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My Creative Inspiration By Amy Purdie

Our latest blog is brought to us by Amy Purdie.

When I was at school I loved drawing. My school didn’t offer Graphic Design (although I don’t think I knew what that was then) so I took Art and also Product Design – other people made tables and other things made with wood, I designed a juice carton and a book about recycling!

Thankfully my design teacher DID know about Graphic Design and so when she showed me that as an option for university it made complete sense and that was that. I didn’t get into University first time (probably as my portfolio was mostly art, and not really very graphics filled) so I went to college for a year to study graphic design instead – which was a great experience – and then I got in after that.

During the final year at University I had one placement at a design company which I was reeeeeaaaaaalllllllly nervous about. It was a big company (to me) and I was too nervous to walk across the room to the water cooler! Later on I arranged a placement at a local design company and this was amazing. I really enjoyed it. There was just me and the two guys and I felt as though I fitted in so much better. They had mentioned that they were looking for someone to employ sometime after my graduation, so I arranged to do a placement there again once the year was up – turning down a placement at another big scary company so that I could go back. At University we had been told that we’d have to work for free for a while to build up experience before getting a paid role, but I was getting married, I couldn’t hang about waiting for a job, I wanted to buy somewhere to live!

I basically spent that summer nagging them until they gave me the job! Or that was how it felt to me. The only downside of gaining my first (and only!) full time “proper” job was that I couldn’t keep up my Saturday job in the coffee shop alongside it. There were some fantastic customers and I loved it there – I got to meet so many interesting people, and who doesn’t want to be surrounded by tea and cake?! It was a huge improvement to my first Saturday job in a chemists where we’d had to sew our uniform pockets up because they didn’t trust the staff not to steal. We also had our pockets checked if we wore our coats in the stockrooms. I only stayed three months!

I think working with just the three of us meant that I not only felt really comfortable because I didn’t have to get to know too many people but they were great to work with, they taught me loads and I felt very involved and aware of much that was going on. I may have learnt a fair bit at university and college, but actually working for real clients on real projects was thrilling and a learning curve. I had to learn about business, something I hadn’t given much thought to before – but when you’re creating work for real people it does actually matter that you’re creating something that they’re going to use to help build their business in some way. You can’t just make something that looks pretty, it has to fulfill a purpose.

Mark and Lee put me in the BNI (a business network)- I was terrified! But the people there were so encouraging and interesting and I learnt SO much. It also really helped me to grow my confidence as I had to speak in front of people. I am still quite a shy person now, but not a patch on how I used to be! They had a mentor who came to the office and I learnt from him too, and then later on, a few award ceremonies and a couple of office moves later, I took part in a trip to Hong Kong, had to learn about web design (Mark was a very patient teacher), helped organise a big charity event (I loved doing that!) and the company brought on more staff. There was a lot of variety and I thoroughly enjoyed working there with the loud music playing, people popping in and out from other offices, getting to meet the clients myself (something my friends from university didn’t get to do in their jobs) and plenty of good conversation as well as working really hard to create some great work between us all.

I was really sad (and shocked!) to be made redundant – but I had been so unintentionally well-prepared by my employers that deciding to become self employed – at their suggestion – became the best option and so that was what I did. Fortunately I also have a very supportive family and that helps a lot too!

I have now been working for myself for 7.5 years and I don’t regret it for one moment. I have even worked on a project for the lady who used to own that scary company with the water cooler that I couldn’t use, I’ve worked with people in the UK (of course!) the US, Europe and Asia, I’ve created illustrations – I told you that I love to draw, I’ve made people from fimo, I’ve worked with I don’t know how many fascinating people running amazing businesses to create logos, brand identities, printed materials and websites that help their businesses to grow, I’ve spoken at events (something I don’t count as one of my skills, but practice makes perfect!), I’ve made many videos and blogs, learnt a lot about marketing and social media, connected with different people and learnt a bit about what they do, tried new things, experimented and started two other businesses.

I love what I do. I’m in charge of my own future, I have flexibility to work the hours I want to work around my family and I get to do things that light me up.

Amy Purdie helps businesses become irresistible to their ideal clients through creating purposeful graphic design, she creates personalised papercuts and a monthly subscription box filled with DIY templates and she helps people set and achieve their goals. The rest of her time is spent running around after her two children and drinking copious amounts of tea.


Why Confidence is Important in the Workplace

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of confidence is a feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. For most of us, this confidence can ebb and flow depending on what is happening in our lives, what people are telling us about our behaviour or worth and what we are telling ourselves.

If we show others that we are confident it gives them faith that we know what we are doing and are capable of achieving the job in hand. However, in my own experience the people who are most confident are not always the people who get things done and make things happen. Personally, I look for more than confidence when meet people to see if I think they can get the job done. I look for skills, I look for people who will do what they say they will. I look for people who have achieved before. I also look for people who have been through challenges and overcome them, because when the going gets tough it is the resilient people who will be able to tackle the most stressful situations, even if they don’t really want to.

However, other people do look at confidence to make a snap judgement on whether or not someone is capable. I was following a discussion on Linkedin recently about confidence and people were saying that if someone has confidence it is because they have tackled difficult situations and have faith in their own ability to achieve again in future situations.

I disagree because people’s confidence can be dented by so many outside influences, by gaslighting, bullying and distortion of what is true by people who feel insecure. If a person has this experience in their childhood they are more likely to repeat these patterns in their adult lives. Even when all the evidence is stacked up that they are capable and can achieve great things, if every single mistake is pointed out as a failure and they are told regularly that they are no good, they will believe it and they will tell themselves the same messages, reinforcing those negative thoughts. This then affects their behaviour and they will not try to achieve as much as someone who hasn’t been given these messages.

So thought patterns affect behaviour which affects the outcome.

What Can we Do About It?

So I wrote a previous blog about the power pose and how effective it can be for giving us confidence during interviews. I find it really works and used it myself a couple of years ago to help me perform well during a series of very stressful situations.

Another practical way of making ourselves happier and subsequently more confident is to focus on what makes us happy and feel good. For the past three years I have taken part in #100HappyDays which you may have seen if you follow me on Facebook. It genuinely made me feel happier and more confident because I made the effort to focus on what makes me happy and I was actively thinking about what my happy would be for that day. The first time I took part I found it really difficult and I enlisted other people to do it alongside me to make it easier. This did work, but other people said they couldn’t do it and made excuses. If I could do this whilst I was experiencing one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, then I have faith that anyone can do it if they really want to do it enough. The good thing about putting it on social media was that people noticed if I didn’t post. And of course there were the odd days where I didn’t post for one reason or another, but because I was doing it to make myself happier I let it go and didn’t beat myself up.

#100HappyDays was one thing I did. It helped but it didn’t flick a switch and make me super happy and confident. Happiness is something we have to work on. It’s a bit like personal hygiene – taking a shower won’t make us clean for the rest of our lives, it’s something we need to repeat over and over again to maintain the cleanliness.

So once #100HappyDays started to get easier I decided to try something else which is a gratitude challenge. So every day at the moment I am thinking about what I am grateful to have in my life. This was in some ways even more challenging than the happiness challenge because I struggled to use the word grateful. Grateful was a word that was thrown around at me a great deal when I was a child, with the SHOULD, MUST and with a bit of shame attached. You should be grateful because I have sacrificed this for you. However in letting this go and reframing the word and what it means for me I was able to embrace it. So these days I am grateful for my body because it has allowed me to start running (and today it hurts because I have used it!) and I am grateful for the love and support of my husband, sometimes I am grateful because I have met up with supportive people in business and other times I am grateful for the clients I am working with because I end up giving them what I need and working with them gives me so much personal development it is a privilege to be able to inspire people and help them to achieve their life goals.

I get feedback a great deal from people who think I have bags of confidence and sometimes the feedback I get surprises me. The most important tip is that if you don’t feel confident, pretend you do. It will fool most people! Eventually you will find that you’re no longer pretending and you can walk into any room in any situation. It is something I am still working on but I have come a long way. I didn’t used to be able to walk into a room and start talking to people I don’t know, but I can now. I never thought I would get on a plane on my own, but last year I stepped on a plane to Barcelona all by myself and navigated the airports and the transfers and it had been at least 10 years since I had been abroad anywhere.

Confidence is something we need to practice both at work and outside of work and one way I have found that helps me feel more confident at work is when I ask to take on projects that stretch and grow me as an individual but that also benefits the organisation I work for. Some of the extras I was involved in at work were setting up and managing a counselling service, expanding and managing a work club, and of course now I have set up and run a whole company which 10 years ago I would never have imagined being able to do let alone actually doing it.

If you want to do something enough, don’t make excuses – make it happen. If you don’t feel like you can do it alone, we are here to help so reach out and ask for help. It’s what I do best! You can contact us here.

Have you got any tips for feeling more confident? We’d love to hear them so tell us in the comments.

Looking for Work Over 50

It can be tricky looking for work when you're over 50 and you might have lost confidence. You have loads going for you though so think positively and take the steps to find success!

Read more

I Quit!

I Quit!

Having problems at work?  Feel like quitting?  This blog post will examine why it’s rarely a good idea to walk away from a job in the heat of the moment, or indeed because of problems in the workplace that are building up.

Rewind 10 years, and I did exactly that.  I had a minimum wage job following a redundancy and the negative impact of that job was quite substantially affecting my quality of life alongside some personal issues that I had at the time.  The combination of stress due to home and work was awful.  I endured the job for six months, but it felt like a lifetime.  I was contracted for 16 hours, but working 30 hours, so when it came to taking time off I couldn’t afford to take holidays as I would only get paid for 16 hours.  When I started I gave my new employer my P45, but the manager failed to pass this on and I didn’t realise it at the time but the whole time I was there I was paying emergency tax (which I did get back but I needed it at the time, not 8 months later).  The manager changed my hours on a weekly basis without consulting with me and this impacted on my childcare.  The final straw for me came when the manager changed my hours so that I was only working at times where I had to pay for childcare and not when the children were in school.  In tears I walked out of the workplace.  Thankfully, it didn’t impact on my life negatively but only because I had managed to secure a new job and was waiting for a start date which happened just a few weeks later. So walking away from this job might have been a disaster, but actually wasn’t!

I’ve been in other situations too, where people have told me that I couldn’t possibly return to work due to the impact the stress of the situation would have on my health.  But I did go back and I handled it so that I managed to make the situation as positive as it possibly could be under the circumstances.  The impact on my health was detrimental but if I hadn’t done it the long term consequences would have been enormous.

So, if you’re having problems at work, it’s important not to walk away but to use the policies and procedures of the organisation (also a requirement of the law) to ensure your position is strong when you do leave.  You must follow the policies (even if the company fails to) and ensure that you continue to do your job to the best of your ability.  Take notes of situations that arise as this might become necessary in the future as evidence.

If you work for a reputable company, then chances are that they will be as keen to put the situation right as you are.  However not all companies follow the guidelines they should and in these circumstances it is vital that you protect yourself as much as you are able to.  Your work impacts every aspect of your life so it’s important to be in a role that suits your circumstances as well as your values.

You can get free, independent advice from ACAS and it’s also a good idea to gain support from others around you, for example friends and family.  However, remember that the situation is confidential so it’s also important to ensure that you stay within the parameters of confidentiality.

Whilst you are in the midst of problems in the workplace, it can be a very stressful and intense environment.  After all, it is one of the few situations you are unable to remove yourself from without severe consequences.  If there is an argument at home it is easy to go into another room to calm down, but it’s not always possible at work – depending on the circumstances of your job.

There is usually a way of leaving your job without walking away from it.  If you walk away, you walk away from the security of the income stream you have had, you risk a negative reference when you apply for other jobs and you almost certainly will struggle with claiming benefits.  I advise my clients on this basis – as the old saying goes,

it’s easier to find a new job if you are working already.

Job Rejection and Reflection.

Job Rejection and Reflection.



Today, I would like to focus on how to overcome rejection when you apply for a job and either you don’t hear back or you get an interview and are unsuccessful.  When applying for work it is beneficial to have an idea of what sort of work you would like and what sort of company you would like to work for, but then be flexible enough in your search so that if something comes up that you hadn’t thought of you can match it against those criteria and decide if you will apply.  Its not a good idea to focus on particular job titles as these can be misleading and may not be what you are expecting.  Its good to try not to get too focussed on one particular job that is advertised (sometimes easier said than done) and its not a good idea to be too narrow in your search, or too broad.

Once you have applied for some jobs it is sensible to keep on searching and applying for jobs that interest you.  I have worked with clients who have applied for one or two jobs, and then they sit back and watch the phone or letter box on and just after the closing date, becoming more and more depressed if they don’t hear back and sometimes very angry that the employer hasn’t even responded to them.  Unfortunately this approach is not only demoralising and demotivating – it is counter productive and you are much more likely to succeed in your job search if you carry on searching and applying, keeping good records of those you have applied for and moving on to the next application form or CV adaptation.

If you have an interview and are told you were unsuccessful, it is good practice and often advice to ask for feedback.  This can help you in the future if you are given constructive reasons why you were not chosen for the job.  However, I would advise that it is good to think about the reasons given and if they are constructive, accurate and based in fact.  I have had an experience where I was told I missed something out of a presentation but no examples were given of what I had missed so was left without anything solid to build any improvements on.  Of course this may not be the real reason for rejection.  It could be something else that they would rather not tell you about for whatever reason that might be, it might be that they had someone in mind for the role already or that there was nothing you could improve on but they had to make a decision and this time it wasn’t you.

It is good to reflect on the interview and if you can constructively criticise it yourself.  Often we can tell when we could have answered a question more thoroughly or thought of a better scenario of where  we have demonstrated a skill or quality.  Think of these examples and write them down as they might come up again in another interview.  Don’t beat yourself up though – in the moment when we are being interviewed we are often nervous and don’t always perform at our best.  Each interview we encounter is good practice for the next time we need to go through this and hopefully each time we can improve on the last one.  The more interviews experienced, the less nervous you will feel (and if this is not the case then I recommend that you access some support around this.)

Eventually, if you have your technique well honed and you have the skills needed you will be successful in changing your job.  It is a matter of time, and a numbers game.  The more applications you make the more chance you have of securing that role.  If you take the rejection personally and give up, this is obviously not going to help you get a new job.  It will of course take patience and resilience to achieve this goal, but keep going! Remember there are many people who apply for a job usually, with only one vacancy available.  If you are getting interviews you are doing well and will be successful .  If not you need to look at why you aren’t – do you need more training?  Experience?  Do you need to look at the information you are putting into the application forms?

There is help available for each stage of this process, so make sure you get it.  If you need help to stay on track ask someone you know to hold you to account for the number of jobs you apply for etc.  There is no need to do this alone – it is a difficult and time consuming time, so don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t succeed – remember each application you fill in is taking you a step closer to your goal!

The Benefits of Independent Careers Advice

The Benefits of Independent Careers Advice

At the start of my career path, I went to a local college for some help to enroll onto a course.  I had decided I wanted to study childcare,  I was very young, and didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a career and someone made a suggestion which seemed as good as other course I could do at the time.  So there I was at the college, waiting to be seen by someone.  I ended up having a meeting with a member of staff who failed to help me with childcare and attempted to get me to enroll on a different course than the one I had told him I wanted to be on.  He didn’t listen to my needs and seemed to have an agenda which didn’t match my own.  As this happened about 18 years ago, I am a little vague on the detail now, but I will never forget how this treatment made me feel.  I ended up trying desperately to hold back the tears in the waiting area as I didn’t want anyone to see me cry in public.  I then ended up talking to someone else who happened to be a tutor on a childcare course and pointed me in the right direction.  However, despite the kindness of several members of staff I wasn’t given the correct information about childcare and the free places and to cut a long story short was unable to access those places at the start of the course.  Had I been given the correct information in the first instance, the situation would have been much less stressful.  I know now I am a careers adviser that I would have benefited from independent careers advise which might have helped me get to my chosen vocation in a more direct route than I took.  I completed the childcare course and decided (eventually) that it wasn’t the right career for me and went round the houses for years – joking along the way that I still don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up!

So the point of that tale was that I really would have benefited at that point from someone who cared about my aspirations, listened to my needs and helped me explore my values and aspirations.   I am aware of other advice available around career changes, but much of the advice is there to encourage people onto a particular training course, or is mandatory as the government tries to support people back to work.

Most people at some point in their lives would benefit from independent careers guidance.  This can be on the start of their career path, where they are struggling to advance their career, facing a redundancy situation or thinking of retirement.  I believe that people who have access to independent careers advice will be empowered to tap into their own aspirations quicker than those who don’t.  We can have very well meaning people in our lives who can muddy the water when making decisions as they are helpful by making suggestions to us.  Sometimes this can prevent us from listening to our inner voices and tapping into our values and dreams.  I provide a space where open questions and a non judgmental attitude support you to find your own path, one that is right for you, your aspirations and your current circumstances.

If you would like independent careers guidance, contact Kelly today on 07881294894 or email Kelly@cygnetnortheast.com

Staying Motivated

Staying Motivated

Staying motivated is essential in any job search, but it is really difficult.  The situation you face might be that you’re applying for loads of jobs and hearing nothing back.   Many of my clients find this very rude on the part of the employer, but unfortunately it is the norm and can be very frustrating.  My advice is not to take it personally and to keep on applying.  However, if you are applying for job after job and not getting interviews then it may well be time to ask why.  Is it because you don’t have enough experience?  Is it because you aren’t giving the best examples of your competencies? Or is it that you’re applying for the wrong jobs? There will be a reason and it is important to identify it as soon as possible, otherwise you are wasting valuable time.

Another situation you might face when applying for jobs is that you’re getting interviews but haven’t been offered a job and have faced a few rejections.  This can have a damaging effect on our confidence too, however my advice would be that if you are getting interviews the employer thinks you have something to offer because you have been short-listed – so keep going!

It’s really important in any job search not to get too hung up on wanting ONE job in particular.  This is easier said than done as it’s only natural to imagine yourself in a particular role – especially if you have been for an interview and you like the feel of the place.  However, in order to be successful you must stay detached – but not too detached! If you seem like you don’t care about the job or the company, this will not get you the job.  But the best way to approach a job search is to be like a robot.  Keep on knocking out the applications and try not to get too emotionally involved.  It can feel very personal, but it really isn’t.  An employer has a role to fill and has to make decisions based on past experience and a very impersonal application process.

Of course, the above advice does depend on your circumstances.  If you are out of work or facing a redundancy situation you might need to get a job quickly.  Whereas if you have a job but would like to improve your circumstances you will be more selective about the jobs you apply for.

I am sure your job search will be as unique as your individual circumstances, but the scenarios above are very common.  If you have a question please contact me.  Also – remember that the person who gets the job will probably be the best at selling themselves and these skills aren’t necessarily the same as the competencies needed for the job.  The good news is that you can learn the skills needed to get the job you’ve always wanted.

Returning to Work After a Gap

Returning to Work After a Gap

It can be difficult to return to employment following a gap for any reason – whether that is because you have been looking after someone (bringing up a family or supporting a family member due to ill health), because you have suffered a health problem yourself, or if you have been working in a career and decide you would like to pursue a different direction.

Without recent experience in the field that you would like to move into, or without an idea of what it is you want to do it can be difficult to know where to start.  There are many options open to you, and your path will be determined by a number of factors.  These include your current financial situation, how long you want to work towards your chosen field (are you prepared to retrain or volunteer for a few years?), what your current skills are and what your values are.  Its also wise to think about the opportunities that are available to you.  Is it realistic to want to be the next Prime Minister?  Well someone has to be but it’s important to know what might be involved in this and whether you think it is worth the effort.

Having a fixed idea of what you want to do can be helpful as it means you will be able to plan the steps you need to take quite easily, however there are disadvantages to this approach if you don’t have any flexibility and you are not prepared to change course if opportunities arise on the way to your chosen goal.  However on the other hand not having any idea of where you want to go and being swayed by every potential opportunity that comes your way can be a massive barrier too.  This is due to having too many opportunities and not focusing on any one thing, you are less likely to achieve any of them.

So the point of this article really is to point out that it is good to have a plan, but a plan that is flexible and one that is dynamic based on developments of the situation that invariably come up in your life.  If you don’t know where to start, or you just need a little bit of help, I can help you to get onto the right path and help you to stay focused.  Sometimes, just knowing that there is someone there asking how you are getting on with your plan can help you to stay focused and make sure you do all the things you say you are going to do!

If you need help to decide what next, or how to be successful in finding a job after taking a career break for whatever reason get in touch – Kelly@cygnetnortheast.com or phone 07881294894. Or you can use our contact form.  We can help you to explain why you haven’t been in work in a positive way.