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Q&A with Nic Paton, author of The Complete Career Makeover

(63 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 22-Feb-10 11:51:26

Do you dream of making a complete career change, but need some help taking the first step?

If so, help is at hand! Come and put your questions to Nic Paton, author of The Complete Career Makeover, which was published last month.

Nic is an award-winning journalist who writes predominantly on business, employment, education, money and health, for titles such as The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, The Independent and The Sunday Times, as well as a range of other publications and websites. He has also contributed to The Guardian Postgraduate Guide.

We've got five copies of Nic's book to give away to people who take part in the Q&A.

Just post your question here by Saturday 27 Feb and we'll post Nic's answers a week later.

A bit of background info: Nic works from home and lives in Barnstaple in north Devon, though he says he has, as yet, failed miserably to stand up on a surf board. He's the father of three girls aged 12, 10 and 7 and, away from the day job, is also studying part-time for an MA at Exeter University.

Nic will be following the thread from today, so please ply him with questions about how to go about giving your career a makeover.

claraquack Mon 08-Mar-10 12:39:59

Thanks Nic - I have read your reply to my question and will now try and read all the others. This is all incredibly helpful.

TheDailyWail Mon 08-Mar-10 20:23:08

Thanks Nic. I'll pass on your advice to my friends, they're so desperate to make the break from my old work but really didn't now how to start.

ApuskiDusky Mon 08-Mar-10 21:40:13

Just wanted to say thanks very much Nic - your answers are way more detailed than I was expecting, and really helpful. On with the next steps!!

GoingPostal Tue 09-Mar-10 10:53:36

Just wanted to add my thanks (have de and re registered since posting hence different name) - really interesting and useful answers.

Many thanks for your time. I will be ordering your book!

TheFirstLady Tue 09-Mar-10 11:52:21

Don't order it yet, GP, Mumsnet have five copies to give away!
Getawiggleon - Nic is snowed under with deadlines at the moment but I know he is planning to answer your post on this thread when he gets a chance.

KLDS Tue 09-Mar-10 12:07:13

Thanks Nic,

I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my post. Good luck with the book.

Kind regards


NicPaton Tue 09-Mar-10 12:43:28

Hi everyone,
Just to say thank you all for your kind comments and I'm very glad you found my suggestions helpful, as that's always a relief! It was really interesting to hear about the very varied issues you were having to deal with.

Getawiggleon I haven't forgotten about you, I'll aim to get some thoughts up for you in the next few days if I can, as I think you have a very interesting dilemma there.

Good luck everyone, I hope you all manage to get to where you are trying to get to. Don't be put off!

All the best,

TheDailyWail Tue 09-Mar-10 17:00:24

Nic - I sent your reply to 4 of my friends who I knew were going through the worst time at work.

I've spoken to 2 of them today and they said that it was hard advice but good advice and probably was the push that they needed. One of them has applied for a new job today and is being proactive about the situation she's currently in.

Thanks for answering so many of our questions.

<Votes for Nic in the MN election>

getawiggleon Tue 09-Mar-10 20:41:10

Thanks, Nic - very kind of you. That would be very much appreciated!

NicPaton Wed 10-Mar-10 13:06:22

Hi getawiggleon,
As promised, here are some thoughts. On the taking on a competitor issue, clearly when you are starting out in business, having a clear run at a market is much more preferable but the reality is most of the time there will be competitors in whatever area you are going into - which to an extent is good because it shows there is at least a market there! The issue I'd imagine is how big and dominant they are already. If they're only starting out, however upbeat they may be on paper, there's no guarantee they will succeed or fail (anymore than you) and your product and your way of operating may end up running rings around them or vice versa. It'll be very hard to tell until you're up and running. You may, too, a bit cheekily even be able to build on their hard work in getting the market established! But it might also be a good idea to work out whether there is any way you can position your idea differently - it may be price (though that can always prove problematic in the long run in terms of if you start at rock bottom it can be hard ever to go upwards), or in terms of quality, personal service, customer demographic and so on. So if you think there is room for more than one operator, particularly if one of you is even just slightly different, it may not be too great an issue that there is a competitor. But it will simply be a case of some hard market research and speaking to as many people as possible.

As to whether setting up in another area in competition might be good, it's the same answer really. Yes of course if you can get it established somewhere where they are not it will turn the tables, but if London is the key market, then by ignoring that will you do your business longer term damage in that when it comes to expanding into London (as you will clearly have to at some point) will you find the market all sewn up already? So lots to ponder, but ultimately the fact someone is already doing it shouldn't put you off in principle I'd have said. But it does mean you have to think it through carefully, and recognise that any half-decent small business bank adviser will want to be discussing this in detail before they lob any money in your direction!

With the business plan, again I cover this in some depth in the book, but essentially there's a lot of mystique around a business plan but, in fact, it should be quite straightforward document. What it should include is an executive summary, a short description of the business, your marketing, sales and promotional activity (and many people actually recommend that a separate marketing plan is a good idea these days), information on who is going to be running the business, your operations and financial forecasts. Organisations such as BusinessLink have a lot of good information on what you should put in a business plan and how to present it.

Other key points are steer away from jargon, keep it short and clear and be realistic both about what you are going to need (don't forget you'll need to live as well as make it work) and what you reckon you are likely to make from it. If anything at the moment, erring on the side of caution when it comes to projections is the way to go - after all no bank manager is going to get uptight if you exceed your projections!

I hope that helps, fingers crossed, and good luck with it!

getawiggleon Wed 10-Mar-10 21:22:06

Wow! Thank you so much, Nic for taking the time to reply at such length. Your comments and advice are extremely useful and very much appreciated.

I will check out BusinessLink and get working on that business plan (whilst also trying to come up with a USP!)

Thanks once again.

TheHouseofMirth Fri 12-Mar-10 21:25:00

Nic, a rather belated thank you! You've given me the encouragement to actually take some action. Good luck with the book.

skiffler Tue 16-Mar-10 20:06:59

Another belated thanks - real life has taken over recently, and I've only just got back to check up on this thread. Your comments are very thought-provoking, and I think I'll stick in there for the time being - as long as it still is my dream!

Thanks very much for taking the time to reply.

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