Sunday, 23 December 2012

Who's kissing who under the mistletoe?

ust one working day left before Father Christmas arrives, which probably means the office Christmas party is long gone.

There will be whole workforces abuzz with who kissed who, who had too much Christmas cheer and, in very rare cases, the odd sacking!

Teenagers and young adults will be desperate to ensure they are out and about on Christmas Eve, even if they don’t want to be because THAT’S what their peer group are doing.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Norovirus - a warning

e’re on “defcon one” in our house, as my husband would put it. The norovirus! So far I’m the only one who’s gone through the vomit and, ahem... the other unmentionable.

Mr Clean keeps nagging me to disinfect the place when I’m on my own. I keep telling him it’s been done, but he’s on my case and with good reason.

According to the UK NHS website, this 2012 outbreak is 64% higher than it was this time last year. It is also saying that for each person who has a confirmed case of norovirus, there are 288 unreported cases.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Christmas cards – RIP?

all me Scrooge, but what is the point of Christmas cards in this day and age of technology? Since the price of a second-class stamp has reached a jaw-dropping 50p my aversion to Christmas cards has grown and grown.

I used to have over 60 people on my Christmas card list, but thanks to a recent culling I’m down to about 40 and I’ve told my local friends to save their money and not send me one.

Last year, I watched mothers in the playground hand cards to other mums they saw day in day out! Why?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Seduced by a Kindle

t happened to me in the bedroom as my husband watched on! Oooer, saucy, I hear you say. I’m over my moment of madness and no one has been hurt. Amazingly there is no financial fallout either.

The object of my affections? Why the new touchy feely Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, of course. I’ve been lusting after one for a while. Wait. I’ll be honest. Just two weeks really since my husband casually asked me whether I wanted one for Christmas.

I spent those weeks industriously researching which e-reader would be the best to “acquire” and I’ve since found out this:

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A smart phone – your route to work?

re you still carrying around that old Nokia? You know, the one that only allows you to make and receive calls and text messages?

Until just a year ago I, too, was happy with my old Nokia. It had an operating system I understood and I didn’t have the time for the new fangled “smart” phones. Why buy a smart phone? Who wants to be on the web all the time anyway?

I was a mother. I had better things to do than fiddle around looking at my phone. Just one look at my husband, who couldn’t be parted from his Samsung Galaxy II, was enough to make me think I didn’t need this technology.

But that all changed. Why? I missed out on a part-time communication/media relations job. I was one of the few who got an interview for the job that I was well qualified for just four years ago. One of the reasons I didn’t get it was because I didn’t have enough social media experience.

Panic set in. I was obsolete. My 20 years in journalism counted for nothing I told myself. Of course, that was rubbish. I just had to adapt.

I had a Facebook page, which I dipped into maybe once a month, and I had also created a Twitter presence that was so dormant it was in permanent hibernation, but how was I going to get this social media experience?

I was flapping until a chance conversation with a friend, who posted on her Facebook page frequently. This is the gist of the conversation:

Me: “When do you find the time to dip into it?”

Her: “Well, it’s on my phone. I always have my phone with me so if I’m waiting for the spuds to boil I’ll dip in.”

That was my light-bulb moment. A week later, after a bit of research, I bought a low-budget smart phone to “get me started”. Now I look at iPhone owners with envy and I’m looking to upgrade my smart phone to a faster model, although for a modest budget, still.

I confess, I’m using probably just 10 per cent of the gadgets my basic phone is capable of but I regularly dip into the weather so I know how to dress the kids for the day, the news, and Twitter feeds to check what’s going on in the world and to remain current. Why, I even blog!

If I chose to I could receive all my emails through my smart phone. I can even update my blog wherever I am in the world.

The internet has changed the world around us rapidly. According to statistics from Google the rise of smart phones has created smarter consumers. It calls it a “smart phone movement” because smart phones are “always on, always with us and always connected”.

Google says that has given businesses the opportunity for “smarter marketing”. If you want to work for any business, whether your role is in marketing or not, your wages will start to rely on this kind of technology sooner than you think.

Not only that, your children are growing up with it. Do you really want to be a technological dinosaur and get left behind?

Still not convinced? You may not believe it yet but getting on board with the smart phone movement is in your interest. Smart phones can help you save a packet by accessing great deals in the high street shops and elsewhere, in fact they have turned us into savvy shoppers.

They say 79% of people in the US with smart phones use them to help with the shopping, either to price check or find out some other piece of information that helps with buying decisions.

Finally, maybe this will shift your perception: your smart phone could be the instrument that helps you get your next job. You can access those job alerts on the move and even apply for them or react to emails offering you an interview.

So get current, you know you really want to. And if your smart phone helped you access your job I want to hear from you.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Term-time jobs - a headmaster's view


erm-time jobs are massively attractive to women running a home and raising children. That is why whenever they are advertised they attract a lot of applicants.

Chris Stafford, headteacher
of Monkton Combe Prep 
But did you know there are many more jobs available in schools other than midday assistants or teachers’ assistants, neither of which have attractive salaries. 

If you are looking for a bigger salary, unless you are a teacher looking to resume your career, you may not have thought the skills you spent years acquiring might have a use in a school. Let me put you straight!

I spoke to the headmaster of a fee-paying school in Bath, Chris Stafford, who is head of Monkton Combe Prep School. He says the school, which is run in connection with Monkton’s senior school situated on another site nearby, is always on the lookout for good staff.

Aside from the obvious jobs such as teachers, midday assistants and teachers’ assistants there are also roles that include marketing professionals, financial professionals, purchasing managers, technicians and ledger book-keepers to name just a few.

He said there are part-time and full-time jobs available but the vast majority of jobs are, indeed, for term-times only. So how do you obtain one of these jobs?

Mr Stafford said: “I get a lot of unsolicited applications, which I file away, and if a classroom assistant’s job becomes available that is the first place I look. In fact I look into these files a lot.

“I always have to advertise the job on our website and sometimes I’ll advertise in the local press but I find more and more people are trawling through websites such as ours looking for jobs of this nature.”

He said volunteering at a school is always a good way to get known. “Volunteering is often something that schools look upon favourably. This does two things: a) it enables the person to add constructively to the CV and b) gives a foot in the door should a post crop up, especially if they are volunteering at the time.

“Also, most heads or HR managers will happily glance over a CV and give helpful advice re content, shape etc, which is well worth doing.

“CVs are essential but make sure you explain any gaps and I like to see a short covering letter stating the reasons for wanting a particular role. One other thing. I have a huge respect for older people who want to retrain or have managed to get qualified later in life. So that could be a mother with grown-up children. Good luck.”

Friday, 12 October 2012

Volunteer to get a job

o. You are looking for part-time work for women but you know you are going to have to bide your time before you find a) the job you want to apply for b) an interview and c) you get the contract of employment.

Meanwhile, what’s the harm in offering your skills as a volunteer? There are plenty of people who have found paid employment through volunteering. Moi, being one of them.

I went to offer my press and PR services for free to a charity and really had the wind taken out of my sails when during my informal interview with the head of a charity I was offered a job on the spot – a part-time job!

It wasn’t the first voluntary role I applied for. I also worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau, again in a press and PR capacity and used my experience there to get myself another part-time job. This time it wasn’t with the organisation I helped out.

A newspaper, which I’d applied to join, asked me to find an off-diary story to secure the job ahead of my competitors. So I went back to the CAB people I was working with and interviewed them about the staggering amount of personal debt in the area.

I got the page three lead and a contract.

What I’m saying is, MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK. You CAN do it! Volunteering is a great way to boost your confidence after a gap in your employment history. I’ve spoken to some mums who think they are unemployable yet they run their family homes so efficiently, manage the day-to-day accounts and they still don’t feel they have anything to offer.

Having witnessed at first hand the kind of help charities need, I know that those kinds of skills are very valuable to them. There are all sorts of opportunities to brush up on skills and find new ones within a charity. But most of all, I think it gives women who have been out of the workplace, a renewed sense of purpose and confidence.

So get cracking! Hey presto people.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Captain Tortue - sell clothes to raise income

'm a firm believer in creating your own luck. You don't have to become "employed" in part-time work, why not try out a little low-risk business venture of your own.

That's what Susan Spedding did. She wasn’t actively looking for work – it found her which enabled her to help out with the household finances selling a French range of women’s clothes by Captain Tortue.

The 39-year-old Essex mother-of-two, pictured, had seen a “show” of the clothes in someone’s home and fell in love with the beautiful garments – within a month she was selling them, too.

She then went on to sell Captain Tortue’s Miss Captain and Lady Captain clothing range, which sell from £13 to around £80 per item.

Her initial outlay was £200, a deposit for the clothes she was showing, and a folding portable clothes rail costing £140, but she received the £200 back once she hit a sales target of £3,500, excluding VAT, set by Captain Tortue.

When she started, the Autumn/Winter season had begun. “Within 12 weeks of my first show I’d hit my target and by the eighth or ninth show I’d taken £5,300 in sales,” she said.

She’d still be selling the clothes now if her husband’s work load had not increased so much that it prevented her from working in the evenings as she had two children to babysit.

However her advice to others is this - it was a really low-risk venture. And there is scope for doing even better. According to Susan there are some people who sell £40,000 worth of clothes in a season.

Commission is on a sliding scale and starts at 20 per cent but can go up to as much as 30 per cent. “Another bonus is if I wanted to buy clothes for myself I’d get them at half price,” she said.

She used to fit her hours around her small daughters so was still able to make the school run while clocking up earnings that have paid for some modest home improvements.

She also paid for a family holiday abroad in Portugal and contributed half the costs of replacing a family bathroom.

Her top tips for anyone wanting to sell Captain Tortue clothing are:
  1. Before you sign up to sell the clothes, have a really good think about your network. How wide it is and how you might be able to widen it to get the shows booked.
  2. In the first two months of signing up, book as many shows as you can manage, while still being able to run your family, because halfway through the season Captain Tortue brings out a mid-season collection. This means you have a good reason to approach people who have already hosted a show to see if they’d like to host a second.
  3. Be brave as well as organised.
  4. Experience makes you better at it. 

Visit Captain Tortue to find out more about selling its range of beautiful clothes.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Job application howlers

If you are going for a part-time job you’d want to present yourself in the best light possible, wouldn’t you? The answer is a resounding “yes” I’m sure.
I’m certain these guys felt the same but it just didn’t come across like that. These are some of the favourites I found out there:

  1.  “I’m intrested to here more about that. I’m working today in a furniture factory as a drawer.”
  2. “Skills: Strong work ethic, attention to detail, team player, self motivated, attention to detail.”
  3.  “Received a plague for salesperson of the year.”
  4.   “You will want me to be head honcho in no time.”
  5.  “Experienced in all faucets of accounting.”
Don’t think they used the spell check, did they, eh! If you want to dip into more visit Jobmob.
But getting serious for a moment, this is the advice that is out there about compiling your own covering letter in a nutshell.

DON’T undersell yourself but make sure you tailor your letter to the job you are applying for.
DO show, succinctly, in your letter that you have researched the role and know a little bit about the company you want to work for.

DO say why you want the job you are applying for and why you think you would be good at it. This is your opportunity to include your unique selling points.

DON’T make your letter any more than four or five paragraphs long and adapt your tone to the type of job you are applying for.

Visit Prospects, which offers lots of advice and even templates for you to download  
If you don’t get an interview and you thought your application was a strong one it is always worth asking for feedback.

Meanwhile, here are some job sites that you might like to dip into if you are looking for part-time work Monster, Total jobs, Reed, Jobrapido and Check4jobs.

Good luck you busy women looking for part-time work. Hey Presto people.

Friday, 28 September 2012

CVs - ten top tips

You want part-time work and CV is your shop window. Today I am going to concentrate on this and I’ll share my research on covering letters another day. I’ve dipped into many advice sites and, after more than 20 years in the working world, I’ve added some of my own hints and tips, too. Here's what I've found to help out women and/or mums who want part-time work:
  1. Most CVs are sent electronically so save your CV in a format that everyone can use – not everyone will have the latest version of Word.
  2. Keep it to no more than two pages, one is even better because WE’RE ALL LAZY! No one wants to wade through three pages or more. Make sure the front page gives them everything they need – GOLD, GOLD, GOLD.
  3. Keep it brief and to the point – see number 2.
  4. Make it look easy on the eye with space between headings. No one wants to read ANY text that has no paragraphs or white space – it’ll give as much impact as a flasher in a nudist colony.
  5. Ensure you have correctly spelled the name of the person you are addressing your covering letter to. I was once freelancing at a well-known national women’s magazine when THE BOSS started browsing through the CVs of people applying for a vacancy.

    She had an unusual first name. The CVs/letters of all those applicants who assumed her name had been spelt wrong in the job ad and “corrected” it were ripped up and filed in the bin.
  6. Don’t leave any gaps in your employment time line. Who wants awkward questions? Find a way of explaining them in a positive manner.
  7. Expand on the experience that is relevant to the role you are applying for.
  8. Write a short personal statement that summarises your skill set and why you are the best candidate for the job. This should also be detailed in the covering letter.
  9. Don’t put in the contact details of referees unless asked to. You want to be in control of who’s talking to whom. Simply say references are available on request but many employers know this is implied on CVs anyway.
  10. Make sure there are no spelling errors throughout your CV. That’s NONE! NO. SPELLING. MISTAKES! You don’t want to give any potential employer an excuse to file your CV in the bin as they reach for the next one.

There are so many tips out there. Hope my cherry-picking blog gives you some help. Next blog is all about CV bloopers! There are some real beauties.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Tax and the working woman

To all you women/mums who want to get back to work, tax can be a bit of a dirty word, but let’s face it, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “The only thing that is certain in life is death and taxes.”

We’ve been paying tax in England for hundreds of years. First to the Roman Empire during its occupation of Britain, then to various Saxon kings, but you will also find many other references over the World Wide Web that talk of taxes peppered across history.

In fact, legend has it that Lady Godiva, who lived in the 11th century, rode naked through the streets of Coventry in return for her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, reducing the high taxes on his tenants.

Yet it was the in late 17th century that a land tax was imposed by the government of the day, and it was this that provided its main source of income.

History tells us that “Income” tax was introduced by William Pit the Younger in 1799. It didn’t last, due to changes in political leadership, not to mention opinions, but eventually it became everyday life from 1842.

The good news is today we are all allowed a “Personal Allowance” – the amount of money you can earn free of tax. Here’s a reminder.

For the year 2012-13, those aged under 65, the personal allowance limit is £8,105, in the UK, which means you fall into the “Basic Rate” tax payer band, so long as you don’t earn over £34,370 that tax year. Anything you earn between £8,105 and £34,370 for part-time work or full-time work you will pay tax at 20%. See Income Tax – the Basics.

However, tax isn’t the only way you’ll see money deducted from your wages as National Insurance contributions kick in if you are employed. In this scenario you pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions if you earn between £146 and £817 per week. Then you’ll be paying 12% of anything you earn between those sums but there are different rates (See the National Insurance Contributions – the basics).

Further explanations can be found at HMRC as there are many different categories depending on your circumstances.

And if you want a potted history of National Insurance click this link. However, in a nutshell its first aim was to insure people against unemployment and illness. But it went on to provide state pensions and other benefits.

If someone employs you on a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) basis, they should work out your tax and National Insurance contributions for you, but it pays to know your facts in case they get it wrong. Just remember, for every penny you earn over your thresholds you should be paying tax or National Insurance.

If you are self-employed, there are tax reliefs you can claim so check this, too, on the tax reliefs page on the HMRC website. In fact, self employment is another ball game and quite rightly deserves a blog of its own. Hmm. Might get cracking on that one for another day.

Hey Presto people.

TRIVIA...but very useful
Who’s got the 0800 Wizard app on their mobile phone? Well if you haven’t, look into it. It will save you spending 41p per minute on your mobile when you use an 0800 number that is normally free from your land line. 0800 Wizard enables you to include these numbers in your phone tariff’s free minutes. It’s been developed by Skycom so check it out.

Friday, 14 September 2012

In the beginning...

Welcome to my Prestopeople blog spot. If you have dipped into this page you too are wanting to start earning again after a career break.

I decided to start blogging after meeting many mothers at the school gates who were, to them, doing the most important job in the world, raising their children yet wanting to help contribute to the household finances, too. All they wanted was a job for mums.

For some it was an absolute necessity to start earning, for others it helped them financially keep their heads above water or enable them to buy the little luxuries that their household would otherwise do without. There were also some who didn’t need to work at all but were simply bored and wanted part-time work. Don’t think I came across many of those, though!

I’ve met many women who are making their own luck – a lot of them mothers who fit in their work around school drop off and pick up times. This blog is an attempt to share their experiences through case studies in the hope that it inspires others.

I’ll also be researching the online jobs market finding my way around the job sites to see how easy they are to use and what’s out there in the way of part-time work for women, in the main. I’ll provide details of links to the information that may help you in your quest.

Another of my research targets will be education and how you can give yourself a leg up through various adult education courses in the UK. Meanwhile, keep dipping in and reading the blog – you might find a snippet of information that is useful. If you do, it would be great if you’d tell me.

My blog site is in the construction phase, so you should see some changes over the coming weeks – bear with me while I bring myself into the 21st Century.

The next blog will give you some details about tax such as how much you can earn before you have to start paying tax.

Hey Presto People!

TRIVIA...but it was SOOOOOO entertaining
Have you seen the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises? Go see it, or if you are too late to catch it at the cinema get it on DVD. I had to sit demurely in my chair at the cinema but had I been watching it at home I’d have been jumping on the sofa as I punched the air with my fist shouting “Go Batman. Go!” Yes, very unladylike. See it and tell me you didn’t feel the same! Check out the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.