if your actual grades still allow you to continue with your future academic or work plans. 

When will be able to go out for a family meal like this again?

The Class of Covid-19 

It is clearly stated that the final GCSE and ‘A’ Level grades will carry equal status as those issued in previous or future years. What is not known at this stage is whether potential hiring managers and employers will view results from the “Class of 2020’ any differently. I personally think that whilst in the short term there will be the connection with this year when hiring managers are reviewing CVs this will diminish with time. The main focus should be on ensuring that you can demonstrate you used the downtime wisely (see above).

Under examination 

One useful experience that the ‘Class of 2020’ will be missing out on is that of revision and exams. Of course, they will have had to sit informal exams or mocks but this doesn’t fully replicate the experience of actual exams when there are qualifications at stake.

There are some fortunate people (I am not one!) who are naturally gifted at remembering information. These people never seem to have to spend the hours that mere mortals like me had to on revision. This is why it’s advisable to never compare your revision efforts to that of your friends and colleagues. I provided some advice to my stepson when he was sitting his GCSEs when he seemed to be struggling with the concept of revision; it is certainly an art that can only be developed with experience. It is advisable to have a revision timetable (with breaks) and try to stick to it. Then there is the actual revision process which does vary by student. My preferred approach was rote learning: write notes, then condense these notes further, and further again until it was only a few pages of notes per subject and hopefully some of it stuck. Call me old fashioned but I could never revise (or work for that matter) whilst listening to music.

Then there is the examination itself which teaches core life skills in time management and coping under pressure. I just hope that the ‘Class of 2020’ are not disadvantaged for future studies because they have missed out on a significant opportunity to practice revision and exam techniques.

The Anti-Social Network 

Whilst it is too early to tell what medium-term changes Covid-19 will have on our social fabric it is fair to assume that there may be some impacts on the ‘Class of 2020’ after so much time in isolation away from their friends. Before the global pandemic, technology has allowed friends to engage remotely in ways that weren’t possible when I was a teenager. My worry, particularly post Covid-19 is that remote engagement with people may become the norm rather than the exception. This already manifests itself in my stepson pre Covid-19 who will deliberately go out of his way to avoid any face-to-face social interaction if he can. I am sure that his planned trip to University will help him get over this aversion to human interaction.

The class of 2021 

It is also worth saying a few words about those students currently in Year 10 or Year 12. Not only have they had significant disruption to their teaching and learning time in advance of their final year, they are also facing some of the challenges outlined above in terms of revision and exam practice. The other disadvantage will be the lack of past papers for 2020 which are really useful in preparation for their final year. It remains to be seen whether the exam papers intended for this summer (which I assume will have been created) will be released or form the basis of the 2021 exams.

There is no doubt that the ‘Class of 2020’ will be impacted by Covid-19 but I am sure that they will show resilience and adapt to any future challenges in their academic or employment careers.

Image: BobTeddy Images

Coping with redundancy – Last person standing!

(please switch the lights off on the way out!)

This is the final instalment in a series of three blogs tackling the subject of redundancy. Our first blog offered practical advice from an experience coach, Linda Steel. Read: Coping with redundancy: advice from an experienced redundancy and life coach.

The last man standing…

Our second blog was from a candidate whose role had been made redundant and documented their thoughts throughout the process of getting back into employment. Read Redundancy: a first hand account.

This blog is from my own personal perspective and draws on my experiences from over 20 years ago working at the Rank Group where I was one of the last people standing within my department during a round of redundancies.

The Rank Outsider 

Early 1997 marked the year I had my first ever experience with a Recruitment Consultant, and thanks to Linda Steel I moved from DTZ’s property research and started my new role as a Site Location Analyst at the Rank Group – please refer to my blog on How to Win at interviews to hear more about that specific interview process.

I recall meeting with Linda in London and chatting through the role – she had to manage my expectations as I originally wanted to be considered for the senior analyst role which I was clearly under-qualified for. Below is the letter and report that she wrote about me which certainly helped in getting me to interview stage.

Recruiter letter advising that I wasn’t right for the senior role.
Recruiter Report about me from back in 1997!

I joined a 6 strong team known as Site Location Services (SLS), headed up by Andy Thompson (now Chairman of Anytime Fitness UK & Ireland). It was an exciting time – Rank were planning on putting a Leisure World, a unique under-one-roof concept that pulled together a cinema (Odeon) family entertainment centre (Hotshots), Music bar (Jumpin Jaks), Nightclub (Ikon/Diva/Oceana), Casino (Grosvenor) and a Bingo hall (Mecca), into every large town and city in the country. The group were investing in the team, data and technology – critical in providing the insight to make informed location decisions about the concept.

That was until Rank decided to divest its cinema, bar and nightclub businesses and focus on its gaming operations of Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos. Almost overnight the 50 strong property team that had been assembled to a fanfair launch at Odeon Swiss Cottage (addressed by a chain-smoking MD John Garrett with a blatant disregard for the no smoking policy), with a call to action to dominate the UK with Leisure World, had collapsed. Site Location Services would have to reduce its team from 6 to 3 people.

Our Grosvenor Casinos football team. Me front left.
Andy Thompson back row in the middle.

A friend in need 

I recall the nervous anticipation of the outcome of the consultation process on who would remain and who would be let go. There was a lot at stake – this was a new function in Maidenhead (a cost saving exercise known as ‘under one roof’), bringing various disparate head office businesses together. This meant that many people had relocated with their families in order to settle near their new place of work.

The Site Location team had enjoyed a period of 12 months to get to know each other, build the function from scratch, successfully develop a good team ethic and transform the analytical capability that ultimately supported the significant investment decisions of the property function. The six of us were different personalities and experience levels but we all provided something unique to the group. I have personally kept in touch with all members of that team and have made some very good friends (and successful business partners) in the process.

I was one of the ‘lucky’ 3 who would remain in the team – I should have been elated, but I felt like I had also lost out and a certainly element of guilt as I was losing colleagues and good friends. I had to join the other ‘remainers’ to rally round and offer our support to the three who would be leaving. Our support ranged from helping them with CV writing, interview techniques, identifying potential places of employment, and general advice to give them confidence that they would be back in gainful employment in a short space of time.

Capacity Drops, Workload Rises 

Our arrangement of desks in one corner of the open plan office seemed remarkably sparse when our three colleagues left in early 1998. One thing was clear – there would be no let-up in our work schedules, in fact, after a drop of 50% in our delivery capacity, the incoming evaluation requests were not adjusted accordingly. This meant that we were more stretched and less responsive to assess potential sites. It is generally accepted that those who remain are the lucky ones but there is usually a greater burden put on those who remain. We have certainly seen a spike in similar conversations with candidates after a round of redundancy. Redundancy initiatives disrupt the status quo (which can be both positive and negative) and can potentially trigger domino effect changes. It certainly is a good eliminator of complacency or false perceptions about job security!

Is there an end to re-organisation? 

Re-organisation (a posh word for redundancies/cost cutting) is an all too regular occurrence in the working world. Businesses can get too bloated with headcount and may need a re-adjustment, other times it is a change in focus, typically brought about by a change in leadership, that causes the restructure. These changes are sometimes positive (there are always people who are too comfortable in their roles and are not really helping the organisation progress) but often it results in significant knowledge and expertise being lost from the business.

Those that get left behind, some of whom may have been very loyal to the business, can certainly see an erosion of that loyalty, and an increased fear of ‘I might be next’. Re-organisations are usually done in stages and just because you may have survived one round of redundancy it doesn’t always mean you will be immune to future rounds. The converse can also happen where long serving staff, who have come to the end of their usefulness for their current employer (this does happen!), will not actively seek to move in order to get a significant redundancy pay-out further down the line.

Phoenix from the Flames 

The re-organisation at Rank served as a reality check that although as location planning practitioners we may believe that our skills and insights are business critical, the reality is that they are not often seen as such by senior business leaders.

This fear of ‘we might be next’ was certainly one of the drivers behind our decision as the 3 ‘remainers’ at Rank to force our employers to contract out our services back to us in a new entity which would be the start of GeoBusiness Solutions. GeoBusiness Solutions would develop a very credible business throughout the early 2000’s with a number of high profile clients, including Camelot, John Lewis and the Post Office, culminating in a sale of the business in 2005 to MapInfo Corporation. They often say that new business formation peaks during times of recession when circumstances force a change in approach which was certainly the case with us.

Where are they now? 

Sadly, two of the original team of 6 are no longer with us, Ken (we used to call him Captain Birdseye) was the elder statesman of the group who provided necessary skills in CACI’s InSite to the team, and Jon Walker, my long standing friend and business partner who sadly passed away 10 years ago this month. Incidentally, as a mark of respect we are having a collection in his memory and his 3 boys (who were all aged less than 10 years old when he died) have nominated Macmillan Cancer Support as our chosen charity, so if anyone remembers him and would like to make a donation:

My other Rank colleagues have gone on to have very successful careers elsewhere.   

Nielsen joined CACI in March 1998, enjoyed a very distinguished 19 year career there, and now heads up Geospatial at Deloitte. Colin spent 15 years at Yell Group, nearly 4 years at mobile telco provider Three, and is now an Agile Delivery Manager at CGI where he is looking after significant local government projects.  Andy had a stint as head of Head of Location Planning (where he was a casualty of re-organisation there) and has also been responsible for bringing the 24 hour fitness brand Anytime Fitness to the UK and Ireland, where he is currently chairman. 

There is little doubt that redundancy is part and parcel of today’s work environment and it is never a pleasant experience for all those involved, regardless of whether you are one to leave or stay. Clearly uncertainty is not nice and can cause significant stress and worry but all I can say is that once you are through the other side you will never look back.  All the people I know who have been affected by redundancy have gone on to bigger and better things. 

We’d love to hear your views and experience. What did redundancy mean for you?

Author: Steve Halsall

Header image: Photo by Victor from Pexels

Coping with Redundancy: Advice from an experienced redundancy and life coach

This is the first blog in a series of three on Coping with Redundancy. Redundancy is, unfortunately, an all too regular experience in today’s commercial world and a significant cause of stress and anxiety for anyone who has been affected. This series draws on the experiences of three individuals (two guest bloggers to whom we are eternally grateful) and hopefully gives different points of view as well as practical advice if redundancy comes knocking on your door.

First up is experienced life coach (and Headhunter), Linda Steel, who will share her experiences of coaching those who have been made redundant from their roles. More progressive businesses provide redundancy support for their staff which typically involves weekly or fortnightly sessions to help them with everything from honing your CV and Linkedin Profile, planning for your next role, conducting efficient job searches and perfecting interview techniques.

Even today, many people don’t receive this kind of support, advice and counselling. They are left jobless and often feeling lost and unsure about how to proceed. Linda shares her wisdom and counsels on common mistakes, pitfalls and worries faced by those who are made redundant.

Over to Linda…

Most individuals panic at redundancy and often make mistakes by launching into their job search without stepping back. It is natural to gain comfort by working on the tangibles such as the CV as you have something to show – a concrete object. However they need to step back and think through a strategy. This is where a career coach can be so helpful in working with the individual to define unique selling points, plot options and devise a plan.

It is a marketing campaign and needs to incorporate SMART goals:

  • S – specific
  • M – measurable
  • A – achievable
  • R – relevant
  • T – time based

The trauma of losing a job can result in wasted energy, handling the process unprofessionally and can be incredibly emotionally draining. Accepting a job that is not right can take your career down bumpy roads.

The coach meets weekly/fortnightly to give emotional and encouraging support. Sometimes, depending on the state of the job market, suitable alternatives may be necessary.

They might ask the job seekers the following questions:

Do you work to live or live to work?

In other words do you work to finance your hobbies and social life or do you really enjoy your work for its own sake?

Joe, for example, was keen on very active outdoor sports. His three main hobbies were mountain biking, skiing and orienteering. His middle management job was important to him because it gave him the money he needed to pursue these hobbies. He wanted to do one or all of these professionally, but with a young family to support he decided that at this stage in his life they would have to remain as hobbies.

Are you prepared to earn less money and make a major life change?

If your circumstances were to allow, and/or your main reason for working is not material wealth, you could decide you want to lead a simpler, if less affluent, sort of life. Before you give up everything and take the plunge, however, it may be worth trying out your new lifestyle for a short period (at weekends, or while on holiday) to see if it would suit you.

Sometimes giving the proposed change a trial is not feasible, and you just have to take the plunge.

Graham, for example, was a chartered accountant with a major London practice and had a smart car and a salary to match. He read Latin and Greek for pleasure. After about eight years he decided he would give up this particular ’good life’ and go to Oxford as a mature student to read Classics. Now in his final year, he is considering his career choices. One thing he is very sure about is that he will not be returning to chartered accountancy. Graham accepts without regret that if he wants to pursue his love of Classics in his job he will not therefore be able to resume his former lifestyle.

You have many choices and decisions to make

Do you want to continue at the same level in a different industry or job?

Many candidates may have transferable skills that might help them move into a different industry. Don’t feel you have to stay in the industry you know; many job roles don’t require detailed industry experience and you can learn quickly on the job.

Coleen was made redundant from her middle-management job in the knitwear industry at the age of 39. She enjoyed knitwear and was experienced and knowledgeable about it. As a qualified accountant she wanted to find a job at a similar level, preferably in the same industry. She started to look, but could find nothing suitable or interesting.
After about five months with no success she decided to cast her net wider and to look at jobs in other industries. She worked hard at becoming known in recruitment agencies and at networking among friends and associates. She eventually heard of a comparable job at a similar level in the travel industry. Before attending any interviews, she did a good deal of research. At her second interview she had to give a presentation on travel to senior managers, which she found very hard because the industry was so very new to her. She got the job and not only settled into it very well and very happily, but found the industry itself much more fun than the one she had left behind.

Do you want a position that is comparable, more senior or less senior than the one you are in now?

It can be hard to work out exactly what’s best, but have a good hard look at your current situation and decide whether you need a bigger challenge, a more managerial role or perhaps a focus on better work/life balance and step back.

Simon retired from a senior job in insurance in the City of London in his early fifties. Having worked all his professional life in the City, he decided that it was time to stop commuting from Hertfordshire every day. However, he found quite quickly that he had a lot of experience and energy to give, so he looked around for something to do in the local area.
He found a lower-status and less well paid job as a full-time bursar in a local secondary school where he could use his business skills. He is now thoroughly enjoying his ‘retirement’. The benefits have not all been one way, as the school had gained from his commercial skills. His projects have included improving the recruitment and induction procedures for non-teaching staff and introducing appraisals for them, both of which initiatives have improved staff retention.

Could you turn an interest into paid employment or self-employment?

Branching into self employment isn’t for everyone but could you take the leap and live the dream? Doing a job that involves a hobby and something you love doing?

For about five years, Caroline took time off work and worked at weekends because of her interest in training, particularly in women’s development. When she was made redundant from her full time job in the wine trade, she was able to turn her interest into self employment. Within a few years, she had a successful training business.

Are you clear about what you enjoy about your work?

It can help to write down a list of Pro’s and Con’s for the job you’re just leaving. what did you love and what did you hate?

Jonathan started work as an apprentice mechanical engineer, and many of his jobs were highly technical. However, his employers encouraged his interest in, and aptitude for, people management skills, as a result of which he became a works manager. If he were to change jobs now, he would rely less on his technical skills and more on his abilities in dealing with people.

A huge thank you to Linda for sharing her experiences, including some real life examples from job seekers she advised as a coach.

If you can afford to employ a coach it could be a very good move to help you navigate the potential career and life choices ahead of you.

If you’d like to chat through your options with us, we offer free careers advice and even if we do not have a role to currently fit your requirements we can be used as a sounding board to discuss what potential businesses or roles you may wish to pursue.

Email Steve or Paul on or phone +44(0)7979 756 257 / +44(0)7918 653 877.

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Graduate focus – stand out from the crowd

This blog is aimed at providing students and recent graduates advice on their career.

Looking back from what has been a rapid 22 years since I graduated, I was very fortunate to do a degree course that provided modules that really interested me, but also gave me experience in the sector I gained my first role in; I joined GMAP as a Market Analyst in September 1997.

My degree in Geography and Management studies solidified my interest in GIS and spatial analysis and helped me to focus on a more narrow interest in its use within retail and marketing. This led to my first role at GMAP as a Market Analyst, working with Ford motor company, producing spatial interaction models to help them decide where to locate their dealerships.

Don’t panic! There is plenty of time to find the right job for you

Many students today do not know what career they want to go into and there are a mix of those who are balancing the final year of study and looking for roles versus those who are fully focused on their final year of study. It’s easy for me to say, and it depends on your circumstances, but my overriding advice is don’t panic! And if you are feeling a bit lost, Red Tiger Talent offer consultations with students to help them in their careers.

Timing is not that important 

A lot of students get fixated on getting a role that starts in the summer they graduate and depending on plans, this can feel like the ideal scenario. At Red Tiger Talent we get graduate roles coming up throughout the year, and sometimes you are even better placed beyond September, as there is still supply but the demand is lower.

Invest time in your CV 

The next two sections are linked to this section in that you firstly need some good content for your CV. A CV update is usually bottom of your list of priorities, it’s hard to move up your list but it really is time well invested. Also be careful where you get advice – the more people you ask the more advice you will get. The main advice I would give is to try to make sure, for any role you go for, that within 30 seconds of reading your CV the person would like to interview you. Tailor your CV to each role so that you tick 80% of the capabilities and experience boxes they are looking for.

Try and get work experience 

Depending on timing and the course you are on, it is well worth exploring whether you can do a year in industry. Failing that, see if there are modules to allow industrial experience or take your own initiative to get some relevant work experience. There is definitely a very high percentage of students that end up with a 1st class honours after a year in industry as they often learn so much that helps kick-start their final year.

Pick a good dissertation 

This is hard if you still don’t know what you want to do, but if you do know, try and pick a dissertation that will give you some good experience in the careers area you want to go into. I did my dissertation on the use of GIS in an estate agents, which gave me plenty to speak about during my 1st interview at GMAP.

Learn new skills 

You may have limited time but try and pick up some new skills. At Red Tiger Consulting we provide Microsoft Excel Training to students. but also look into free software such as QGIS. You can get a free 2 week copy of Alteryx, which is a very fast-growing piece of software that lots of our clients are using. Also try and give the level of skills you have in each and do not lie about it as you could get found out in an interview or tested on your skills!

It’s a daunting prospect, mixing degree completion with career aspirations, but at Red Tiger Talent we are more than happy to help. If you would like to talk about a career in Location Planning, GIS, Consumer Insight, Property Research or Business Intelligence then please do get in touch.

Author: Paul Halsall

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