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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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Tue 09-Mar-10 20:41:10

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

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>

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,

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


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.

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!

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!!

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.

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.

mrsbaldwin Mon 08-Mar-10 09:47:40

This looks really interesting. Am going to read it all this morning.

Perhaps this is Nic's next book - career makeover for women returners?

GrendelsMum Sun 07-Mar-10 19:36:37

Thank you very much, Nic! There are some really thought-provoking ideas there. And thank you to TheFirstLady for persuading him.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 07-Mar-10 14:30:39

Nic's answers are on this Q&A page.

Thanks to Nic for such thorough answers, and thanks to everybody who posted questions.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 07-Mar-10 11:40:53

Update for those of you waiting for answers.

Nic has sent very detailed responses and we're just pulling them into a page, which should be up on the site later today or tomorrow at the latest.

Will add a link here as soon the page is live.

getawiggleon Wed 03-Mar-10 21:39:04

Hi Nic,

I know the deadline has passed for questions but thought I'd post anyway in case, by chance, you are able to take any more.

I have come up with an idea for my own business which I think is a pretty strong one. Having done some research I have found that someone else has beaten me to the idea. There is obviously room for more than one of these services in the market and this business is so successful that they are looking to expand further across London and also nationally if their press reports are correct.

My question is would you set up and provide competition for an already succesful (and apparently expanding) business even though the service is currently under-represented in the market -ie they are experienced and are expanding - would it be wise to compete?

And would you recommend pursuing an idea in London (where the current competition exists) or starting somewhere else in the country where I know there could potentially be a demand (even though I think that London is probably the most obvious target market)

Also, what is the most important element to focus on in my initial business plan? Would it be financials (eg sourcing of) or outlining the type of service/s we would provide/ sourcing suppliers etc?

Many thanks (if you have time to squeeze another one in, that is!)

notnowdarling Sun 28-Feb-10 14:29:14

Hi Nic

Just after a bit of feedback on an idea I've got for a career change, (and would welcome feedback from others too). Thinking about coaching, specialising in women returning to work. Am currently training as a coach, and applying it within the organisation I work in, but wondering what the market would be like for doing this part time. Ladies, would you pay for this kind of coaching (obviously it was good)?

skiffler Thu 25-Feb-10 19:51:13

Like phdlife, I have a non-career in academia. I've been on a series of fixed-term post-doc contracts and even if there were any permanent lectureship jobs around at the moment (unlikely given the current state of HE funding) my publication record, the only thing anyone really looks at, is not fantastic and pitted with gaps corresponding to maternity leave and working part-time.

Unfortunately, I have never really found anything I enjoy as much as academic research. Obviously I've invested a fair amount of time and effort on qualifications etc, but it looks increasingly like my career is going nowhere, and I don't have the time resources to give it the kick-start it needs. So my question is, is there a point at which you should give up on trying to achieve your dream, and if so, how do you know when you've reached it and how do you find something else and overcome the idea that you're settling for second-best?

fatarse Thu 25-Feb-10 19:33:31

My question is simply, should you ever just say, "I'm too old to change career now?" I'm just about to return to work after my first baby and I'm 37 this yea. By the time I've re-trained in a professional career (I'm interested in studying law), I'll be in my 40's and competing with high flying twenty-somethings! I have a feeling big corporates wouldn't touch a forty-something trainee!

coxiegirl Thu 25-Feb-10 19:09:48

Oh sorry meant to say also have trained in reflexology and a couple of other complementary therapies and would love to set up on my own but not sure I could crack a market big enough to make an income like I could in nursing.... have also thought about teaching like many others here, but am aware I really enjoy training/studying and could go on ad nauseam without ever actually starting paid employment...

coxiegirl Thu 25-Feb-10 18:48:47

Find myself in a similar position to lots of the posters on here - qualified as a mental health nurse and loved it for 9 years, then moved and worked with a small and very unfriendly/unsupportive bunch who made it quite clear they didn't like me from day 1. Had 2 miscarriages while I was there and decided to leave, quickly had DCs 2 and 3 - now haven't worked for 3 years so I'd need to requalify...
I really lost my confidence working with that last team (note to self: next time someone says at interview "We're a really friendly team!" run like hell) - coupled with few years trapped staying at home with the children, now I'm not sure whether to retrain and go back to a job I did, once, enjoy, or.... and I'm 40 now and pensions etc seem like a really big deal all of a sudden!
Ta for any suggestions.

Tee2072 Thu 25-Feb-10 15:45:36

My maternity leave is just about over and I do not want to return to my previous career, or rather job, as a personal assistant.

I have a degree, from aeons ago, in Graphic Arts. I have kept up to date with it and know the latest technology even though I have never actually 'practiced' to borrow a word from the medical profession!!

How hard is it really to set up your own company? My current (hopefully soon to be former) employer has already offered me some contract work for after my leave is up, although not at a rate I'd be willing to work for, but at least its the beginning of a client!!

I'm in Northern Ireland if that makes any difference in your answer!

wannafindajobbutwheretostart Thu 25-Feb-10 07:45:20

Hi Nic

I was made redundant in June last year and now want to find a job. I was working in the banking industry within a call center. I don't want to work at the same level now that I have a child and am planning more in the future. I worked my way up and do not have a degree. I'm in my mid thirties and have never had to look for a job before as I fell into my last job and then just worked up.

So my question, how do I decide what i want to do? Where do i start and how can I get a job hen the last time i looked was 12 years ago?


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