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3 tips on how to secure an angel investment for your start-up idea

It is extremely hard to find an angel investor willing to back your business idea with their own money.  The reason is that investors prefer to invest at a later stage of business development, when you have already done all the legwork to demonstrate that your idea is a viable business concept that has gained traction in the marketplace.  But how can you even reach this point if you have no adequate financial resources available to develop your concept?

In this article, I will share with you some tips for success in securing initial start-up investment from my personal experience. I had an idea for a tech start-up last year and have managed to find an angel investor who, after careful consideration, decided to invest in my concept and make it happen. The process of developing my idea into a launchable product is currently going ahead. Watch this space!

So if you have a business idea in which you need investment, here are my key tips:

  1. Make sure you are passionate and enthusiastic about your business idea and that you believe it will be successful. If you have doubts about its potential success, then it is probably better to wait longer and refine the concept. Of course, success is not guaranteed, but if you believe in something strongly enough, you have a better chance of persuading potential investors to start working with you.


  1. Have a one pager business plan prepared so that you can talk it over in detail at an interview and pitch stages of the process. You don’t necessarily have to have all the numbers worked out at this stage but you need to understand your target market, the reasons why you think your business will be successful, challenges you may face and of course the current competition.


  1. Do detailed searches for potential angel investors and understand their background – you can do this through Google, LinkedIn and other online sources. There is no point in approaching investors whose areas of expertise are completely different from the industry you would like to operate in. I also recommend you check which investments they have made to date, in which sectors and whether any of them have seen success. Also it is worth understanding whether the prospective investor takes an active or passive approach. I have personally found that an active investor is a big advantage to start-up success as they get involved in the day to day planning and strategizing and can be a great asset on the path to success.


In the next post, I will be sharing some tips on how to approach investors in order to secure an initial interview. If you have a start-up idea and need coaching on pitching, refining the idea and business plan, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

New Year – New Beginnings. Your CVs and Cover Letters in 2016

On 13 January 2016, I was invited to be a panellist for the Guardian Careers Q&A on CVs and Cover Letters in 2016. Here I have compiled some of the most pertinent questions and my answers to them. Hope you find them useful. You can find complete discussion here:

Q: Is a LinkedIn profile really necessary? I don’t believe collecting “likes” is essential in being the best candidate.

A: Yes in our age it is critical to have LI profile – your online CV. You may be confusing with facebook as you don’t get likes on LI. You get endorsed and recommended, which are important things for your job applications when somebody in effect is vouching for you and it reinforces your credibility as a professional.


Q: Would you recommend CVs in WORD or PDF format or doesn’t it matter?

A: I suggest always in PDF unless required otherwise. It looks more professional and tidier.


Q: How do you best cover five years away from work raising kids? Maybe put the MBA at the top (pre kids) and then the last job?

A: Yes, this would be one solution and then explaining in your Cover Letter than you have been raising children and perhaps you have volunteered somewhere, written something, learnt a language or anything else that could add value to the CV? Perhaps some Open University course or something similar? If not, don’t worry. I have worked with a number of women in a similar situation who dedicated their whole time to raising kids and simply had no time for any of the above. In this case, just focus on your MBA and the last job and career aspirations you have going forward. Good luck


Q: Last year I was made redundant from a company where I had worked as a library assistant for 12 years. I am now at another college but feel history is repeating in terms of cuts, expectations, no progression etc. I did not go to Uni as I’ve always worked. I’m in my mid thirties and need a change of direction but don’t know where to start?

A: Perhaps it may make sense to take some course in the area that may be of interest to you? Nowadays there are lots of paid for and free online courses available that could add more flavour to your CV and help you change the direction. You should also think and brainstorm about which areas/career paths you may want to explore further and how all your previous experiences and skills feed into these.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to post in the Comments Box and I will aim to respond as soon as possible.


How to be successful at media interviews? Interview with Akash Paun


Today we are interviewing Akash Paun, Fellow of the Institute for Government – a political think tank in London. He has been interviewed extensively in the UK and international media about issues relating to government the upcoming UK election. His latest interview for BBC can be viewed here.

1.      You have made a lot of successful appearances on international TV, such as BBC, Singapore TV and others. What did you find most challenging during your preparatory work for these interviews?

The key thing about doing broadcast interviews on TV is the short period of time you have to deliver your messages, which means you can run out of time before you get across your main conclusions. In preparation, it is important to practise communicating complex messages in a concise way for a non-specialised audience. You should also keep extra details, examples and explanations in your head in case you have longer than expected but always try and deliver your key message first of all.

2.      How do you recommend to calm the nerves before an important TV or radio interview?

I don’t have any special techniques to calm my nerves before interviews but what I would usually do is practise, ideally with a colleague, write down some bullet point notes of the top points I want to make, and make sure I know roughly what the journalist wants to ask me about to be sure I’m preparing for the right questions. Aside from that, you have to trust yourself that you know enough about the subject to answer the questions in a credible and effective way. If you are not enough of an expert on the topic, then you should consider turning down those particular media requests, which I have done on a number of occasions.

3.      What is the most important key to appearing confident and knowledgeable during a media appearance?

To appear knowledgeable, I would say that ultimately there is no alternative to actually having a deep understanding of the subject. Of course you can try to fake expertise by using some common buzzwords or jargon, but viewers can often see through those who are faking it. Confidence is a different thing though. Here what I try to do is just to forget about the audience watching at home and try to treat the interview as a conversation with the journalist or presenter. Try to be friendly and engaging and to show a genuine interest in the subject matter.

4.      What is the most exciting part of appearing on TV or radio for you personally?

In my job, a lot of the time even if I’m proud of my work or a report or article I have written, it often feels like fairly few people actually hear anything about it, beyond specialists and others particularly interested in my field and of course my family. Being on TV is a chance to speak to a wider audience. The work I do is about trying to improve the effectiveness and public understanding of government, but sometimes there is a danger of speaking about these issues in quite a complicated or jargon-based way. So I do like the challenge of trying to rethink why the subject is important to the wider world and how to communicate this to a general public audience.


Akash can be reached on Twitter @AkashPaun





How to deal with difficult colleagues?

difficult colleaguesOn 29th January I was invited to be an expert on the Guardian Careers panel on the topic of dealing with difficult colleagues in the workplace. You can find the whole discussion here but in the article below I have tried to pull together some of the most interesting questions and my answers to them. Hope you find it useful.

Q: How do you deal with difficult people in meetings?

A: First of all, we need to understand what is meant under ‘difficult’ people in meetings – do they interrupt, don’t contribute or are simply moody and unresponsive?

There are different techniques for various categories above. For instance, if somebody interrupts constantly, a wise thing to do might be to have a quick chat with them during the break (if you are in the position of a meeting leader) or say ‘ we will address all your concerns at the end or on a one-to-one basis’. If somebody doesnt usually contribute, then the best thing may be to preempt it by asking them to prepare something specific for the meeting.

If somebody is plainly being rude, then talking to them in a break or before the meeting itself may be a good idea.

Q: I have called an informal meeting with a manager about a manager who I feel is bullying me. What is the best way of preparing for it?

A: First of all, you need to understand the internal politics of the company very well to succeed in this kind of meeting, for instance, are these two friends? Do they like each other? Would be also helpful to know who out of the two is more senior as it would affect your approach and the angle you should take.

Generally, jot down the facts one by one to provide the evidence and how you responded to each case. It is quite a serious claim you are making so you need to be 100% sure you want to progress it as it would probably affect your situation within the company.

Have you tried speaking directly to the ‘offending’ manager? Always the best way forward in the first instance.

Good luck!

Q: I am invisible (deliberately) to my 2 supervisors contrary to how they treat the rest of my team. Have you any advice?

A: I would suggest arranging an informal meeting with them to discuss how you feel as it sounds like it may have been going on for some time already. Prepare well in advance of the meeting and be very respectful and polite when you attend. There may be some issues they have with something concerning you as well which affects their attitude – this informal coffee chat should be able to flash the issue out.

Q: I have been in my organisation for about 13 months. I work as a manager but unfortunately I have not had the responsibilities of a manager. Instead my manager makes me book meetings, print off documents for her infant, I do all her secretary tasks (ps due to cost saving the organisation did not replace the secretary when she left).

I have informed my supervisor about this but the “menial jobs” haven’t stopped. What can I do in this situation? I had a review recently and my manager is happy about my performance but I am not happy with the secretarial bits on the side.

A: Did your supervisor promise the menial tasks will end during your meeting? Or was the outcome of the meeting inconclusive?

I would send the follow up email from the meeting outlining the things you have discussed and agreed on.

You could also ask for more responsibility as she is happy with your performance and frame it along the angle of further intellectual and on the job development related directly to the job at hand.

How to use your language skills to get a job


A lot of my clients are linguists and want to know what their prospects are in the current job market. Below there are some questions an my answers to them on the topic of languages and jobs.

Q: Research seems to tell a conflicting story – while employers recognise the benefits for language skills, they aren’t necessarily prioritising them at the recruitment stage. Is it true?

A: I believe a lot depends on the industry/sector in questions. For instance, if you are applying for a market research company undertaking cross-country research, then language knowledge will be fundamental. But if you are looking for a job in retail in the UK, then it is not something absolutely necessary. In other words, internationally-oriented companies recognise significant importance of language knowledge at recruitment stage and further into employment so the more languages you master the better if you wish to target these industries and companies.

Q: What are your thoughts on the career prospects of language graduates in the UK at the moment?

A: It is all about carefully selection and targeting of the companies that recognise the importance of languages in an applicant’s portfolio. Try large market research/marketing/advertising corporations, such as WPP Group, Euromonitor, Mintel – they all need qualified language professionals for a lot of their posts.

Q: I am a recent engineering graduate fluent in German and Mandarin. I am in a role where I believe they could be used well. What is a good way to explain to my employer the benefits?

A: Prepare a detailed case as to why they should expand your responsibilities to include those languages. And include the key benefit points as to why they will be beneficial for the company in terms of revenue, client base and ultimately, profit growth. Concentrate on the aforementioned metrics as they are close to executives’ hearts and it would be easier to persuade them of the value. You may also use some cases of closest competition you are aware of that have utilised these languages to their advantage.

Hope the above helps and if you have any further questions, please feel free to post them in the Comments box below and I will endevour to address them all.

New year’s resolutions: how to find a job you love in 2015

A few days ago, I was invited to take part in the expert panel for the Guardian Careers on New Year career resolutions. You can access the full discussion here. In this article I will provide the most relevant questions and my answers to them. Hope you will find it helpful.

Q: Do you have any tips or techniques that people can try to refocus their job hunting?

A: I would suggest to refocus from applying strictly online to carefully considered and selective networking by identifying and contacting key people at target companies. Aim to gather up to 10 contacts (but the more the better) for your companies and get contacting them for informational interviews. Proven and results-oriented approach.

Q: I have a strong interest in management, but have had a problem trying to find anywhere which offers junior/entry level management positions. I have applied to multiple graduate general management schemes, but have always been knocked out during psychometric numerical testing which is admittedly something I have always struggled on. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

A: It sounds that you are successful in converting job applications into interviews, which is a great thing. What you need to work on is numerical tests and it is much easier than converting into interviews. It requires careful planning and dedicating at least an hour each day for practice tests (there are a lot of good free ones online and some high quality paid for ones). Numerical tests tend to test basic maths skills and speed of thinking – the former you have got already I am sure and the latter is developed by everyday practice.

Q: I’m struggling to decide on either a new direction or stick with what I know …

A: Well, changing careers is always a challenging task which requires a lot of consideration and weighing up. Initially you could write out a list of all the positives associated with your current career and what you like most about it, then what you don’t particularly like and the key reasons you will consider changing. Then compare and weigh up – but would recommend to do it over a period of time to make sure you don’t make a mistake and everything is carefully thought through. You can also involve close friends and family and ask for their advice.

Q: I have a good degree in Sociology with a customer service/admin background. However, I cannot seem to find an industry to break into or a career path I’m passionate about – Help!

A: Perhaps with your background you could consider a job in market research as a starting point and then progress to client management within the same or different organisation? There are a number of more junior market research openings at big companies such as WPP, which if performed well, can lead to client-facing positions and then once you have gained experience, you could join a consulting project oriented firm.


Tips on how to job hunt effectively during Christmas


christmasIn this article I have collated the round up of the key questions and my answers to them on the topic of Christmas job hunting. Another set of highlights from the Guardian Careers live Q&A I was an expert panelist on. The full discussion can be found here.

Q: If a job asks to send a cover letter via email – do you attach it or put in body of the email? Another question: Can the social media profiles of young people today be a barrier to getting that job tomorrow?

A: To answer the first question first, it is a very common question people ask and what I would suggest is having a close look at the job description to see whether they have specified the way your cover letter must be sent. Some positions explicitly specify. In case if it not mentioned, the best way is to attach your cover letter following an established tradition. If you want to play it even safer, do it in the main email body and then attach it to the email as well.

The second question: it could possible be a barrier if a social profile is completely out of line and indiscreet as a lot of the information about it is saved for life on search engines so best to be safer and either keep it all very professional or make your private account private.

Q: How do I stay positive and motivated when feeling upset and disheartened about my job hunt?
 What practical techniques are good to stop any feelings of bitterness arising when I don’t get offered a job?

A: Perseverance, consistency and self-confidence – these three words are a good guide on how you should approach your job search. It is a completely natural feeling for all of us to feel a bit disappointed when hearing a rejection but the key to success is to minimise the unproductive ‘upset’ time and sit down to think what can be improved and how your current strategy can be tweaked to get better results. Asking actively for feedback after rejections will provide you with a lot of learning ground for the future as well. In the end, those who are persistent, consistent and confident will surely end up with offers!

Q: What’s the best way to handle handing your notice knowing you’ll have to come back after christmas? What’s the best way to negotiate reducing a notice period?

A: Well, generally each company has it written down in their contract of employment how long the notice period be and if you have given notice before christmas, it is even better in some ways as the days off still count as part of your notice period and you wouldn’t generally have to work them off (but a lot depends on the industry so you should check for more detail what your contract says). In many companies, they wouldn’t even deem it necessary for you to come after after giving in your notice and you can stay on the garden leave and complete your assignments from home.

Q: Is it worth sending speculative applications at this time of year or should one wait till the new year?


– Yes, definitely worth it as a lot of people are in a more relaxed mood closer to the holiday time and you never know, something might materialise early in the new year thanks to your pre-Christmas approaches.

– You may be deemed ‘overqualified’ as it is true these training programmes are generally aimed at people with less experience. May be worth meeting managers of the department you are interested in and speaking to them direct asking for their opinion and advice.

Q: How do big firms recruit into these more entry-level roles other than apprenticeships or graduate schemes? Is there hope for someone in their mid-30s with who perhaps has underachieved academically when they were younger and is finding it difficult to establish a sound career for themselves a bit later in life?

A: The issue here is that a lot of entry level positions are not advertised direct and you and enter the industry by intensive networking and getting to know managerial staff in your target companies/departments. I believe in your case, it is the surest way to land an entry level job. Prepare a well-thought through pitch as to why you would like to work in that post and how you have progressed over the years and how you can benefit this particular company.


How to use social media correctly to get a job: Q&A

social mediaOn 26th November 2014 I took part as an expert panelist in the Guardian Careers debate on using social media to source a job of your dreams. You can find the complete debate on their website here. In this article, I will provide a compilation of the most relevant questions from the public accompanied by my answers. Hope this will be useful for you and I will be keen to hear your feedback and ideas on the topic.

Q: I currently have 2 ‘jobs’ listed on my linkedin profile (my proper job I get paid for, and also my artistic ‘freelance’ stuff I do in my spare time), I’ve been wondering lately if I should keep these as separate profiles? As perhaps it could make me look unfocused?

A: It largely depends on whether your freelancing is closely related to your job in terms of skills and experiences, if so, I would definitely keep them all in one profile. And even if not related, then I would suggest having both in one profile as each one would enrich the other and make yourself appear as an interesting rounded person.

Q: How can someone who has been out of the workplace for a while (caring for family for example) start using social media credibly so that she/he will appear attractive to employers in 2015?

A: First of all, I would suggest selecting social media channels that are most closely related to your personal profile, interests and your target jobs. For instance, you could perhaps start with properly updating your LinkedIn profile and your Twitter account so that both are in good shape. Then I would try to get in touch with previous employer(s) before your period of absence from the workplace and ask them to provide you with recommendations for your LI profile to enhance your credibility. 
Then have a think and brainstorm all creative, work-related activities which you may have done during your period of absence from the workplace and list them on your LI profile and under volunteering. Period of absences to care for children can be very productive in accumulating invaluable experiences and skills highly transferable into the workplace. And whatever you do, avoid losing confidence and persevere. All the best of luck!

Q: What advice do you have to make your online profile stand out, and do you have any views on how to make the best out of your involvement in discussion groups?

A: The key piece of advice I would give is to keep your group involvement ONLY to the most relevant ones as quality is more important than quantity. 
Also make sure you add a smiley professional photo to the profile. So often I see gloomy faced on LI and they are not very inviting to get in touch with.
And most importantly, keep your profile up to date as it is in effect your online CV and needs to be put in as much effort as into your written document CV.

Q: I have a personal and a ‘professional’ twitter account (that I consider ‘clean’ in case anyone professional does look me up). Just realised I’ve tweeted a bit about political stuff and petitions etc on occasion, just wondering if that could have a negative effect (especially if the person researching you was opposed to your views).

A: It could of course but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You have the right to your own opinion and as long as it is professionally written, it should be fine. However, Facebook would probably be a better place for petitions etc as this is a more suited social medium for this kind of activity.

Q: I’m an experienced manager with over 16 years management experience in post-16 education. How can I use social media as a job-hunting tool to raise my profile, source ‘hidden’ roles and secure employment to match my skills and experience?

A: All the previous comments about LinkedIn apply in your case as well. I would also add aim to expand your contact base every day by a few contacts at least in the industries and companies of most interest to you and aim to take the newly built relationships offline for a coffee for instance to properly introduce yourself and make a lasting impression in order to build a high quality network. 
Also you can demonstrate your expertise in the field by publishing posts on LI as it now allows you to do this on their platform.
And keep your industry knowledge up to date by following the relevant influencers on Twitter and re-tweeting interesting pieces of information or commenting on something that has genuinely impressed you.

How to be a successful leader and manager?

On the 12th November I took part in the Guardian online discussion on leadership and being a successful manager – the programme sponsored by Harvard Business School. You can find the complete discussion here. Below I will provide some pertinent questions asked and my answers to them. Hope you find it useful and I would love you to share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Q: What is the biggest leadership challenge you’ve been faced with, and how did you overcome it?

A:  One of the hardest leadership challenges I had to face is inspiring the team to work towards and aim to achieve the targets after the previous manager left and there was a void in the team. I had to assume the role of a leader as was the most senior person on the team at the time. It was very challenging indeed due to the fact that people felt demotivated and demoralised by the manager’s departure (he was a very good leader) and a lot of them started skipping work, making up excuses as to why they didn’t hit their targets etc. Moreover, other directors didn’t take close interest in this team apart from the financial results, which added to the sense of frustration. I believe in these complex situations, the most effective way forward is to have a close informal discussion with each team member and discuss their worries and anticipated challenges in detail on a one to one basis.

Q: How do you see the constant change in organizations (and corresponding overwork/burnout) impacting the managers you work with?

A: Some managers I have observed and worked alongside tend to become ‘withdrawn’ sitting at their desks engrossed in their spreadsheets. A lot of them tend to stop talking to the people ‘on the floor’ and only liaise with the board or their own management and concentrate purely on financial stuff and figures. This often results in higher staff turnover and disenchanted feelings within the teams.

Q: What is the most effective way to climb the management ladder?

A: I would say that getting to know as many people within the organisation as possible is one of the keys to success. Including of course a lot of senior directors/managers/board level people. Impressive performance and letting others know of this performance is important as well. Also the sheer number of years within the organisation will help you achieve senior status faster.

Q: I’m interested to find out why the the ‘bottom line culture’ is such a persistent issue?

A: Yes unfortunately the bottom line culture persists across the organisations – the economic downturn hasn’t helped much either. I believe that within the private sector, it is almost impossible to change this mindset concentrating on financial results unless you change the thinking at the very top of the organisation. But again, private sector companies are oriented towards profit making so the bottom line culture stems from this very orientation.


How to write a successful CV and Cover Letter


On the 8th October I took part in the Guardian Careers live discussion on CV and Cover Letter writing and came across some interesting and relevant questions that I have included in the article below along with my answers. I hope these will assist you in crafting an effective and successful CV and Cover Letter. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask in the Comments section below.

Q: I did a short stint of seven weeks at my local Citizens Advice Bureau in 2010 to brush up on my office skills. I am now pursuing vacancies in admin roles, i.e. general office-based posts. At CAB I answered general queries by phone dealing with clients aged 60 or over and those with disabilities. I also set up various cases on the database, took messages and other office tasks etc.How can I tailor this experience on my CV?

A: This is very good experience if you are aiming to pursue a career in admin. Answering the queries on the phone, updating databases, using computer skills, dealing with various people across organisations including your own – are all great examples of your administrative and organisational abilities and skills. So I would suggest including all the above under your CAB experience with a bullet point for each. Good luck!

Q: Is a CV and covering letter as important as work experience? What’s the best way to get into employment for graduates?

A: CV and Cover Letter are the documents that reflect and explain to others your work experience. As a graduate you should be able to demonstrate your excellent academic credentials along with some work experience/internships/voluntary engagements you may have undertaken parallel to your degree. Work experience is becoming more and more important for employers when they screen potential candidates for graduate full-time positions. Hope this helps.

Q: I struggle with writing a competency based CV. Do I need to provide examples packed with key words?

A: Competency-based CVs are quite tricky as yes, you will need to provide some evidence for the statements you have made. For example, if you are claiming your have outstanding maths and analytical abilities, you will need to provide some evidence from your education or employment supporting this claim. Concentrate on facts, figures, improvements you have made to an organisation. Packing with keywords in not necessary – as long as you include the main words from the job description along with good examples, it should suffice.

Q: I am a MA graduate applying for EA roles within the media industry. Most job descriptions found on job sites are very vague and do not include what company is hiring. How do I make my CV and cover letter stand out, when I cannot research the company before submitting my application?

A: I hear this question again and again from my clients. This is precisely the reason why you should always aim to contact the companies direct and check for vacancies on the companies’ websites in the first instance. In many cases, they prefer to recruit direct not through agencies as it avoids them a lot of cost and risk and this is why more and more companies are moving their recruitment in-house. So prepare a shortlist of media companies and then visit their websites and select the openings of most interest.

Q: This is a pretty minor issue but when it comes to cover letters, is it OK to send the cover letter part of the application as an email, and attach the CV to that email? As opposed to an email with 2 attachments (cover letter + CV).

A: All depends on the job and the requirements. If it says nothing on the job description, then it is safer to attach CV and letter as separate documents and it generally looks more professional. Some jobs ask for the letter to be included in the body of an email – in this case go ahead and do that. Good luck