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Career Help-line


Welcome to our newly launched Careers Help-line where you can contact our Careers team for free, impartial, confidential and up to date advice on career-related issues

Here are some of the latest enquiries . . .



I have a highly paid IT support job but am becoming disenchanted by the lack of stimulation the role offers. 

I have been in this job for 11 years and would like a career that offers fresh challenges.  I do not have any formal qualifications other than IT and, due to personal commitments, cannot afford to take a drop in salary while retraining or starting a new career at a lower level.  Any ideas?


Career Expert says . . .

If you have been in your present job 15 years it is not surprising that you are getting itchy feet for something a little more challenging.  You must have accumulated a wealth of valuable business process / project management change experience and perhaps the time is right for you to take a step up - maybe change track from an IT Support role to one of Project Manager - which is usually more highly paid and offers greater levels of scope and responsibility.

Alternatively, you could consider retraining part-time.  The Open University, for example, offers a range of highly regarded management courses that can be studied by distance learning.  An MBA comes to mind!

Another option would be to freelance as a specialist IT Project Consultant as such roles are highly paid and you would be able to select the contracts you felt would offer opportunities for fresh challenges.

You might even consider setting up your own agency, acting as an intermediate for the supply of IT professionals on a contact basis

I think my boss is breaching the terms of the employment contract I signed. What steps should I take?

When I joined the company I did so on the understanding that I would be able to take six weeks summer holiday as I have a child to care for and needed the extra time.  This special request was put into my contract. 

Now the school summer holidays have arrived, the work levels have peaked and my boss is refusing to let me have the extra time off. Can he do this?


Career Expert says . . .

If your employer is not abiding by the terms set out in the contract you should point this out to him and try diplomatically to remind him of the agreement - he just may have forgotten!

Should your employer still insist that you work, you should put in writing your formal grievance and attach a copy of the contract. 

If, despite tactfully insisting on your rights in this matter, your employer still requires that you forego your six week summer holiday, and if as you fear he threatens that your job will not be available upon your return, then you can write to him to say you will make a claim against the company at an Employment Tribunal if a mutually satisfactory solution cannot be agreed.

It is advisable that you seek specialist legal advice before you take any action.

Everything has gone pear-shaped in my career - and I can´t afford much longer the cost of even driving to work!

I have an MSc in Electronics Engineering but can´t find a decent job in the North West. I am 44 and my salary is little more than 14K, my car has 95,000 miles on the clock and it take me 3 hours to get to and from work.  I am finding it difficult to get time off to attend interviews and even when I manage to get an interview I´m turned down


Career Expert says . . .

Judging from the full content of your letter, there are a lot of issues to cover relating not just to your job but also to your personal life.

Turning to your work, don´t just rely on the Internet in your search for a new job; look in the national and trade press, send your CV to potential employers and specialist recruitment agencies, and network with friends and colleagues.  Research the companies thoroughly before you apply to make sure the job meets your key criteria, otherwise you might attend an interview and take time off work unnecessarily.

If after six months you cannot find the right job, consider retraining in the evening or by distance learning.

There have to be reasons why you are getting to the interview stage but not securing an offer.  Have you prepared thoroughly for the interview by researching the company and the job role, and have you considered in advance and formulated responses to the type of questions likely to be asked?  Is your presentation in line with the role in question - as good as the interviewers? If not, it might be a good time to take stock of your wardrobe and bring it up to date - action that will bring confidence.

You have mentioned that you feel isolated, socially.  Now would be a good time to broaden your horizons and get out and meet people.  You are interested in photography so why not join a photographic club, and your technical skill with sound would be much valued in a hospital radio environment.  There are many other voluntary organisations that would welcome you and where you can develop friendships.

Please consider these initiatives and let me know how you go on

I can´t manage my team, I can´t get their commitment to meet performance levels

I have recently been promoted and have been given responsibilty for leading a team.  I have had little previous experience and am getting entangled in team in-fighting and am worried that I won´t deliver the right results?


Career Expert says . . .

Effective team leadership is pivotal to creating a high-performing team   and it is vital to create the right environment and culture for a team to be effective. 

To achieve this, a good starting point is to set clearly defined objectives for the team as a whole. Each team member has to have a clear sense of purpose and understands the important contribution they can make to the team´s success as a whole.

Communication is key to ensuring each team members contribution.  Involve everyone in planning, and ensure you utilise the unique mixture of skill-sets within a team.  Each member can add value to a team in a different way.  When recruiting new members look for people who will complement as well as challenge those already there

Your team should regularly review its performance to identify what has gone well and not so well - and modify their approach accordingly.  Constructive feedback is equally important, as is the need to keep the team informed of progress and to resolve issues as they arise. 

Of special importance is the need to recognise and praise the team members who perform well.

This consultative, communicative leadership approach should enable you to bring the team together and reach your objectives.

I´m certain that my employer is going to dismiss me.  Can you tell me if she has to give me notice?

I have made a very serious mistake at work and I know that this has given my employer grounds to dismiss me.  She has not said that she intends to ask me to leave, and I wonder whether she can do this without warning?


Career Expert says . . .

Dismissal for gross misconduct can be summary without any notice. Actions considered to be gross isconduct are theft from the employer, violence or drinking at work.

For dismissal for reasons other than gross misconduct, the amount of notice to be given will depend on your contract of employment and how long you have worked for your employer.  The law specifies the minimum period of notice you should be given:-

  • one week if you have worked for your employer for one month but less than two years
  • two weeks if you have worked for your employer for two whole years; and
  • one additional week for each further whole year's employment at the date the notice period ends (up to a maximum of twelve weeks notice in total).

You should never receive less notice than the statutory minimum but your contract of employment may entitle you to more notice.  If your contract does not mention notice then you may be able to argue that ‘reasonable’ notice should be given and this should be one month for employees who are paid monthly.

In most circumstances, if your employer wants to dismiss you, they must follow special dismissal and disciplinary procedures, laid down by law.

My job is so pressurised I don´t think

I can cope for much longer - what can I do?

I have worked with this company for eight years and at first I welcomed additional responsibilities as I was quite ambitious.  The problem is my job has now grown out of all proportion and even if I work from 8 am to 7 pm at the end of the day I have more in the pending pile than I started with! 

This is beginning to get me down and I feel my health and personal life is beginning to suffer as I am totally exhaused by the time I get home.  The trouble is my partner is losing patience with how I feel and simply says I should change jobs - which I don´t really want to do as I am well paid and like my colleagues


Career Expert says . . .

Continuous pressure can be a driving force, but if you feel the experience of pressure is becoming too much you are bound to feel stressed

As the cause of your stress appears to be work-related, you should talk with your manager or HR department as the organisation has a duty of care towards you, and it is in their interests to take whatever steps are necessary to resolve the problem; for instance, they might consider reducing your workload or providing you with supportive resources

You might also consider reviewing your lifestyle to see if you can spot any contributing factors, such as . . .

  • rushing, hurry, beng available to see everone
  • trying to do several jobs at once
  • taking work home with you
  • not allowing time for exercise, relaxtion and social activities

If your stress is not lessened, you may need to consider changing to a less pressurised work environment and you might also benefit from a discussion with your GP.



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I don´t like my job but can´t afford

to change to the one I would love!


My job is in marketing and at 30 years it pays really well. But I have become increasingly disenchanted with my role and feel something is missing.  I realise now that I should have done a degree in social work as I would like a more fulfilling role, but to change career track now would involve retraining and that would mean my partner taking over all the living expenses when he himself is in a job he dislikes.

So, should I stay in a well paid job and forego my real interests, but be unhappy for the rest of my working life, or ask my partner to struggle for a while for the sake of our long term future?  It is really down to money in the end, isn't it?

Career Expert says . . .

It is not unusual for people reaching key milesstones in their lives - in your case reaching thirty - to pause and reflect on their lifestyles.  If dissatisfaction with career paths becomes apparent, this is very often the result of young people jumping straight out of college or university into the first job that comes along.  If the pay is good it is easy to understand why people often remain in the wrong career, become financially committed and reluctant to leave their comfort zone.

But money is not necessarily the driving factor for every person at every time of life.  As in your case, as the years go people often find that they need something more than financial rewards to generate happiness. 

The decision to change career at this stage in your life is one that can only be made by discussing how you feel with your partner - but I am all in favour and feel it is very important for people to pursue the career that matches their aspirations, values and skill-sets.

For those people who feel caught up in the wrong career, please follow this link to learn how to change jobs and find the perfect career.


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My boss is ruining my life! 



What can I do to stop my boss from making my life an absolute misery?

I joined the company six months ago and within a few days began to receive bullying emails criticising my performance before I had even put anything into action.  In front of my colleagues she also started to belittle me for no reason.

I have discovered that she has an awful reputation within the industry and I am not the first person to have been on the receiving end of her vindictiveness.

Career Expert says . . .

I recommend that you collect as much written evidence of your boss´s communication with you, for example, all the emails you have received and your responses. 

Make a note of any verbal communication, i.e. what was said, the time and dates, together with the names and positions of those people present. 

Request a meeting with your HR Manager and explain what has been happening and exactly how her behaviour is making you feel.  Your HR Manager should arrange for a meeting between you during which hopefully issues can be resolved and a way of working together in the future can be mapped out. If this fails, then the next step would be to log a complaint and implement the company´s grievance procedure if one exists. If not, you can use the statutory grievance procedure (

If the situation is not resolved the next step is to contact a solicitor for expert advice on taking the matter to an industrial tribunal. Alternatively, you could contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau who provide free and impartial advice.

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Changing career direction . . .

I have realised after just three months that my marketing degree is in the wrong subject for the role I would like, which is event management.  How can I make the transition between two such different careers. 

I am aware that I do have some transferable skills but it is proving difficult to convince recruitment consultants and I fear that I am stuck.  Could you give me some guidance as to what steps to take?

Career Expert says . .


You are thinking along the right lines by looking at your transferable skills. You will have gained a number of skills during your degree that are relevant to event management such as communication, presentation, negotiation, organisation, planning, creativity and an ability to think outside the box, work under pressure, work in teams,abd meet targets and deadlines.

When completing an application form, you should look carefully at the job and person specification and highlight how your skill sets match those required by the employer.  Draw on your social interests in terms of activities you may have organised for friends and family - and give examples, for instance, have you organised a holiday, party, or family celebtation?

One way to enter a different area of work is to gain work experience in the new area. Try approaching companies that you would like to work for and ask if you can work on a voluntary basis for a week or two so that you can show employers that you are interested in the career and have some knowledge of what it is like. Try to work shadow people in the kinds of roles that you are thinking of applying for.

Another approach is to start by applying for entry level positions and work your way up.

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Fear of Redundancy . . .

I am 63 and worried in case my employers will make me redundant. 

I cannot afford to stop working and am more than capable of carrying on with my job. 

I would like to know if I have the right to continue working where I am - I have been with the company for the past 27 years - but what would my entitlement be if I feel obliged to retire.

Career Expert says . . .

There is no longer an uper age limit for redundancy.  Older workers have the same rights as younger workers to receive a redundancy payment, unless in the case of a genuine retirement.

It had been thought that the regulations would remeove the three age bands for calculating redundancy payments.  However, ministers performed a U-turn on this and are now of the view that the practice of applying different multipliers to different age bands, so as to give greater financial assistance to older workers in redundancy, is justified.

Statutory terms give half a week´s pay for every year of employment under the age of 22, a week´s pay for every year between the ages of 22 and 40, and one and a half week´s pay for every year over the age of 40, subject to an overall maximum of 20 years.  Where an employer offers enhanced redundancy terms, these are permitted so long as they mirror the statutory redundancy pay scheme. 


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Leaving the army and entering teaching . . .


I will be leaving the armed forces in 12 months and would like to commence a teaching career.  I have a Post-Compulsory Teaching certificate but if I decide to go into compulsory education what are my chances? 

I currently hold CertEd and will complete an MA Ed (Leadership & Management) in October 2007.  I have no bachelor-level qualifications.   Most educational advice sites seem to be geared around undergraduate and postgraduate.  Would I be able to teach in compulsory education with a Masters and Cert Ed or do I now need to plug a skill deficit in my last 18 months in the army?

Career Expert says . . .

In order to teach in a state maintained school in England and Wales you need to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

To gain QTS you must have a grade C or above in GCSE English and Mathematics, or have reached the equivalent standard.  If you were born after 1 September 1979 and wish to teach primary pupils you will also need a GCSE grade C or above in a science subject.  You may be able to take a pre-entry test if you do not have th enecessary GCSEs.

You will also need a degree or equivalent level qualification, either from studies completed before postgraduate teacher training, or gained during an undergraduate teacher training programme such as a BEd.

As you do not hold a degree, the qualifications you hold may help you to accumulate Higher Education credits, sometimes called CAT (Credit Accumulation Transfer) points.  One year of study at Higher Education level is usually worth 120 credits, two years are usually worth 240 credits, and three eyars 360 credits - equivalent to a degree.

I suggest that you contact the institutions where you completed your qualifications and they should be able to tell you how many credits you have accumulated.  Once you have established the number of credits you currently hold, you will need to contact the Training and Development Agency for Schools in order to discuss your training options.

For more information about the various routes and entry requirements for teaching, contact:  Training and Development Agency for Schools 

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