How having a mentor can increase career opportunities


Mentoring is a fantastic method of improving career development. It can help employees achieve great results, improving job satisfaction and increasing career opportunities. It can also enable businesses to increase productivity and retention.

Many businesses are now using mentoring schemes to help develop the careers of their employees. It can be hugely beneficial, improving both business performance and reputation as well as enabling individuals to pursue fulfilling and rewarding careers.

Without a mentor, an individual can start to feel lost within their career and perhaps lose some control over their career development. This can lead to a decrease in job satisfaction and increased stress at work. The worst-case scenario may be that the employee leaves the organisation feeling negative about both their employer and career.

The use of a mentor can be such a simple and effective way of preventing occurrences of this worst-case scenario. A mentor can really help individuals to maintain control of their careers whilst improving their performance and skills.

You may be thinking that this sounds similar to coaching but it does differ in that the mentor is a trusted adviser and teacher with experience in a specific field and knowledge of a particular organisation whereas a coach uses an objective process to enable an individual to achieve goals and overcome challenges they face. In fact, coaching and mentoring can really complement each other.

Who should be my mentor?

A mentor must be a more experienced colleague who is willing to share their skills, knowledge and experience to assist the career development of others. In choosing the right one for you, ensure they have relevant experience that will be of benefit to you. It is also important that you feel you are able to trust and respect their advice. Your mentor should not be your line manager as your manager will have expectations of what you should do and may not allow for opportunities to broaden your thinking in an open and honest way.

Another important consideration is the network of your mentor. Do they have a wide circle of contacts and will they be open to introducing you to new contacts? Networking is of course another great way to advance career development.

If your organisation does not have a mentoring scheme, perhaps talk to your line manager about the possibilities of you having a mentor. Discuss some of the benefits as outlined above as well as showing how it demonstrates your commitment to your career development and performance.

Mentoring is a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee and schemes should be implemented in all organisations to ensure success against competitors in this tough economic climate.

Create a winning CV NOW!


It’s all about making your CV stand out from the crowd.

It can be difficult drafting a great CV, particularly if you haven’t had the need to use one for a while.

What’s the best format? How long should it be? How do I explain a gap in employment?
There are so many questions to answer and, without proper thought and preparation, it can be easy for these to remain unanswered causing mistakes to be made.

Here are just 5 of the most common CV mistakes:

  1. Failing to list achievements.

Remember you are not drafting a job specification. Avoid simply listing the responsibilities for your job.

  1. Being too general.

If you ‘managed projects’, state how many, what they were and give an example of when you really achieved in managing a project. Make sure all detail you provide is relevant to the job.

  1. Mentioning why you left a job.
  2. Lying – you will be caught out!

…and the most common mistakes are…

  1. Spelling mistakes and typos.

Saying you started your current role in 1910 and that you’ve got ‘good attention to derail’ will not impress!

Make your first impression a good impression.

How to have a successful job interview


You have applied for a job and made it to interview stage – congratulations! Now is the time to demonstrate to your interviewers how brilliant you are.

How do you do this?

You spend time preparing for your interview to ensure you make the most of this opportunity.

Here are some useful topics for you to think about whilst making your preparations:

  1. Practical steps
  • Know the time and place of the interview.
  • Do you need to confirm your attendance?
  • Find out who is interviewing you and the type of interview (e.g. will it be competency based?).
  • Ensure you have all the paperwork requested and take a copy of your CV/application.
  • Have you got an appropriate outfit to wear?
  • Take with you a contact telephone number, map and the interview confirmation letter.


  1. Research the company

Use the internet and your contacts to find out about the company. How is it developing? Why do you want to work there? What are the major challenges facing the company?

  1. Key points

Outline the key points you would like to get across during the interview in line with the job description, highlighting key aspects of your experience, qualifications and skills.

  1. Typical questions

Prepare answers to typical interview questions. For example, define your key attributes and provide examples of when you have demonstrated these.  In response to competency questions, consider examples that relate to the job you are applying for. For example, if you need to influence people think of an example when you have won someone over in a way relevant to the role.

  1. Difficult questions

Prepare persuasive answers to difficult questions. These could be relating to weaknesses or gaps in employment.

  1. Questions for the interviewer

Prepare a couple of constructive questions to ask the interviewer.

  1. Rehearse

Find a trusted friend or relative to practise your answers with.

Imagine how great you will be in the interview having spent time preparing answers in line with the above points compared to a candidate who has quickly read through the job specification the night before. Preparation is definitely the key to success

What are the most common interview questions?


I thought it would be useful for me to set out some typical interview questions to assist with your interview preparation. These are only a selection of the questions you may get during an interview but should provide you with a starting point.

  1. What are your weaknesses/strengths?
  2. What was your greatest achievement in your job?
  3. Explain a situation when you have had to deal with a difficult person.
  4. How do you motivate people?
  5. Why is there a gap in your CV?
  6. How do you go about problem-solving?
  7. If you were going to start your career again, what changes would you make?
  8. Tell me about yourself.
  9. Why do you want the job?
  10. What are your ambitions?
  11. Describe a difficult decision you had to make. Would you make the same decision again faced with the same situation?
  12. How do you go about motivating yourself?
  13. What qualities can you bring to the job?
  14. What achievements in your life are you most proud of?
  15. How do you feel about supervising people older than you?
  16. How would you deal with a situation when you are not in agreement with the rest of the team?
  17. How do you respond to change?
  18. What experiences most influenced your development as an individual?
  19. What do you know about this organisation and why do you want to work here?
  20. How do you react to pressure?


Competency Questions

The other types of questions you may get at interview are competency questions. As stated in my previous blog, in response to competency questions consider examples that relate to the job you are applying for. For example, if you need to influence people, think of an example when you have won someone over in a way relevant to the role. The following structure should help you to prepare answers for these types of questions:

  1. Objective
  2. Need/problem
  3. How you met the need/resolved the problem
  4. What was the outcome/benefit?
  5. What you learnt from it and what you would do differently next time.

Remember, preparation is the key to success!

Things to avoid during an interview


You will find below a list of some of the things to avoid during an interview which I hope will be of use to you.

  1. Do not be late. Ensure you allow yourself plenty of time to travel to your interview. First impressions are crucial.
  2. Do not criticise your current employer/boss. Be professional. Your interviewer might wonder what you would say about their company if you were to get the job as well as view you as a negative person.
  3. Do not lie. For example, do not cover up gaps on your CV. You will be caught out at some stage, particularly when references are requested. Instead, prepare constructive responses to questions regarding gaps and be honest. You do not want to raise suspicion.
  4. When you are asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview, do not simply say ‘no’. Ensure you have prepared a good question to ask (even if you already know the answer!).
  5. Do not talk too much. You are at risk of waffling and saying the wrong thing. Keep to the point.
  6. When asked why you want the job, sell yourself. For example, do not say ‘because it is closer to home’. Sound like you really want the job.
  7. When asked for weaknesses, do not say that you don’t have any. Prepare an answer to this question and turn your weakness into a positive.
  8. Do not interrupt. Listen carefully to the questions and take a breath before giving your answer. There is no need to rush.
  9. Do not ask for days off. You can have this conversation when they make you an offer.
  10. Do not talk about salary unless the interviewers raise this topic during the interview.

Carrying out thorough preparation will prevent you from making mistakes such as these during an interview and increase your chances of success.

Stand out from the crowd – How to write a great LinkedIn profile


LinkedIn is a powerful tool allowing you to have a professional presence in the world. It provides the opportunity for you to tell other professionals what you can do and what you can offer.

Do you have a LinkedIn profile and does it represent you in the best way?

Having a LinkedIn profile is fast becoming an essential professional requirement. You now have to assume prospective employers will look at your online presence before approaching or hiring you and if your LinkedIn profile is out of date or poorly written, it could potentially close doors. Who would want to employ someone who does not spell correctly in their shop window?

It is therefore really important that you spend time completing your profile. To assist, I have provided some hints and tips to help you write a great LinkedIn profile.

Some initial thoughts:

  • Make sure your CV and online profile match (consistency around dates is particularly important).
  • Think about your brand. Does your profile match the kind of jobs you are applying for?
  • Complete every section of your profile.


Your profile


The headline appears directly under your name and will be the first thing people read about you. It will also appear when people search for you and decide whether to click onto your profile. To make it more compelling, include a short description of your role as well as your job title.

For example, my headline reads:

‘Career Coach, Specialist in Career Change & Career Development – Achieving the best career path for you.’

You should also upload a professional photo of yourself.


Make life easy for a potential employer by using this section to tell them about what you can do, including your achievements. This is your chance to sell yourself in 2,000 characters. To give potential employers an even better chance of finding you include keywords which you know your industry uses. The more you use these keywords within your profile, the higher you will rank for that term in the search results

Perhaps include your contact information in this section (otherwise your contact details do not appear until the end of your profile).

Experience, Skills, Publications and Education

Include all relevant employment and education in these sections as well as your skills and publications.   If your CV is up to date, simply copy and paste the information.

Additional Sections

There are many additional sections to choose from, the most important being the ‘Volunteer Experience and Causes’ section. If you do any relevant voluntary work, add this section to your profile using the ‘Add Sections’ link. Relevant voluntary work will make your profile stand out even more.

Additional Information

This section gives you the opportunity to link to your website, blog, twitter account and any other sites providing professional information about you. Do not provide links to social networking sites used on a personal basis.


This is your chance to request recommendations from people who have worked with you. Make sure you personalise your requests rather than using the standard LinkedIn wording.

 My final tip is to make your profile public to ensure people can find you – market yourself and show potential recruiters what you can do!

Why you should have a LinkedIn account


LinkedIn is a powerful social networking tool which will expand your network and enable you to stay ahead in your career.

I am always surprised when someone tells me they don’t have a LinkedIn account because they can’t see the point. There are lots of reasons why you should be on LinkedIn and here are just five of them.

  1. Employers and recruitment agencies are now using LinkedIn as a headhunting tool. It is an easy way for them to find out about you and make contact with you.  Even if you are not actively seeking a job, you may be approached and may be offered an even better job with more money. If you are not on LinkedIn, you are closing the door to these opportunities.
  2. Many employers now automatically download a candidate’s LinkedIn profile when they apply for a job. Your LinkedIn profile gives you another opportunity to tell them what you can do and what you have achieved.
  3. Group discussions on LinkedIn can enhance your knowledge on topics you are interested in and create job opportunities.
  4. You can build a large network of contacts. Imagine you are made redundant next year. Who would you turn to for help? Is your current network big enough? LinkedIn is a hassle free way of networking and can connect you with past colleagues, friends and acquaintances.
  5. LinkedIn is an online CV which must be kept up to date in order for you to get the most out of the social networking tool. This means that when you are actively looking for a job you will always have an up to date CV to hand.

Without LinkedIn in your life, you are missing out on a whole world of opportunity to connect with people with similar interests. Start building your LinkedIn profile now and use my blog on writing a great LinkedIn profile to assist.