Browse Category: story telling

10 questions to ask yourself before changing jobs (Part 1 of 4 – The Problem)

The Problem

Are you unhappy with your job? Thinking of chucking it all in, sabotaging your colleagues’ work or throwing something heavy at your boss? Or are you contemplating quietly walking out, leaving the country and going to live a simpler life on an island? Thinking of changing jobs is normal for everyone – you have no monopoly on any of these thoughts – but whatever IT is, doing it right is important.

ID-100137247Career progression means changing jobs by definition – but why and how you do it can improve your life or totally screw it up. Changing jobs at the right time for the right reasons and in the right way may seem obvious – but emotions and feelings and irrational thought get in the way and can seriously mess up your career.

I have changed jobs and made a few career changes in my life and some were cleverer than others!

So before you start booking plane tickets, selling the house, moving to or from the big city, emigrating or physically throwing stuff at the boss, why not balance out the loud emotional voices of your feelings with some sober, boring logical stuff.

The first thing to consider when deciding to change jobs is what the Problem is.  Is it you or is it them? Is it the job or the employer? Without knowing what the problem is finding a solution is impossible.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself to find out what the problem is before changing jobs:

  1. Why do you want to change jobs? Make a list of five reasons in no particular order. Write them down. Seriously, it helps.
  2. Do you want to change professions or just change your employer?
  3. Would it be different if you were doing the same thing for someone else? Are you sure? Explain why? Write it down!
  4. Are you in the right job – or just at the wrong place or with the wrong people?
  5. Why did you choose your current career? What attracted you to your career in the first place?
  6. What has changed since? If anything?
  7. Why do you think that is?
  8. Why did you choose your current employer? What attracted you to your current employer in the first place?
  9. What has changed since? If anything?
  10. Why do you think that is?

This is part 1 of a 4 week series. Coming up in the following three weeks are the (really exciting) sequels to this career-based mini-series:

10 questions to ask yourself before changing jobs (The Fix)

10 questions to ask yourself before changing jobs (The Decision)

10 questions to ask yourself before changing jobs (The Deed)


Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane /

How to stay positive when job hunting

You may be in a job you don’t want or you may be unemployed and desperately wanting a job. Either way, job hunting is a thankless, tough task that can take ages. Staying positive is essential to your success and good for your sanity and your relationships!

ID-10076986You need to wake up every morning and believe that that day may be the day that you get that interview, offered that job, or begin your new career. Much is written about the power of positive thinking – because it’s true. Believe it’s possible and it becomes so – be negative and what you say and think will become your reality.

Staying positive is not easy. Battle through – and here are a few types to help:

1. Concentrate on the good things.

Job hunting can include a series of rejection and non-responses. It may cause you to question your ability and this can shake your confidence. Concentrate on what you have achieved in your personal and professional life and why this makes you an asset to an employer.

2. Identify the problem – then fix it.

Work out what part of job hunting is causing the most problems and stress. Maybe you feel that your CV is not up to scratch, or your interview technique needs work. In that case get objective feedback on your CV and rewrite it if necessary. Work on your interview technique with a coach. Prepare for all the obvious interview questions. .

3. Find purpose – and make that more than a pay cheque – (although that is obviously important!)

Try and see finding a new job as a great opportunity for your career. Remember why you are doing it and consider “the next job” as a new chapter in your life.

4. See setbacks as what they – part of the process, not an event or an end destination

When dealing with setbacks you should consider job hunting as a process with ups and downs, hills and valleys. Bad days are not the end – they come with the territory. See interviews and applications and writing bespoke CVs and covering letters as a routine step towards your new job. You will make mistakes and you won’t be perfect every time – you are human. Get over it.  But the process of job hunting will go on. See a failed interview as an opportunity to learn, to develop, to improve. Consider the things that went well and what went wrong – polish and improve an rehearse the former and fix the latter.

5. Do something job-search related every day.

Do something every day, even just one thing, that will help your search – get feedback, hire a coach, read industry content, sending CV’s, research your target company,  network.

6. Do something physical and something with your loved ones every day.

The one keeps you sane and healthy and helps you declutter and decobweb your head. The other should remind you why you are doing this – apart from the obvious hunger in your tummy and the nasty letters from the landlord!  I have been there myself and getting fresh air and exercise gets the heart and the blood moving, takes you away from the computer screen or the TV, gets you showered and dressed and alive again. When you spend time with friends and family don’t focus on you and don’t talk endlessly about the job hunt. Focus on them – no moping and complaining please otherwise you will enter a cycle of negativity and be dull, boring company.


Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

What to ask to understand a company’s hiring procedure

There will probably be an opportunity before your first interview to ask about the company’s hiring procedure. If there isn’t – you should ask, nicely, anyway. It’s a fair question and this knowledge could help you, will give you increased confidence and calm your nerves.

Here are some questions to ask to understand a company’s hiring procedure:

  1. ID-100205959Can you describe the step-by-step hiring procedure?

Most employers and almost all large employers will be happy to explain the procedure to you. Every company has a different way of hiring people and this of course depends on the level you are applying. Barclays used Topgrading for Associate Director and above – am not sure if they still do. You may have competency and group tests and telephone interviews before you even meet someone for a real interview. Then you may have one or several interviews and you may be interviewed on your own or in a group. You may be interviewed by one person or you may be interviewed by two people playing good cop/bad cop or you may be interviewed by a panel. I have been interviewed by a panel once – it was terrifying to start off with – I wasn’t prepared for that and wish I had been.

  1. Will I be taking any tests?

Some companies require job candidates to take certain tests before they are offered the job. This can range between psychological, aptitude, technical, intelligence, maths, abstract reasoning, or physical (drug) test; or a combination of these. By finding out what tests you are taking, if any, where the tests will take place, who will be conducting the tests, and when the tests will happen will allow you to prepare yourself and relax in the knowledge that there will not be a surprise exam. You may also have written tests. This can be a problem for people with dyslexia and an issue that I have worked on with clients increasingly over the years. Dyslexia is bad enough at the best of times but when time pressure is added it gets worse. I have a good friend who has dyslexia and have an idea, as much as anyone can who doesn’t have it, how frustrating it can be. One of my clients had been applying for positions at law firms but kept on having to do (hand)written exercises. We worked on his confidence and then he approached the firm, explained the situation – was given an extra 10 minutes to do the exercise and, most importantly, was allowed to use a laptop which obviously included spell check. He got the job and he and his family were over the moon – but that wouldn’t have happened without asking the questions first.

  1. How long will you make to reach a decision?

Some employers will make a decision on the spot, while others may take weeks. Knowing that a decision will take a week when you think you will find out immediately can spare you the nerves of not knowing when you will find out. This is the least important question to ask – but it will stop the nerves jangling for weeks afterwards.


Image courtesy of nongpimmy /

which words to use

Merton Conservatives Campaign Video

A great campaign video from Merton Conservatives outlining their manifesto pledges and entitled: “Unlocking Merton’s Potential 2014”

It is fun, snappy, tangible and specific. It speaks about real issues and uses short words – like normal people do. I like it.

You can visit their website here.

Should 12 Years a Slave win an Oscar?

Some stories are too important to go untold.

Tonight is the 86th presentation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards, more commonly known as The Oscars.

12 Years a Slave ( has been nominated for 9 Oscars. I watched the film with a friend. The film upset us both – not just for its gruesome content and what it said – but also for what it didn’t say. So we have tried to describe what we feel about the film and about what was left unsaid. We have written individually and Meredith’s post is first, mine follows.

The biggest mistake one could make when watching 12 Years a Slave is to assume it is set in the past.

The overwhelming sense I got as the end credits rolled in 12 Years a Slave was relief, relief that it was over. Over. Not slavery, but the film itself.

Steve McQueen’s latest release from the director’s chair is a attack on audiences sense of squeamishness in the graphic nature of some of the scenes depicted, but crucially also on their humanity over the brutality on display.

Set in 1841 it tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black American, kidnapped and sold into slavery, and how over the course of 12 years, though a constant physical and mental abuse at the hands of his captors, gradually abandons all hope of freedom and whose spirit is finally broken.

The film conjured in me intense feelings of anger, sadness and shame. A phrase I used to describe my feelings afterwards is that “it made me a shamed to be human” – to be even classed in the same category of being as the ‘slavers’ in the film.

However it would be too easy to classify the captors and brutes in this film as ‘inhuman’, ‘not us’, ‘other’; and in so doing side-step the guilt and responsibility that should come with this association. Sadly this behaviour, hatred, and tendency to do evil is all too common in the  makeup of the human condition.

And the uncomfortable truth is that a lot of the scenes and crimes displayed in 12 Years a Slave still occur in the world today. Slavery has not been defeated.

Although the film opens in ‘1841’,  the biggest mistake one could make when watching 12 Years a Slave is to assume it is set in the past.

Modern day slavery, aka Human Trafficking, is still alive in the world today. In your country. In your city. And what is compelling were the direct comparisons with elements of the modern day slave trade. Not similes or allusions but one-to-one correlations  that show that slavery is continuing today in just the same manner as it did for Solomon and hundreds of thousands of other’s in the 19th century.

I worked previously for Avon and Somerset Police, as an intelligence analyst, were I focused on Human Trafficking research. I had direct insight into the state of modern day slavery in Britain today. I have read the case files, read the names of the victims, seen their pictures. It scared me. It has haunted me. It does mean however that I can say with confidence that many of the methods used by the slavers in 12 Years a Slave are just as those used by traffickers and human Labour exploiters today. And the harm is just as great.

In the film Solomon is hoodwinked into traveling with a band of musicians who promise him fame and good wages; much as today’s hopeful victims are promised stable, legal, work abroad. He is ‘made’ drunk, drugged and kidnapped by his new friends –  just as Bradford street children are groomed by abusers. His ‘free-papers’ are taken from him; just as today’s trafficked sex workers have their passports withheld. Transported in cramped wagons or boats; or shipping containers and mini busses, is there really any difference? He is taught to fear all authority, and that the law is against him, removing the will to seek help; just as todays slaves are scared of police and charities’ efforts to help them. And whilst opportunities for physical escape are presented to Solomon every day, he dare not take them for fear of capture, beating, torture, or worse; just like the children in cannabis factory at the end of your road.

It would take only a very small step in imagination, to take the plot of 12 Years a Slave and re-set it in any town or city in the UK in 2014. This film should rightly open many eyes to the horrors of slavery. But do not draw any comfort from thinking it is a documentary into the bad-old-days, and that we live in freer times. Slavery is still with us, we have not defeated it, so we must.

Meredith Lloyd

Meredith is a Conservative political researcher and activist living in London, who previously worked as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst, for Avon and Somerset Constabulary. 


12 Years a Slave should NOT win best film at the Oscars.

12 Years a Slave is memorable for its brutality, flawed in its message, held together by the phenomenal acting of one man and ignores the plight of present day slaves.

Worst of all – it is deceptive in its (hopefully) unintended message that slavery is a detail of history.

Like Satan’s greatest deceit that he doesn’t exist – anything that doesn’t make people aware that according to the International Labour Organization (ILO, 2012) 20.9 million people are victims of forced labour globally, of which 1.5 million are to be found in the developed economies and European Union only.

There are more people in slavery today than in the entire 350 year history of the transatlantic slave trade. 

12 Years a Slave is raw and apparently “experiential”, according to the Director Steve McQueen in an interview on Radio 4 last week, rather than linear or chronological. It jumps about in time which is confusing and disorientating although to be fair I am one of those weird people who prefers to watch a film “cold” rather than reading its online synopsis first.

12 Years a Slave is an ugly film which is unpleasant to watch but you wouldn’t expect anything less from a film on this topic. It was not a nice evening out. I watched it with, and at the instigation of, a friend who is also interested in the fight against Human trafficking and who has worked with the police on Human Trafficking.

If we hadn’t been interested in the theme we wouldn’t have gone. If it hadn’t been for my interest in the topic, I am not sure I would have stayed to watch the whole thing. It’s the sort of film you would feel guilty for leaving before it ended. Watching it was like a penance. Neither of us would watch it again.


  • Entertainment value was 0/10.
  • Shock value was 15/10  – even for people acquainted with the subject.
  • Educational value – ok if you see this as an historical  episode for the history class – but no actual data or message apart from the story of this one man was given.
  • Educational value – 0/10 if you are trying to transfer the knowledge that there are 1.5 million individual people who are victims of slavery TODAY – right now, on this day in March 2014 – in the UK and Europe. And another 20 million world wide.

I guess I would be far more sympathetic to the film if the Director had misquoted Stalin “The slavery of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic – and millions are enslaved in the world today!”

But the film didn’t.

The parallels between what happened to Solomon Northup and what happens to other ‘free’ people bought and sold in 2014 now are huge.

  1. The tricking and deceiving of victims by false promises, “boyfriends”, the use of alcohol, drugs, threats and beatings.
  2. The quiet complicity of other slaves, staff and spouses and families of masters.
  3. The way new slaves cling to the word “live”, then compromise with “survive”.
  4. The inertia and inability of slaves to help each other and to escape and the need for understanding and support from the authorities.
  5. The fact that having papers endows humanity, nationality, “privilege”. In Africa, not having your  “situpa” was a bad place to be for black people – another bad episode in history. However, right now in the UK, human slaves are deprived of their passports and forced to work for little or no money and kept as slaves.
  6. The wagon that transported the slaves in the film is not substantially different to the containers that slaves are often transported in today – just more visible.
  7. The fear of authority and the fear to report and the fear to appeal for help are all mirrored in the slaves of 2014.
  8. The mental imprisonment of the soul and the will of the slave. In the film this was shown by him being allowed to go shopping while so cowed that he didn’t dare to ask for help from a shop keeper. UK police fighting Human Trafficking/Modern Day Slavery tell of how this slavery without physical restraint – this ultimate submission, cowed by fear, exists today.
  9. Slaves harming other slaves – this is as true today as it was in the past with some slave “managers” being former slaves and some brothels being run by former prostitutes.
  10. The scary proximity of the slave huts to the main residence in the film. This nearness is also a fact of today. We see (but do not see) these faces of people who belong to other people on the tube. Some of these faces work in fancy houses in London. Some of these faces work in kitchens of restaurants and takeaways just down the road from you and I.  Within a mile of most people in metropolitan and suburban Britain there are likely to be victims of trafficking sleeping, surviving and being forced to work in expensive kitchens, prepare food in smily-fronted restaurants, or lie naked on their backs waiting for the next punter to hands over a few crumpled £20 notes. Human meat. Bought, owned, sold and resold – no receipt given. Child trafficking, sexual slavery, trafficking for forced labour and domestic servitude are alive and well. In the United Kingdom. In 2014.

That these facts are still true is a disgrace. It is current and real and must be said again and again.

All of these things could and should have been said in this film. Even with just a short fact sheet at the end. And a call to action. None of them were. That is a tragedy and a missed opportunity. Which is why I do not think this film should get Best Film.  Although we are both properly pleased that this British American film has been nominated 9 times.

But Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance should win him Best Actor.  I repeat. Nothing should take away from the phenomenal performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor. He brilliantly portrays the anguish felt at the hands of his oppressors and how hope can literally abandon the human spirit with crushing realism.  That performance should definitely win him Best Actor.

Peter Botting

Interview preparation coaching is personal

There are many brilliant things about my job. Campaigning is great fun and helping businesses and charities develop and deliver their stories is challenging and rewarding. But helping candidates prepare for interviews has to be the best part of my job. Getting the jubilant text or phone call is one hell of a buzz – whether it’s from a graduate getting their first job or an established executive making a successful career change.

What is quite funny is that no-one is ever “cool” about getting a new job. Both first-timers and alleged grown-ups totally lose any semblance of composure when they contact me – they generally sound as if they are bouncing around on a pogo stick. Interview preparation is so personal, so immediate, so black and white – it’s simple. Like sport. You win or lose. You punch the air or you are thrown to the floor. My stomach always cramps when I see an incoming call from a client after they have come out of an interview or in the weeks afterwards – I know that I will either be celebrating or consoling.

Yesterday I received this testimonial from a client – he had applied for a job, got it and also negotiated a great package. In fairness he was a great candidate in every way – but like most candidates he wasn’t great at telling his story at all. He was so delighted when he called me that he sounded like a kid who had overdosed on jelly babies and he gave me a fantastic and symbolic thank you gift as well! I was over the moon too – a happy day all round!

“Peter was an OUTSTANDING and no-nonsense coach. He showed me how to sell my experience at an interview. The interview. For THAT job. Investing in Peter’s coaching obviously worked because I was successful and am absolutely over the moon with my new role. He also guided me through the process of negotiating my salary up which saw an increase of over 35%. I would highly recommend using Peter if you are seeking a new role.”

Head of Public Affairs at a FTSE 100 company.

Interviews can give you nightmares

It is often hard to get to sleep the night before an interview. The next day could literally change your life. That is one of the great things about what I do – my clients come to me to prepare for events that could change their lives. Getting a job, getting selected as a candidate, getting elected to office, getting promoted, buying or selling a business, or pitching for and getting a new big counteract – all of these are life changing events for the people involved. It is a privilege to be part of my client’s lives at these important moments – but it is also nerve-wracking.

So what happens if you have an interview tomorrow? What can you do to improve your chances of changing your life?

  1. Re-read the advert, the job description and the description of what and who they are looking for. They have spent time writing that advert – you would be a fool not to take it seriously and not to re-read it the evening before the interview. If I sound like that annoying teacher from school who says read the question before you start writing – good! If you have done research – re-read it. If you haven’t – do some. Quickly. In the interview you need to focus on what is relevant to them – nothing else.
  2. You should know three point answers to the most basic three interview questions: Why do you want to work here? Why should we hire you? and (the most harmless sounding, yet the most dangerous of them all) “Tell us about yourself.”.
  3. Ignore your CV and don’t refer to it. Your covering letter and your CV got you in the room and are your business card and your introducer. But now YOU have to be “in the room” and you need to shine alone. Talk to the other humans in the room like they are humans – have a conversation with them. Keep your comments tight and don’t witter on with unnecessary details and rubbish – but speak to them like one person speaking to other people.
  4. Dress smartly, breathe from the bottom of your belly and smile when you are speaking. Look and sound as if you actually want the job. THis might win you the interview.
  5. Use case studies from your personal experience rather than empty claims. Why should they believe your claims to be hard working, conscientious, honest, brilliant? Claims are discarded – case studies and evidence stick.


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