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Category: Career Change

My Jobs, My Career and Why I’m Glad I Did It All

Guest Blog Told to Us by Tracey Tait

When you’re asked about the jobs you’ve had, it gets you thinking.

The lovely Kelly Oliver Dougall from Cygnet North East asked me to write a Blog for her and it certainly got me thinking and remembering.

My first ‘job’ was many moons ago now…

Cue the wavy screen and let’s go back in time.

From The Humble Beginnings of a Village Shop
My Nana owned a village shop and from the age of 12 I helped out. From working behind the counter – no self-service in this shop – going to the Cash and Carry, stocktaking, weighing and bagging up potatoes to my favourite helping behind the sweetie counter. The jars and jars of sweets that could be weighed and handed over in small white paper bags made me smile.

And since those early days, my jobs have taken me from working in a shoe-shop, the civil service, a brewery, paint manufacturing, marketing for a well-known sports brand, a retail outlet, the semi-conductor industry, universities and a national charity.

A Career Path That Wasn’t So Straight-Forward
My career path was more of a (very) wavy-line with (lots of) variety than a distinct straight-line. I didn’t know what I wanted to be.

The idea of being a vet was prominent for years when I was at school, but I couldn’t get my head around maths or physics, essential to helping poorly animals apparently so that door was shut to me.

My First Job
And so I made the decision university wasn’t for me and at aged 17 I started full-time employment. I worked in the Civil Service and the department I worked in dealt with the NHS.

From collecting data on hospital waiting times, drafting answers to questions asked in Parliament to the Prime Minister and receiving and replying to letters from patients that voiced there concerns about the treatment they’d had from the health service.

Every day was varied and I loved it. The people were funny, helpful and they taught me so much and I was learning all the time.

This was also my first experience of speaking on the phone and others could hear me speak. At 17, this was daunting but I soon realised that the others were getting on with their jobs and not listening to me and what I was saying. If they were, so what. I was getting on with my job and they were getting on with theirs.

After a few years, I moved on. Ready for a new challenge and to earn more money. I wanted to buy a house.

Not Quite Making Beer But Pretty Close…
Scottish & Newcastle had a large site in Edinburgh and I was working in their purchasing department.

Just as computers were being introduced. Talk about a steep learning curve!

No more manual type-writers with sheets of paper and carbon copies, it was all going to be done on computers. Crikey! Typing this has made me feel so very old, but back then I took to it like a duck to water because, to me, it made sense.

We could all see, thanks to the new fabby-dabby computers, what was going on across the department. Really helpful and you could see how what you did fitted in not only across the department but across the business.

That early introduction to computers and what they can do really helped me, because even now I still enjoy learning different computer packages and software. Yes, I do get frustrated at times and need to put 10p in the swearbox.

Purchasing was about more than just buying. (Which is what my family and friends thought I did for a living).

Relationships with your suppliers, your relationships with the departments you were buying for and understanding what you were buying were important too.

And there was always negotitation. Lots and lots of it.

Again, being that team player was so important and recognising that I didn’t know it all. It was okay to ask for help.

Watching Paint Dry
I stayed with purchasing and worked for Hammerite Paints when I moved to the North East. Again, team work, relationships and communication were vital.

But I also had an obstacle to get over.

Lost In Translation
I’m Scottish and my lovely colleagues were from the North East and spoke with broad accents. And so, communicating in the early days was tricky.

I very quickly learned to slow down when I talked and NOT to use Scottishisms. They didn’t translate well and a few of them got me into trouble. Oops!

Sadly, this job was also to be my first experience of redundancy and the impact it has on individuals and a business.

My job was saved but losing my boss and my work-mate was hard. I remember crying for days after seeing their empty desks when I came in to the office after the decision. Answering the telephone to someone asking to speak to them was hard too.

I’ve been in similar situations since, but somehow, I’ve always avoided being made redundant, but what it’s taught me is that you have way more skills than you think and so much to offer a new employer.

Getting the help you need when it’s time to change jobs, be it through choice or not, is always a good idea.

The Difficult Times That Gave Me A Light-Bulb Moment
Once you sit down to write a new CV or even look back at what you know, you have so many skills. Skills that you take for granted or don’t realise you have.

And writing my CV after the redundancies and sending it off to recruitment agencies, that’s when new opportunities came my way.

Just Do It!
I started at NIKE, on a temporary contract, in their finance department processing expenses and other finance related tasks.

This gave me a fab insight into finance. An area of business, to be honest, I avoided like the plague. Numbers scared me.

But again, I could see how my role fitted in across the business and the other departments it linked too.

Nope? No Idea But I’ll Take The Job
Six months later I applied for a post in the Retail Marketing Department. I’d heard of retail, I’d heard of marketing but retail marketing??? Nope, all new to me.

And so I started to learn about it.

The next time you pop into a shop, be it a supermarket, a clothes shop or your corner shop and you’ll see retail marketing at work.

The displays, the banners, the promotions, the windows with their stickers or mannequins in a particular pose wearing certain outfits, are all playing a part in retail marketing.

And again, so many people and relationships are involved.

From the agencies creating the ideas, the printers, the manufacturers, warehouse workers, the staff in the shop and not forgetting the customer. They’re all involved.

Gradually I worked my way up and was offered a job as a Marketing Manager for their women’s product for the UK and Ireland. (I got a company car!)

Being a Marketing Manager was like putting lots of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. Making sure that all the bits were in place and available at the right time.

It was a job with long hours, steep learning curves, amazing people and one that taught me so much about me.

The long hours meant I was away from home a lot. I missed nights out with friends, I had lots of early starts, (being at Newcastle airport at 4.30am for the red-eye to Amsterdam took its toll) but again being part of a team and those all-important relationships were key. Vital to getting the job done.

But I remember the buzz I got launching a new campaign. Working with marketing agencies, the retailers we supplied, our sales team and getting creative to sell products.

From shop windows, articles in magazines, posters, banners, events… The list goes on.

I didn’t realise that this job would be the one that would eventually lead me to starting my own business. The seed had been sown.

But it wasn’t ready to sprout yet, and so I continued with marketing as a path to follow and I became the Marketing Manager for a Retail Outlet in the North East leaving NIKE behind.

Bringing all my previous marketing experience with me but this was a brand new project. Not an established brand.

Lights, Cameras, Action! I Did This Too
The retail outlet was still being built and so I was dealing with builders, architects and interested retailers in being a part of this brand new venture.

Oh how I rocked the high-vis vest and protective headwear look. oh yes!

For the first time, I was now involved in creating a launch for a new venture, creating and putting together a TV ad, radio ads and being interviewed by press and radio about the venture.

Lots of deep breathing but with each interview it got much easier.

Being a part of a team creating a TV ad was mind-blowing. It takes way longer than you think and the planning that goes into one is phenomenal.

Never Work With Children Or Animals
The ad featured a couple – a young man and a young woman – but 24 hours before we started filming out young man pulled out.

And so we had to start our search again. You know in the movies where the happy ending literally doesn’t happen until the last moment? Well, that was us.

We saw numerous actors but they didn’t fit the bill. We were starting to panic and we only had one more young man to see.

Taking It To The Wire
The relief when he walked and we all looked at each other and smiled. Yes!!! We could start filming the next day after all.

To say I was a tad stressed out was an under-statement!

But the filming went ahead in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa and two days later we had filmed our TV ad. My FIRST (and only).

It aired 2 months later and our grand opening went without a hitch. Okay, the hitches we did have weren’t noticeable and the marketing campaign got me nominated for an award.

The award is the equivalent of an Oscar in the retail world, with the award ceremony taking place in Las Vegas.

By the time the award ceremony took place, I was working for another company.

And Then The Seed Started To Grow
I then took 4 years off away from work after the birth of my son, left the corporate world behind and worked part-time working on a funded project using sport to build confidence and self-esteem in young men and women.

The seed was now growing and this is when I made the decision to study, re-train and work towards working for myself.

I’m now a business owner and my experiences from the jobs I’ve had, my marketing career and the people I’ve met and worked with have shaped me and my business.

Writing this and looking back has been really interesting.

The things I’ve done, the things I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do and yet, they happened. Skills learned and developed over time, experiences, challenges and hidden talents that bubbled up.

What Would I Say To My Younger Self
You have more skills and talents that you think you have, and if you see a job out there that you like the look of, idea of, think you’d like to give it a go then don’t hold yourself back.

If you’ve left your job to set up your own business, and would like to speak to someone who literally has done it AND got the T-shirt, let’s have a chat.

Book a call with me here Let’s chat!

Testimonial about Cygnet- EB from Morpeth

I’m so pleased I found Cygnet – I hadn’t applied for a job in over 10 years and I was so apprehensive. Kelly gave me the reassurance and help I needed and now I have been offered the job I wanted. I’m now planning my future!

EB – Morpeth


Testimonial about Cygnet – AN in North Shields

I would highly recommend Kelly as a “sounding board” to anyone, who was like myself, struggling to make career decisions. Kelly helped me clarify my own thoughts, develop my own ideas, as well as given me some others to consider. I felt comfortable to open up to her, safe in the knowledge that she offers a professional, confidential service. Credit to her, I now have a plan. Thanks Kelly.

AN North Shields


Testimonial about Cygnet – JH South Shields

Thank you so much for this help with my CV. As I was updating it I became aware of so many answers I could give at my next interview!
It has helped me enormously and given me a lot of new found confidence. I didn’t realise I could cover so many skills, I actually ran out of space on the form and now I have been offered a job! Thank you so much!

JH – South Shields


Testimonial about Cygnet – DC from South Shields

I just thought I’d let you I had a successful interview today. Although I only applied for 3 jobs it resulted in 3 interviews. The first failed, second successful, and we will see what the third brings.
I have accepted the role although only part time. I may be able to do my own small business at the same time.
Thanks for the support! There are so many people doing counselling and so many people doing the careers, but you have a unique way of bringing the two together into a winning formula!

DC – Boldon


Testimonial about Cygnet – Colleen from South Shields

After spending 3 years as a volunteer doing reception work and trying to find a job in admin/reception I came to a standstill. Sending my CV off to lots of companies and not getting any replies I decided to join the ‘You First’ course with Cygnet Careers to see where I was going wrong and to see if my CV could be improved. Not only did I get help with my CV, I learned a whole lot of other stuff about myself and my self worth. Because of this course I learned an entire set of other skills I didn’t realise I had and have decided on a different career path altogether. Whether you are just starting off trying to build confidence, wanting to get into volunteering, wanting to get into part time or full time work or wanting a whole new career change, this is the course to be on and I would highly recommend it to anyone. This course is not like other courses I have been to where they are more about ticking boxes, this course is more focussed on individual needs and the way you learn is such good fun. You get to play games without even realising you’re learning, it’s not until afterwards when you’re discussing as a group about what you have just done whilst playing the game that you do realise. Such a lovely group of people I was with and I owe a massive thank you to the facilitator Kelly Oliver Dougall for making me feel more positive about myself and showing me I am worth so much more.

Colleen Wotton – South Shields


Career Change When Pregnant

There are many reasons why you might consider a career change when pregnant. If you’re on the outside looking in on an expectant mother thinking about changing jobs you might think it an odd idea – why complicate your life during one of the most transforming experiences through choice?

Well, there are a number of reasons for considering a career change when pregnant. Here are a few of them:

– You’re looking for a family friendly employer
– Looking for less hours
– You want a job closer to home so you spend less time commuting
– You are looking for more change
– Your job isn’t floating your boat anymore
– Your priorities or values have shifted
– You are worried about your health and safety at work
– You may have insecure work or be facing redundancy
– You may be thinking about giving up work for a few years to bring up your children

Whatever the reason for considering a career change when pregnant, it is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly if the choice is with you.

Beware that other workplaces seem to have more perks than where you work now but in reality they don’t stack up when weighed against the disadvantages. In some workplaces it may be that an employee is not entitled to certain maternity benefits until they have completed a specified period in that employment, so considering changing jobs on that basis would not be worth it due to not being entitled to those benefit on day one of employment.

The employer you are thinking of taking a job with may offer flexible working or the option to work at home. Do they also expect more hours than you are paid for though? Many teachers would relate to this, as they are seen to work term time only but are expected to be up to date with marking work and preparing lessons outside of the contact time with the students, which isn’t always factored in.

Looking for work takes up time and energy and when you are having a baby, you may not have much of either – especially if this isn’t your first baby. If you’ve been pregnant before you will know how tiring it is and if you’re working full time at the same time this can be difficult.

You need to consider your rights when applying for work. Have you asked yourself if it is fair to the new employer to take so much time off just after starting a new job? This is a moral conundrum as in law an employer has no right to ask this question, although in reality this may not always happen. I have certainly experienced situations where I have been asked my plans for having children in an interview and I know I am not alone due to my client work. From a moral perspective it is good practice to discuss this with an employer once they have offered the job. It will help you work out if practically it will work for you, and it will help the employer plan for your absence. If you are being brought in to troubleshoot a problem then it may have an impact on the business when you are off work, so it is fair to explore this with an employer.

It’s important to know your rights if things do go wrong so you can be armed with the facts.

Pregnant employees have four main rights:

– Paid time off for antenatal care
– Maternity leave
– Maternity pay or maternity allowance
– Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination and dismissal

You can find out more about your rights here.

If you want help to look for a new job, whether or not you are expecting a bundle of joy, you can contact us here.


Resign Gracefully

Resign with Grace

When you are offered a new job it can be tempting to stick two fingers up at the old one and the people you haven’t been seeing eye to eye with and skip off into the sunset. It’s probably not a good idea though because unless your new job is on the moon and you aren’t ever coming back, the chances are you will see your ex-colleagues in the future and it may get really awkward. So resign gracefully and keep your work mates sweet if you can!

Imagine bumping into your past boss at a network or conference when you are with your new colleagues? Do you avoid eye contact and hope they don’t speak to you? Or do you pretend nothing has happened and you’ve always been best friends? Well that might work but it doesn’t feel very authentic. Probably the best outcome is not to get into that situation in the first place and to keep it professional when you leave.

If you don’t act professionally when you leave your job it may impact on your reference, your future job prospects and your reputation.

There may of course be situations that mean that by the time you leave you aren’t on good terms with your colleagues anyhow, but that’s for another post!

So here are Cygnet’s top tips to resign gracefully.

1. Wait until you get an offer in writing from your new employer. If you resign before you have a job offer in writing you could end up without a job.

2. Check your contract and make sure you give the appropriate amount of notice. This should be in writing and given at the same time as you give verbal notice.

3. Keep your letter polite and explain what you have gained from your time in this job, don’t just focus on the reasons you want to leave. There may be an opportunity to give feedback about why you are moving on but it’s best to do this if asked. If you are asked, be balanced and constructive – don’t just say it’s the worst job you’ve ever had!

4. Tell your manager that you’re leaving before anyone else there. It’s the professional way to behave and you don’t want Suzie in accounts to tell them before you do.

5. Hand over your work – it’s important that your work is completed and that any clients and projects have a transition that works for both sides. Make sure you aren’t the reason for any issues.

6. Be nice! Don’t criticise or be overly negative. If there are genuine negative reasons for you leaving then address them through the proper channels.

7. Work hard. It’s important that you get all your work done before you go (if it’s realistic to be able to do so) There is nothing worse for those left behind to find a pile of files that haven’t been written up / followed up / dealt with correctly after someone’s departure.

8. If you have decided to leave and are offered an incentive to stay, be straight with the person offering the opportunity – whether or not that is to consider staying or your decision to leave has been made.

9. Say Thank You to everyone who has helped you achieve your goals in the company. You never know when you will meet them again and your grace is remembered and repaid!

10. Keep sensitive information confidential. It will help you maintain trust with past and future employers.

I hope this article helps you to resign gracefully, and if you have any advice to add please do leave them in the comments. We love to hear from our readers!

When you are ready to find your new job please do get in touch with us here.

Testimonial about Cygnet -IC from South Shields

I contacted Kelly after having been employed in the same organisation for nearly ten years. I was ready to move on but after being out of the jobs market for so long I was very unsure of how to proceed or even where to start.

Kelly was recommended to me via a work colleague so I got in touch with her and we arranged a meeting. She was great at helping me to identify my targets and goals as well as putting together a new CV. She provided valuable ongoing support when I was applying for jobs and was always available if I had any questions.

I am currently in the process of starting a new role and I do not believe that I would have found something so quickly without Kelly’s assistance. I am very grateful and would wholeheartedly recommend her service towards anyone who is on the jobs market and feels that they may need some support or guidance.

IC South Shields


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