New Wave of Entrepreneurs or No Other Choice?


First Published

The economy is on the up, unemployment is on the down but is the decrease in unemployment all that it seems to be? With the news that the number of unemployed people is falling and the government hailing the success of its tax reductions as one of the reasons could the real reason be because of an increase in people registering as self-employed?

New research according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) nearly 4.2 million people listed themselves as self-employed over the last quarter of a year, this number has increased by 84, 000 from the previous quarter and is the highest figure since records began back in 1992.  Is this a positive trend with more workers becoming entrepreneurial? Has the recession inspired a greater generation of business minded workers, keen to set up for themselves?

Unfortunately not, economists say that this rise masks the fact that people cannot find permanent work and means that the drops in levels of unemployment are not a true reflection on the state of the economy.  Recent research has said that there is a noticeable increase in the number of ‘odd jobs’ being taken up such as cleaners, handymen, nannies and taxi drivers.

Who is Becoming Self Employed?

Gerwyn Davies, policy adviser at from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), was quoted as saying: “A rise in self-employment may, in itself, be a good thing, however previous analysis from the CIPD found that the recent rise was less a sign of a resurgent enterprise culture, and more evidence of a growing army of part-time ‘odd jobbers’ desperate to avoid unemployment.”

However this hasn’t been the entire story with an increase in professional workers occurring as well. Many accountants and office administrators also became self-employed working on contracts rather than employees of companies. In fact administrative and secretarial self-employed people rose by 52% this is in contrast to service occupations (such as cleaning etc.) which only rose by 31%.

Chris Grayling, the employment minister, welcomed the rise in self-employed people but did warn that the economy was still facing challenges.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said in a statement: “We know the harsh economic climate is having a huge effect on the amount of work that those fortunate enough to have a job are able to get, with over three million people saying they would like more hours than they currently have. Ministers brush away these concerning by saying that there are more people in work than ever before. What’s not clear though is how many of these new jobs actually offer secure and regular paid work, let alone enough hours to make ends meet.”

Only Negative?

Not everyone thinks that these numbers are a negative thing. Much of the increases in freelance workers and self-employed people have been credited to the baby boomer generation and the desire to fit work around having children.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and chief executive of PeoplePerHour, said, “We have seen more than 150,000 new freelancers and micro business owners registering on the website in the past 12 months for a number of reasons….Some people are freelancing to earn a little extra money to supplement their incomes, but most of the people we speak to on the site are freelancing or starting small businesses because of the greater independence and financial freedom that working for themselves offers…What is clear from the survey we carried out is more people are making a career and life choice to go self employed. It’s never been easier to work for yourself.”

The news isn’t therefore all negative. The figures show a generation who want to work for themselves and are not just forced to work for themselves. Although the figures do impact the unemployment numbers and could mask those that are struggling, many are enjoying the freedom that being self-employed gives them.

Self-employment hits 20-year high as people try to avoid unemployment, ONS says

TUC: Self-Employed Figures Are Skewing Our Understanding Of Unemployment Figures

What Do the New Tax Changes Mean for Graduates?

It’s the start of the financial year, so what do the government’s changes actually mean in real terms and will they affect graduates in a positive way?  What does full employment mean and are the tax changes useful for us?


Will the new tax changes result in full employment in Britain?

George Osborne has recently debated over the consequences of the tax cuts and changes to the benefits structure.  His aim?  To make Britain, “the best place in the world for you to find a job.”  He went on to say “I’m making a new commitment…to fight for Full Employment in Britain. Making jobs a central goal of our economic plan.”  On the 1 April business tax was reduced from 23% to 21%.  At the end of this week, from the 6 April your income tax allowance will increase so that the first £10,000 you earn won’t be taxed. This means most people will be around £700 better off. This will benefit all graduates several ways.  Firstly you take home more of the money that you earn and secondly, an aim to get full employment will mean a greater number of jobs generated so a greater likelihood of employment.

Commenting on this Mr. Osborne said that they were, “the biggest cuts to personal and business taxes for two decades.”   He said that this was “part of our long term plan to build a more resilient economy and create jobs.”  This plan is meant to result in businesses, with more money, creating more jobs. George Osborne addressed the BCC (British Chamber of Commerce) Annual Conference, saying that the tax alterations have sent “a huge message to the rest of the world that Britain is open for Business”.  This hopefully means that the recession that we have all experienced won’t happen again.  So in theory graduates can once again graduate with the confidence of finding a job.

What does full employment mean?

It doesn’t mean 100% employment. This would in fact be bad for the economy causing large rates of inflation and risking economic collapse once again. There are many differing definitions of full employment. Unfortunately Mr. Osborne declined to provide his own definition, he did however say,“There is no reason why Britain shouldn’t aim to have the highest employment rate of any of the world’s leading economies. To have more people working than any of the other countries in the G7 group that’s my ambition.”  This would mean that it was more lucrative for graduates to stay and work in Britain rather than go abroad in pursuit of a career.

Whether it’s an employed rate of 80% of the working populace (Labour’s definition) or unemployment being below 5% (an academic definition) the rate at the moment stands at 7.2%.  As a guide, the telegraph reported that   “The lowest recorded level of unemployment was 215,800, or 1 per cent, in July 1955.”

What is next?

The Coalition government want to decrease business tax from 21% to 20% in the following year. In contrast Labour would keep the rate at 21%. Labour wants to freeze business rates for the next few years. They argue that small businesses have suffered and need prioritising.

The Prime Minister  said , “We’ve got to make sure our young people make that transition from school and college to the world of work” The Coalition government plan to do this via a reduction in red tape as well as taxes, hoping that this will allow businesses to create more jobs. The overall expectation is that this will make Britain’s economy sturdier.

So the new tax changes mean that you take home more money each month. Businesses will also have more of their income freed up, which in theory means they can generate more jobs. Jobs that graduates can apply for and begin their careers. Making sure the world knows Britain is a contender in the job market means more graduates retained in Britain, and a stronger more resilient economy.

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Graduate Debt or Tax? 


With the media announcing that most graduates will be paying back their debt well into their 50’s is it time to stop thinking of it as a debt and more of a tax.  After all it automatically comes out of your pay packet and it isn’t something you have to actively pay. If you think about repayments in these terms the amount stops being scary. In a recent visit to a school Nick Clegg told school children to ignore the myths of university being unaffordable saying that, “You can still afford to go to university” Sound advice and something that most graduates would agree with. Although the first year that fees went up saw a 17% decline in applications, university applications picked up again the following years.

The sad truth is that we graduates will probably be paying our student debts back for most of our working lives. In fact one study by the Sutton trust says that only a quarter of graduates will pay back their debt in full. The rest will have to have it written off meaning that they won’t have paid back their student loan by the time that they retire. With this in mind, is it worth worrying about your student loan? If you never pay it back in full and a small amount always comes out of your pay each month until you retire, then it is more of a tax for education than a loan that you owe.

Under the old system debts were written off after 25 years, this has now been extended to 30 years. The average student will now owe £44,000 this is an average of £20,000 more than students who studied under the old fees. The addition of real, above inflation interest rates on graduate loans mean that 45% of graduates will pay back more than they borrowed. In real terms students under the new regime pay 3% on their loans and this begins while you are at university.

Students in other parts of the UK do not pay fees a system that works in Scotland and Wales. Removing the fees might be a far off dream but having the fees shouldn’t worry you. You have graduated now and you don’t have to pay anything back until you earn over £21,000 a year which means until you land your dream graduate job, you can relax.

Conor Ryan, director of research at the Sutton Trust said, “We believe that the government needs to look again at fees, loans and teaching grants to get a fairer balance.” The system may not be working for the government, but it can work for us as graduates.  Instead of worrying about the debt, accept that the government made a mistake with the maths and just enjoy your life as a graduate. Accept the amounts that are taken are smaller than you pay in other taxes and stop worrying!

Liam Byrne, the shadow minister for universities, science and skills, said “The system has lost all fiscal credibility and is losing public confidence.”.  This is definitely a valid point.  Graduates not paying back their loans (due to not being able to) undermines the entire point of the loans. If the loans are never to be repaid then why worry about them.

Don’t think of it as a graduate debt, debts have to be repaid and there are severe consequences to not paying them. Instead just think of it as a graduate tax you will be a lot happier.

Are you a past or recent graduate? What is your take on the current student loan system? Your thoughts and comments below please…

 first published on



7 Tips on How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse (Or Your First Job)zomvie

There are is nothing more terrifying than the idea of the undead rising up and taking over the world….. or is there?  Your first job can be even more terrifying.  With that in mind, here is a guide to survive both; you’d be surprised how interchangeable the advice is.  By the end of this piece you will be able to fly through your first day and the dawn of the dead.

  1.        Don’t be Scared!

Whether it’s a zombie attack or your first day, you have got this.  You are an intelligent awesome person and you have made it so far, you are going to make it!  You will learn everyone’s names with time (either in the office or in your zombie survival group).  You will learn your way around (the zombie proof places/the new office).  You will get the hang of your new life (in work or in the post-apocalyptic world)

  1.        Choose your shoes carefully.

Whether you’re running away from zombies or surviving in an office, uncomfortable shoes are a no-no.  You can’t get anything done if you are worrying about pain in your feet.  For office wear make sure they are smart and sensible.  For zombie apocalypse survival make sure you can run in them.

  1.        Take in Lunch

When you are in a new place it’s much easier if you have your own lunch with you, not to mention a lot cheaper after all, you haven’t been paid yet.  During the Zombie apocalypse you will need more than one packed lunch so stock up on essential canned goods.  Don’t get these two bits of advice mixed up – you don’t want to be the weird newbie in the office now do you.

  1.        Use Common Sense.

When in a zombie apocalypse common sense is important, in a new job it is essential.  Asking questions is always a good way to learn, but don’t waste time asking questions that just need a bit of common sense.

  1.        Take Notes

Again this is an important thing to do for both a zombie apocalypse and your first job.  Taking notes means that you can know where the best zombie proof buildings are in your local area.  Where are the generators and the large food stores?  In your new role, take notes of everything you get told, it’ll give you something to refer back to when you have forgotten everything in the rush of your first week.

  1.        Stay Organized.

This is important again for both, whether you are fighting the undead or fighting the mountain of work you have been given, organization is the best solution to your problems.  Take time to plan your time.  Create reminders for tasks you’ll have to do on a weekly, daily and monthly basis.  Stay on top of your routine.

Finally and possibly most importantly:

  1.        Don’t get Bitten

This mainly applies for the zombie apocalypse but it is also wise advice for the world of work as well.  Getting bitten is a disaster when there are zombies afoot and pretty awful in the world of work.  Let’s be honest it’s just best avoided.

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Should you have to declare medical information to your employer?


According to the Daily Mail ‘Studies have also shown that 25 to 30 per cent of people are scared of telling their employers about an ongoing illness because they fear – usually erroneously – that they might lose their job.’1

As a sufferer of ‘pre-existing medical conditions’ should I have declare these conditions to my employer?  I can honestly say I work hard to ensure it doesn’t affect my work.

In a world where mental health problems are still stigmatized should I have to declare that I suffer from one?

Should I declare that I suffer from Fibromyalgia and risk judgements made about whether or not I will cost companies money in sick pay?

In the last few years I have had a total of 1 sick day.  That is less than the average employee in Britain who takes 9.1 sick days per year (according to

Legally I cannot be discriminated against for having these medical conditions but that is sadly not the reality of the world of work.

Why do companies want to know?

Companies want to know because within the UK you are entitled to paid sick leave. goes on to say that “PwC calculated that sick days cost U.K. business nearly £29 billion ($43.8 billion) a year.”2This figure is enormous so you can see why an employer wants to know about medical conditions.  Employing someone is a calculated risk.

However  just because you have been sick, or well, doesn’t mean that in the future you will suffer from an illness or will have a clean bill of health.  In short, knowing a history of a person does not guarantee a future of that person.

Are they allowed to ask?

Although you cannot stop a company from asking, according to the Guardian “The 2010 Equality Act helps protect job applicants against discrimination, by disallowing questions about a candidate’s health or sickness record before offering a job”3   So in short the answer is no.  Yet many ask at both selection stage and before.  Are we obligated to tell them?  No.

However according to the NHS website4 they are at times allowed to ask when:

  • “They’re trying to find out if you need reasonable adjustments for the recruitment process, such as for an assessment or an interview.
  • They’re trying find out if you (whether you are a disabled person or not) can take part in an assessment as part of the recruitment process, including questions about reasonable adjustments for this purpose.
  • They are asking the questions for monitoring purposes.
  • They want to make sure that any applicant who is disabled can benefit from any measures aimed at improving disabled people’s employment rates; for example, the guaranteed interview scheme.
  • Where the questions relate to a requirement to vet applicants for the purposes of national security.
  • Where the question relates to a person’s ability to carry out a function that is absolutely fundamental to that job”.

It can be argued that by declaring medical problems you may have more receive some form of positive discrimination; but unless you feel this is necessary you shouldn’t be obligated to tell them.

In an ideal world you would be able to declare your medical problems and not face discrimination, or judgement.  Unfortunately we are not there yet. I am a strong advocate for openness, particularly to do with mental health, however, I feel that this is a personal choice and I shouldn’t be forced into that decision by an application process or the government.



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Piercings and Tattoos – should you have to cover them for work?


1 in 3 people young people and 1 in 5 individuals in the UK are inked now.  Once tattoo s were reserved for soldiers, sailors and bikers now every famous icon is inked and even the prime minister’s wife has a small dolphin tattoo.  According to Jon Kelly who writes for the BBC, “Tattoos are everywhere. Tattoos are respectable”1


Tattoos have been common throughout history, The HuffingtonPost’s research says “Roosevelt had a crest on his chest, Churchill had an anchor on his arm and King George V had a dragon on his arm.”2


So if everyone has a tattoo should you have to cover yours up?


I have ten tattoos, my eyebrow pierced and my nose pierced three times.  Would I take out my piercings for an interview? No, would I advise that you do, Yes.  Despite my own principled stand it is not something I advise you to follow.


As an individual with individual tastes you should be respected.  You should be able to express yourself while still retaining an air of professionalism.  If you wear a suit why should your tattoos and piercings be a problem?  They are part of who you are and not part of your ability to do a job.


Most people who bear a tattoo or two would argue that they shouldn’t be used to discriminate against you within the hiring process.  However there are currently no labour/discrimination laws that cover tattoo and piercings.  So this means that employers are well within their rights to not hire you because of your tattoo or piercing. Dr Andrew Timming led research at the University of St Andrews and he said, “Most respondents agreed that visible tattoos are a stigma. …’Hiring managers realise that, ultimately, it does not matter what they think of tattoos – what really matters, instead, is how customers might perceive employees with visible tattoos”3


Why isn’t this discrimination?


This is because every employer has a right to have a dress code and within that dress code can be the requirement to have no tattoos or piercings visible.  The BBC has reported in 2012 that the Metropolitan Police has banned staff from getting visible tattoos. Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said the body art ‘damages the professional image’ of  police4 he goes on to say that all staff should register any body art with their line managers.  He is well within his rights as the representative of the employer.




So while I valiantly fight for the rights of the tattooed and pierced to be treated no different from those who are not.  I still think that you should cover up if you can.  While I never remove my piercings, I do go to interviews in a suit, which is not only the convention for interviews but it also serves to cover my tattoos.  You may think this is hypocritical of me however I send this warning because the point is, choosing not to hire you because of your tattoos and piercings is not discrimination.


What have Employers Said to their Employees?


Interviewing a range of people in different professions yielded a mixed bag of results.   Lucy, a healthcare worker, told me “We were told we had to get permission before getting anymore tattoos, we can’t have any clothing below the elbow to cover arm tattoos. During training we were asked to stand in front of our manager and she checked our piercings.  I had medium sized earrings in she asked if they were tunnels (and said) if so I’d have to buy skin coloured ones, they weren’t tunnels, she told me they were too big and my nose stud wasn’t allowed.  She didn’t comment on my tattoo, a lot of my patients have though, no negative comments so far!”


Chris a prison officer was told he, “can have the tattoos I have currently but I’m not allowed to add more unless I keep them covered.”  Dan works for a Pharmaceutical company their dress code states “Nose rings, eyebrow rings and other facial piercings are prohibited Tattoos should be kept covered and should not be visible” again this is perfectly within their legal rights to have a dress code.


Kat Marshall said, “When I worked in Morrison’s and a call centre I was told I could not have visible facial piercings but instead had to cover them up with a blue plaster. It was on my bottom lip. And I looked like a joke. When people from other companies came in I looked very unprofessional and I have seen people since in both places with visible lip piercings. It was smarter than the plaster!”


Giles said, “I’m so lucky to work in a very diverse environment. Being a R&D/academic centric workplace we have an eclectic mix of people, which includes individuals with visible tattoos and piercings. The bottom line for me is; can this person do the job? And will they fit in with the team? If the answer to those questions is yes, then (as long as tattoos, etc. weren’t offensive and they don’t present a H&S risk (we work with heavy machinery)) I would respect that person’s right to do whatever they wanted with their bodies.”


Xander works for a global consultancy company and he says that each country that his business works in has their own policies on tattoos, in Ireland they state, “The Company prides itself on its professionalism. This also relates to each employee’s appearance, therefore maintaining a smart appearance is essential…Employees also need to consider the suitability of body jewellery and tattoos.” Whereas their Angola policy is “Jewellery and Tattoos – For females, jewellery should be tasteful and kept to a reasonable limit. Nose rings, eyebrow rings and tattoos on any exposed area of the body are not acceptable, unless their use is determined by cultural or sociologic mandatory requirements or conventions.”




So with no agreement even within one company, what are your options? 




You are, I’m afraid, only left with two choices, either cover up your tattoos and remove your piercings or find an employer who isn’t worried about you having them.  It seems unfair but in the world of work where everyone is competing for jobs, you have to take the steps that will ensure you are selected above other candidates.






How to Survive Company Socials


Getting to know your colleagues is a valuable use of extracurricular time, especially if it’s paid for by somebody else!  There are many types of social events that your employer will organise and many traps to fall into.  Here is an emergency guide on how to survive the different types of events.  Follow these tips to emerge out of the danger zone unscathed.

Spontaneous Evenings Out (Not Organised by Work).

There are several problem areas with these, one of which is that you have to pay for yourself.   However, if you have had a bad day at work, letting go over a drink or too can be quite satisfying.  Misery Loves Company, so drowning your work related sorrows with colleagues can be cathartic. However beware of the trappings of complaining too much.  After all what you say in front of work mates might not be treated as confidential, and your complaints about your boss could soon find their way back to them.  What happens at the bar doesn’t necessarily stay at the bar.

Organised and Paid for Nights

Incentive to work hard, regular meet ups or formal events all of them can be both fun and risky.  Formal events risk fashion faux pas – how dressy is dressy?  How much should you drink on the company tab?  They might be a reason you beat your targets but company paid for nights can be fraught with danger!  If you get too drunk you could be the talk around the water cooler, company photos of your bad behaviour could circulate the office.  If this is the case, you don’t have much choice but to face the music and bear the gossip and ridicule.  Avoid embarrassing yourself in the first place!  Despite free drinks, keep an eye on how much you drink.  Limit the crazy fashion ideas you have and err on the side of a bit more conservative, after all you still have to work with these people!

Company Paid Vacations

Fun or dangerous?  Enjoyable or a need for damage control?  Instead of being with your colleagues for specific hours, you are spending the whole day with them in a closed environment.  A lot can go wrong, privacy is limited and you run the risk of embarrassing yourself at some point.  That being said, it’s a free holiday!  Jump on in, take the risk, enjoy the free sunshine but don’t exceed your limits.

Prize Giving Nights

This is a chance for your work (that is colleagues and boss) to celebrate your work.  In other words, it is an opportunity  for the extra things you do to be recognized.  You might not get a pay rise any time soon but at least you know that the work you’ve done has been appreciated.  So how could it go wrong?  Well it’s all down to the familiar friend alcohol.  Once again this kind of social event usually comes with a company tab, and a company tab means temptation to drink too much.  Once again you risk being a fool and once again your antics will be caught on a company camera, or remembered by those who were designated drivers.

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8 Signs That Your Job has Taken Over Your Life

In your first few years of work your job seems like the be all and end all. Graduates leave university keen to prove themselves and work hard.  Here are 8 signs that your job has taken over your life (and you’ve forgotten to play hard!)

  1.        Your social life doesn’t exist other than work nights out.

You used to go out every night when you were at university. Now weekday nights out seem like an insane idea, unless it’s paid for by work, then you are straight to the bar. Your old friends never see you, unless you schedule it in months in advance. Work is your new life and nights out seem like an exercise in extravagance unless you can excuse it as a networking exercise. You also justify a large consumption of wine as one of your 5 a day – wine is made of grapes so that’s a fruit right?

  1.        You buy lunch every day and live off fast ready meals at night.

Lunch is a Marks and Sparks sandwich (or Waitrose/Tesco/Sainsbury). Gone are the days of university cost effective bulk buying pasta and noodles.  Now you are working hard and earning you deserve to spend lots of money on lunch. You become obsessed with buying prepared fruit. Pre-made sandwiches are your staple and snacking at your desk the new norm.

  1.        You spend most of your time in the office.

Weekends you consider popping into the office. All your waking hours other than your commute are spent in work. Your favourite time is before and after the working day when it’s quiet and you can really concentrate.

  1.        You dream about work.

Not the oh no I’m naked at work nightmares, but the productive work related dreams where you suddenly wake with an idea for work. You solve work problems in your sleep. You think you’ve mentioned things to a colleague but actually you dreamt about it.

  1.        Most of your social media posts are now about work.

Work Successes and Failures now make up most of your newsfeed. Every Monday there’s a post, oh god work again.  Every Friday you post a meme that declares it’s great to be Friday.  At the weekend you are at a loss on what to write about because you’re not at work. What was it you used to write about before this job?

  1.        You are the first person in the office and the last person to leave

You have breakfast at the desk, work through your lunch and are still there past 7.  In fact you know all the cleaners by name.

  1.        Your work wardrobe now vastly out numbers your comfy clothes

You have more suits than jeans; more smart shoes than trainers; more shirts than t-shirts. When you go out shopping or shop online you go to the smart section and you get very excited when you think about buying a new suit. What, a three piece suit?! Amazing! More combinations and outfits for work!

  1.        You regularly talk in work jargon.

So the rare times you see your friends outside of work you drop work jargon like you used to drop slang. Now everything is an abbreviation and you look confused when you have to explain what they mean.

If more than 4 of these apply to you it’s time to both congratulate yourself for working hard and take a step back and try and re-claim your life.  Have some you time, take up a hobby and reconnect with your non work friends!






Is University Worth It?

The age old question, should I go to university, can be answered in many ways. Will I gain life experience, will I get a qualification that I can use, is it financially worth it?  With fees dramatically increased and the economy just emerging from a recession. We ask, is university worth it?

Is it financially worth it?

Reports out this week show that graduate starting salaries have decreased in the last five years. This means that you could be earning considerably less compared to people who finished university five years before you. The research comes from a survey done by

In their research they show that since 2007 the average starter salary for graduates dropped from around £24,000 per annum to £21,700 per annum. These figures result in an eleven per cent drop as an average taken across subjects. The figure of 11% covers a huge range of salary drops, for example engineering graduates only experienced a two per cent drop where as if you studied middle eastern and African studies there was a 25% drop in starting salaries since 2007. Traditionally safe subjects weren’t left untouched with Medicine and Dentistry also experiencing salary reductions. Over the last five years Medicine has had its starting salary cut by 15% and Dentistry has seen its initial salary drop by 9%.

Dr Bernard Kingston, the main author of the study was quoted as saying” These figures show a continuing decline in the graduate premium across many subjects, and must be a concern to students when choosing what to study at university”

This sounds like a lot of bad news. However there is still a considerable difference between those who have degrees and those who do not. Graduates still usually earn more. So having a degree means your first job will still probably pay you more than if you started work without one.

Is it socially worth it?

Extra-curricular activities, friends of a life-time, living on your own for the first time are all benefits of going to university. You learn how to nurse a hangover without the assistance of your long suffering parents. You learn that a single red sock can dye your entire white wash pink. You learn that when you really want to go out, living off noodles for the rest of the week is totally worth it. To employers you spin this a bit differently of course. You learned to manage your time, you learned to budget. You learned to study independently and as part of a group. Socially it was worth it.

Is it worth it academically?

With MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) do you need to go to university to learn? Isn’t everything you need to know available via Wikipedia nowadays? University is still the most successful form of higher education. Particularly when compared to MOOCs which have huge drop out rates. The support of a tutor, fellow students and postgraduates are invaluable. The motivation of deadlines means you spend the required hours in the library and the feedback of having your work marked helps you see where you need to work harder. University is definitely academically worth it for anyone who wants to study further.

To conclude, university, despite the £9,000 per year fees, is still worth it. You gain a lot, you still earn more than non-graduates and you have a lot of fun in the process.

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Steep Learning Curves – 7 Handy Tips for Scaling the Mountain 

Congratulations, you’ve done it; you have secured your first job.  Now what?  How do you survive?first-job-accept-or-rejectA new role can be daunting and the learning curve is steep.   First of all remember you won’t be the newbie for ever and you will learn everyone’s names in time.  Remember as well that there may be hiccups.  Everything won’t necessarily go to plan.  Work will be new and different to what you have experienced before.  Whether it’s a fashion faux pas, a typo or a major mess up, be prepared for life’s curveballs.  To help you climb the mountain, we have seven essential bits of information:1.Be Early


If it’s a considerable commute to work, set off extra early.  My first two days were spent stuck in traffic panicking that I was missing some vital bit of knowledge.  Better to set off extra early so you beat traffic and can settle in.


2.Take Notes


Everything is new, everything is exciting, and not a lot of it makes sense.  Write it all down.  Taking notes of what is said to you is invaluable.  Referring back to them an hour later refreshes your memory and any procedures that you were told about are nicely summarised so you can check back as often as you need to.


3.Ask Questions


Don’t be afraid to ask, why, how and what you have to do.  Asking questions is a great way to learn.  When you are new and later when you are settled in questions are always welcome.  It is better to ask and check something than to stay silent and risk doing something wrong.  In your first month ask as many questions as you can to guarantee a better settling in time at work.    Be resourceful too, if there is some extra training you would like or feel you need, find out who can train you and ask for some of their time.  If you finish a task don’t be afraid to ask “what shall I do next?” every employer likes to have an employee that keeps busy.  Remember there is no such thing as a stupid question, there are however stupid mistakes. If in doubt, ask.


4.The Devil is in the Details


Despite being overwhelmed with information try and keep focused on the details.  From spelling mistakes to clicking ‘reply all’ instead of ‘reply’  – detail checking takes a small amount of extra time and can make you a lot better at your job.  In the rush to get things done remember to always go that extra mile and keep things looking professional and correct.    Nevertheless don’t sacrifice progress for perfection.  Learning involves making mistakes.  Mistakes are normal, just make sure that anything that goes wrong helps you to progress and improve.


5.Work Hard


No one loves everything about their job.  There are exciting bits and mundane bits to any role.  The important thing is to work hard at everything you do.  A strong work ethic is a highly valued commodity and all employers appreciate it.  Through the more mundane tasks you learn how the company works, the procedures to make things easier and faster for you and you connect with other members of the office.


6.Stay Organized


You’re going to be asked to do a lot of different things with differing deadlines.  The key is to take some time to organise yourself.  Write lists, create calendar appointments, use a notepad and make sure all your deadlines and tasks get done.


7.Be Calm!


You aren’t expected to know everything straight away, relax.  Enjoy your new role, get to know your new colleagues, have fun dressing up in business wearThis is the start of something new and exciting.  The steep learning curve will eventually plateaux and before you know it you’ll be welcoming in a newbie and imparting your knowledge to the next person.


first published at


Language – What is Appropriate in the Work Place?

Stephen Fry is a strong advocate on the enjoyment of language; he talks of the ‘free and happy use of words’.  While it can be fun to be a wordsmith, sometimes it is confusing and difficult to know what language to use, where.swearing-at-workTo help you separate your “didn’ts” from your “did nots”  I have put together a blog exploring the use of language in the work place.The Good: Formal Language Vs.  Informal Language:There is of course a problem that if you over formalise, people won’t understand.  Worse still you could come across as pompous.  One such example (admittedly taken from Pirates of the Caribbean) is “I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request” or to put it more simply “no.”  There are other ways to say ‘no’ – perhaps a simple no risks being too blunt.  The answer isn’t easy and getting it right is quite important.  If you are unsure about what to use, consider the environment you are in.  Always err on the side of formal and observe how other people at work act.  If all else fails ask someone what is appropriate language to use, in person, via email or on the telephone.The Bad: SlangAlthough great for use with friends, slang is not ideal for use in work place situations.  When you don’t know someone well it is best to avoid slang.  When talking to clients or customers slang should always be avoided.  Basically as a rule save slang terms for out of office hours.The Ugly: SwearingStephen Fry said, “Swearing is a really important part of ones life.”  He goes against the common perspective that swearing shows a lack of vocabulary, swearing is satisfying according to Fry.

Some research has shown swearing increases camaraderie amongst workers and can reduces stress.

“It is not the best thing to do, not a nice thing to do, but it can be a great stress relief,” says Professor Yehuda Baruch at the University of East Anglia

Bottling up emotions is never healthy but is swearing at work a good or acceptable thing?

Some work places actively have a no swearing policy; others just seem to be a place of constant profanity.  So what should you do – swear or not swear?

As fun as letting off a bit of steam is with a few choice words there are still cases of people being dismissed for using bad language.  Aggression mixed with bad language is never acceptable and if you work in a customer facing environment it’s vital that you avoid using any offensive language. One thing for certain is that swearing via email is a big no.  Most office IT systems automatically flag any email that uses inappropriate language and email points directly back to the sender.  Swearing via email is not worth the time it takes to type.  Remember swear words directed at an individual is never acceptable in a professional workplace.

The Uncertain: Banter

When is it ok to have banter?  Is there a point when it goes too far and becomes inappropriate in the work place?  How do you know when that point is?  Unfortunately there is no correct or simple answer and once again erring on the side of caution is always best.  Make sure you know the people you have banter with; after all you know your friends’ limits.  Banter amongst work friends makes your day pass quickly however if overheard by a third party it can be misinterpreted.   Common banter such as teasing, faux sexism, hiding people’s stuff can all be found hilarious, or they could cause someone to complain about you.  Banter in the work place is an uncertain game, and when you are new to a place its best to avoid until you settle in and understand how your environment works.


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What makes a successful company?


success concept


The question of what makes a successful company is not a simple one.  While there are many successful companies one can observe, they don’t all follow one plan of action.


What does the literature say?


What makes a successful company? A search of various business-orientated literatures does not yield a consistent set of results

According to Forbes, there are six key things that make a successful company.  It states that “they have a mission, they keep employees happy, they react quickly and adapt, they work the long term, they are not islands, and they have a family plan”

Success here could mean an increase in profit, brand loyalty from customers or an increase of the market share. 

Michael Schmidt, writer for Investopedia argues that “competitive advantage, above-average management (and) market leadership” make a company successful.  In contrast Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed writers for the Harvard Business Review argue a successful company is one which focuses on being “better before cheaper” and places “revenue before cost”.  To them a company which “compete on differentiators other than price” prioritises increasing revenue” rather than solely attempting to reduce costs are those most likely to thrive and grow a successful company.

What do these points mean and what is the answer?


Clearly there is no strict set of steps to take however there does seem to be a list of ideals from which companies can base their approaches.


Although it is completely dependent on what your company wants to achieve there are a few key ‘no brainers’.    Having a mission, treating staff above average and flexibility are all invaluable qualities for a successful company.  Following the examples of already successful companies is a great way to learn but ultimately you need someone with innovation and bravery at the helm of the company in order to lead it to the same levels of success as the big companies.  The following three points are essential for a successful company:


Value your employees

A successful company is based upon the people that create it.  It is therefore imperative that a company recruit the best staff and treat them well.  Companies with extra benefits such as providing breakfast or gyms like the Google model are excelling and other companies are following suit.  Arguably, as well as being ethical it is proving to make great business sense to treat your staff as well as you would treat your family.  Happy staff makes productive employees.  In fact research has shown that as long as staff are paid enough to live comfortably, productivity does not go up with increase in monetary incentives. In fact, these improvements are generated by increases in benefits and better treatment of staff.  This challenges the very traditional business model which assumes that increased salaries make happier, more productive staff.


Focus on quality

A successful company needs a good, high quality product.  This should be put before cost savings.  Companies that skimp on quality eventually lose out to higher quality products.  Having a good product gives both the employees and the consumers a product to believe in.  In guarantees loyal customers and customer recommendations.


Look ahead and react quickly

A successful Company works long term and reacts quickly.  While you have to think for the long run you also need enough flexibility to react when things don’t go as planned, when markets change and when new opportunities arise.


While no one knows for sure what the secret to success is these key factors are something that a successful company cannot afford to avoid.  However a hard work ethic and a drive to succeed combined with the above three points is a great place to start.


Patience, Persistence and Perspiration Make An Unbeatable Combination For Success


As the famous American writer Napoleon Hill said, “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” Our journey through life is hard and full of variety; there are often obstacles to face and time and again we hear that nothing worth having comes easily.  So how can you realize success in life?  Resilience and persistence seem to underlie many of our successes, but what does this embody? Throughout our global narrative and in our own personal histories many triumphs come from overcoming struggles, demanding change and fighting for rights.  With art imitating reality we use cinema to tell the stories of our lives…

Demanding what isn’t Freely Given

It should be a thing of the past but it is still experienced today, prejudice has to be fought in order to flourish.  Perseverance against inequality is essential.  There are two fantastic films showing the fight against prejudice.  In the Great Debators (2007) Melvin B Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas inspires some of his students to start a debate team.  Their long road to success is marred with bigotry, discrimination and harassment but they ultimately emerge victorious.  Based in 1935 the team beat racial prejudice to go on and challenge Harvard in the national championship. Similarly in Men of Honour (2000) his courage to fight the prejudices stacked against him and finally succeed is another great tale of a man fighting prejudice with persistence.  It is the tale of the first African American, and the first amputee US Navy Diver, Carl Brashear.

Struggling for a change in Circumstance

To be successful in business or a career involves starting at the bottom to work up to the top.  Every self-starter will have to persist and struggle to change their circumstances. An inspirational example can be found in the film The Pursuit of Happiness (2006).  An unsuccessful salesman is given a chance fights for success on a life changing internship all the while looking after his son.  He becomes homeless and still fights on, teaching his son that even when your circumstances are dire; there is still a round to be won.  Persistence  once again results in a winning change of circumstance and this wonderful film based on a real story shows that if you want something and work hard enough you will succeed.


Sacrificing for Rights and Democracy

The road to equal rights, democracy and civil liberties is not an easy one.  History teaches that social equality has had to be fought for.  A stirring tale about family sacrifice for a higher cause is shown in The Lady (2011) in a background of political turmoil the story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her fight for democracy in Burma is an exciting one.  It tells the tale of persistence to achieve justice while showing the epic love story between her and her husband, whom she was separated from while she stood up for what she believes in.  Women’s rights have taken time, effort, determination and doggedness to achieve.  Iron Jawed Angels (2004) tells the story of a small group of women led by Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and her friend Lucy Burns (Frances O’Connor), who put their lives on the line to fight for American women’s right to vote.   They sacrifice their health, marriages and limited freedom they had.  They are imprisoned and force fed when they go on hunger strike.  They persist and live to see the results of their fight.  Now thanks to these brave heroes of democracy women have the vote in the USA and Burma is approaching a democratic state.

Fighting in Fiction

Following real life struggles there are also those in fiction to consider.  A lot can be learned from rags to riches tales where an everyday character overcomes obstacles in life and goes the distance.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a beautiful and vivid cinematic piece which tells the tale of Jamal Malik, an orphan from the slums Mumbai.  He perseveres against poverty, criminal gangs and people determined to hinder him, in a fight for love.  Equally poignant is the story of a small time boxer who is given a rare chance to fight the heavy-weight champion which is told in Rocky (1976).  In the end it is their resolve that makes both characters winners in their stories.    These movies may not be based on actual characters but they symbolise persistence shown in everyday life.

Resilience is about coping with stress and adversity while trying to reach your goals.    Persistence is the fight to achieve something no matter what obstacles you come across. Many times our greatest movies underscore that persistence is the key in the pursuit of happiness and success in life.

image taken from


published on feb 15 2014 at


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