Informational Interviews: A ‘How to’ Guide

Informational Interviews: A ‘How to’ Guide

When you are considering a career change, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the unknown quantity of what may lie ahead. You may be attracted to a particular career path or industry, but feel hesitant about committing to the journey when you are uncertain about the terrain.

It’s natural to feel indecisive and a little afraid when making any kind of change, but these are feelings we need to overcome to avoid getting and staying stuck.

So, how can we reduce this uncertainty and overcome our fears? We need to take control of the situation. One way to increase confidence is to master the unknown by gathering and using information.

One approach to consider is an informational interview. This powerful tool can give you the information and insight you need to make an informed and appropriate career decision.


What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a fantastic source of data that can help you to decide and validate your next career move. An exploratory meeting with someone who is already in your target role or industry, it allows you to hear about the role straight from the horse’s mouth.

The purpose of this exercise isn’t to secure a job. Your aim is to find out as much as you can about a potential career path, before committing to it. An informational interview with the right person can be a valuable shortcut, fast-tracking your knowledge and helping you to decide if you are setting off on the right path.


How to arrange an informational interview

To make the most of the experience, cherry pick the person you’d like to interview. Perhaps you already know someone who is working in your desired role or industry. If so, call them up and ask for an hour of their time.

If the person you’d like to talk to isn’t in your immediate network, now is the time to get to know them. Find them on LinkedIn, and send a personalised invitation, giving some background on your situation and outlining your interest in their work. Explain that you’d love to sit with them for 30 minutes or an hour, when their schedule permits, to understand more about their role. Offer to buy them a coffee, and make it as easy as possible for them to accept your invitation by flexing to their schedule and location. This may mean meeting at their office, or near a client site; be prepared to travel.

If there’s no immediate response, follow up with a telephone call a week later. If you have sent an email in advance, they are likely to have read your message and will understand why you are calling.


Preparing for your meeting

Once the date is in the diary, you can begin to prepare for your informational interview. The key to making the most of your airtime is to ask great questions. Start off by brainstorming everything you could possibly want to know about the person’s role, industry, and career. You can then begin to whittle down your question list.

The time you have secured is precious, and you won’t want to waste it by asking obvious questions, so spend time researching online before the interview. Revisit your contact’s LinkedIn profile and company web pages. Google their name and job title for recent news and even set up a Google Alert to stay abreast of new stories. The questions that remain unanswered, after you’ve mined the internet, can stay on your list for the interview.

The questions you ask should be insightful, demonstrating keen interest in and motivation for your target career. Ultimately, the answers you seek will give you a competitive edge over other candidates, an inside understanding of the industry you wish to join.

If you get stuck, think about what it is that this person can tell you, that you can’t glean from other sources. Often, it will be their story, their experiences, and their challenges that will provide the most insight. Here are some example questions, that will hopefully trigger some of your own:

  • How did you first get into this?
  • What part of your role do you feel has the biggest impact?
  • What is the most important part of your role?
  • What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
  • What is your biggest career achievement to date?
  • How do you measure success in your role?
  • What are the most important relationships for your role?
  • If you had more hours in your day, what would you do more of?
  • How has your role or industry changed since you started?
  • How do you maintain and refresh your professional skillset?
  • What advice would you give to a newcomer to the role or industry?

It can be useful to order your questions, allowing you to develop the conversation in a logical and progressive way. Also, be careful not to break rapport by asking potentially intrusive questions too early.


Making the most of your moment

On the day of the interview, you could arrive early and base yourself nearby to run over your questions. Ideally, you’ll aim for a free-flowing conversation, rather than a stilted Q&A session, but it’s still handy to keep your list of questions close as an aide-memoire. Taking copious notes in the interview will make it hard to give your full attention, so instead immerse yourself in the experience and listen actively and attentively with all your senses. You can capture the gold dust soon after.


Capture the gold dust

After the interview, find a quiet space – in your parked car, on the train, or in a café – and jot down what you have learned. Take a notebook and pen with you for this purpose, and spend as long as you need to capture your findings. You might start with broad subject headings, then flesh out the content as your conversation comes flooding back. If you prefer, record yourself using your phone, you can always transcribe it later.

It’s well worth taking the time to do this. You may think you’ll remember the conversation, but over time it’s likely that you will forget. Also, as you learn more about your target role, you can revisit your notes and uncover new gems of information that you can access with new understanding.


Follow up with a thank you

After the interview, follow up with a thank you. The person you interviewed has been kind enough to send the ladder back down, and this deserves recognition and thanks. Saying that, simple and sincere is the best approach, rather than gushing, over-the-top gratitude. You can write a thank you email, a LinkedIn message, or even post a handwritten note – a good way to stand out.


Connect and nurture the relationship

Now you’ve forged or warmed up this relevant connection, be sure to nurture it. Invite the person to connect via LinkedIn, follow their updates, and keep in touch. Maintain a professional relationship and demonstrate interest, but avoid stalker-like intensity.


Reflect on the experience

After a couple of days, think back on your experience. Read over your notes, and engage in a free-writing exercise to capture what you gained from it. This will help you to assimilate your learning, and to map out next steps. Are you any closer to making your decision? What else do you want or need to know? Who might you want to interview next to meet your information needs?


Informational interviews are a practical way to understand more about a target role and industry, and can help you to make an informed and confident next step. Use them in conjunction with networking, independent research, and professional training to develop your knowledge, skills, and connections, ready for your next career move.

How to Proofread Your CV

How to Proofread Your CV

When you’ve finally finished writing your CV, the desire to ship it out and be done with it can be overwhelming. I get it – you’ve spent so long looking at your screen that you can’t contemplate looking at it anymore. With glazed eyes and a tired mind, you can think of 1,001 things you’d rather be doing.

The temptation to hit the send button is one that you have to overcome. With competition for jobs so high, it’s imperative to submit an error-free CV, ensuring you are not ruled out for careless mistakes.

This makes the job of proofreading your CV a crucial one. A cursory glance-over or Microsoft spelling and grammar check just aren’t enough. A methodical and rigorous review is needed, making sure you pick up any spelling, punctuation, grammar, or formatting mistakes before your CV leaves your desk. But, how exactly should you proofread your CV?

The following tips will help you to proofread your CV, enabling you to systemically spot and address any errors before it’s too late.

Leave it Overnight


Tempting as it is to complete the task in one sitting, editing your CV immediately after you’ve written it is not the best idea. Instead, leave it overnight, or a few days if you can, before coming back to review and improve it.


Move Away from Your Desk


Looking at your screen, at your desk, where you have already sat for hours on end, isn’t conducive to the proofreading process. Instead, print your CV and take it to somewhere new. I find that I do my best proofreading in the car, away from all-consuming email and social media. The fresh location and lack of distraction help me to focus.


Read it Aloud


When you read in your head, it’s easy to skim over mistakes. Your brain sees what it wants to see, rather than what’s actually on the page.  Instead, read your CV aloud. It may seem strange at first, but it is the best way to spot any clumsy phrasing, grammatical errors, or duplicated words.

Reading your words aloud is also a good way to check you are confident in owning them. Imagine that your interviewer is quoting from your CV. In this scenario, your words should be entirely familiar and shouldn’t make you uncomfortable in any way.


Section by Section, Line by Line


Reading the whole two pages in one sitting will probably end in you skimming the text, which won’t help you to spot the finer errors. Instead, break the job into bite-size chunks. Even if it seems like it will prolong the proofreading process, it will be worth the effort.

Read each section (contact details, Headline, Profile, Key Skills, Experience, Education, AdditionalInformation, etc.) on a standalone basis, in different sittings if it helps. This way you can bring laser focus to each. It is also worth reading through the section headings and your job title headings on their own, to check they are consistent and error-free. Other single-helping jobs including checking for homophones and common spelling errors*, consistent use of tenses, repeated words, verb repetition, and accuracy of any numbers.

Taking it one stage further, using a ruler as a guide as you move down the CV will help you to focus on each line as you read it, preventing your eyes and attention from racing ahead.

* These can be missed by a spellcheck. Examples include: their/there/they’re, to/too, its/it’s, manager/manger, public/public, compliant/complaint, moral/morale, college/collage, health/heath, patient/patent.


Read it Backwards


The human attention span is short, so even if you start reading at the top of your CV with the best of intentions, you’re likely to start skimming as you move down the page. Try to make a mental note of when you began skimming, then ensure you include the most important messages above this point. Once you have read your CV top-down, read it again from the bottom-up, ensuring page two gets the same care and attention as page one.


Change Font


Looking at the same font for hours and hours can get boring. Instead, try converting your CV into a different font before proofing it. A change of style will freshen it up, encouraging a more focused and critical edit.


Use Grammarly


Online editing tools like Grammarly identify and correct a broad range of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes, helping you to achieve a polished and error-free CV. Grammarly checks for over 250 grammar rules, so it’s pretty comprehensive.


Ask a Friend


It’s not a bad idea to have a friend (or two) look at your CV before you send it. An impartial review can help you to gain perspective and can improve your final edit.

Aside from using their fresh eyes to check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes, you can ask them to sanity check the message your CV conveys. Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • Is your career target clear? What do they perceive that goal to be?
  • Are they convinced of your suitability of that target by reading the first half of page one?
  • Does your CV clearly show how you can help your target employer?
  • Does your Profile describe you, as they know you?
  • Do your bullets explain your particular contribution and achievements?
  • Is the format consistent and visually appealing?
  • Are the font choice and size legible?
  • Is it easy to read, both in terms of skim reading and a deeper read?
  • At what point did they start skim-reading the CV?

If you are happy for the friend to edit your CV, send them a Microsoft Word file with the ‘track changes’ function enabled, so that you can easily see what they change. Otherwise, send a pdf and invite comments by email or telephone.

Having followed these tips, you can be confident that you’ve done a thorough job of proofreading your CV. Correct any mistakes and complete your final edit, then get ready to celebrate a job well done!


Want to Ace Your CV?


Download my book, Ace Your CV, Elevate Your Career, on Kindle. Click on the book to view and order:

Ace Your CV Elevate Your Career Lis McGuire Giraffe CVs










Your Email Signature Can Bring a Truckload of Professionalism to Your Job Search

Your Email Signature Can Bring a Truckload of Professionalism to Your Job Search

If you are planning a job search anytime soon, your personal email account is likely to get a whole lot busier. You’ll be sending a tonne of emails to recruiters, gatekeepers, and those within your existing network to secure your next position.

If you haven’t already set up an email signature that supports your job search and career goals, that represents a lot of missed opportunities to promote yourself. Using an email signature in your job search is like handing your personal business card to everyone you engage with.

Creating your email signature is easy and takes just a matter of minutes, yet this simple action can have a huge impact on your career. Every time you send an email, your signature will be there on the bottom, working hard for you, without you even thinking about it. It won’t just attract the notice of your direct recipient – your mails may be forwarded on to others, where it will introduce you in your own words.

You can use your email signature to:

>> Signpost your intended career direction via a clear headline or job title.

>> Introduce yourself and build rapport by including a professional photo.

>> Direct readers to your LinkedIn profile, personal website, or career-relevant social accounts.

>> Show you are detail-orientated and care about your professional representation.

If you Google ‘email signature tool’ you’ll find a range of free and paid-for signature generation tools. I tested htmlsig and WiseStamp, both of which offer free and paid services, and was pleased with both versions. Each site offered step-by-step guidance on how to embed the signature, and both provide a help centre in case you need support.

Here is the email signature I generated using htmlsig’s free service:









Here is my email signature created using WiseStamp’s free service:






It’s quick and easy to implement, it can be free, and it brings a truckload of professionalism to your job search. Grab your personal email signature today.

Five Online Tools to Ace Your Job Search

Five Online Tools to Ace Your Job Search

Once upon a time, a job search was a very physical and arduous process. It often involved a visit to the library to scour the papers and a physically-demanding trek from one prospective workplace to the next, making enquiries and handing over CVs.

No longer, thank goodness! Although some aspects of technology, such as the ATS, have made it trickier for the jobseeker, in general its advancement has opened up many opportunities to define and realise our career goals. In this week’s blog, I’d like to share five time-saving and powerful tools that can support and enhance your job search.


The photo you use to represent you on LinkedIn and other social platforms will invite an instant judgement about you as a potential hire, so it is important to get it right. You can read up on photo blunders to avoid here, but to be really confident about your image choice, check out PhotoFeeler.

The site allows you to seek constructive, customised feedback on potential images, along with trait-based ratings from the carefully-moderated community. Community members can rate you as Competent (Smart, Capable), Likeable (Friendly, Kind), and Influential (Leading, In Charge), and add quick notes on how you come across in photos, along with suggestions to improve your presentation. It’s a free service, in that you earn credits by voting on other users’ photos, then spend them by seeking feedback on your one photo.


Dropbox, Google Docs, and other cloud-based file hosting solutions allow you to access your files wherever you are. In the midst of a job search, it’s a good idea to have ready access to your CV, cover letter, and application materials, enabling you to edit and use them, anytime, anywhere.

You can even create a specific folder for your CV, include and share the link with others as necessary, so that they always have access to the most up-to-date version.Include a range of file types including .doc and .pdf files to ensure you can readily meet target employers’ requirements.

Google Alerts

Keep your finger on the pulse during your job search via Google Alerts. This free tool is quick and easy to set up and will keep you informed of any newly-indexed ‘stories’ on your chosen subject, sending news direct to your inbox. You could set up an alert for your target employer, a specific industry keyword, industry thought leaders, or your own name.


Creating an email signature is easy, it can be free, and it brings a truckload of professionalism to your job search. During any job search, your personal email account will be red hot with traffic, as you send emails to recruiters, gatekeepers, and those within your existing network to secure your next position. This represents a lot of opportunities to promote yourself and your career goals. Using an email signature in your job search is like handing your personal business card to everyone you engage with.

WiseStamp is an email signature generation tool that offers both free and paid-for services to suit your needs. It’s easy to use, allowing you to create and embed a professional email signature in a matter of minutes.

Canva / Picmonkey

One of LinkedIn’s underused features is the background image. This banner image sits at the very top of your profile, behind your profile image, name, and headline. This used to be a Premium feature, but has since been rolled out to free accounts. If your LinkedIn background image is still blank, fill it today. It’s a quick job that can make all the difference to how you are seen on LinkedIn.

Customise Canva’s ready-to-go templates to create a bright and engaging background that brings immediate visual appeal to your profile. The right image can convey an instant message about you, that will be reinforced by your profile content. Alternatively, you can create a banner in PicMonkey (1400 by 425 pixels), which is another intuitive tool.


In today’s job search, it’s more likely that your motivation will wane and your fingers get sore rather than your shoes wear out. Still, there’s always a way to make things easier and I hope these five free power tools will sprinkle a little creative magic, as you seek your next role.

A Career Change Story

A Career Change Story

This week, I interviewed someone very close to me about her career change. I’m delighted to share her answers, along with some points to take-away, and I hope these will inspire you on your career change journey.

What career are you changing from and to, and why?

Although not a direct career choice, I have been a public law solicitor with the same London local authority for more years than I care to remember. I have enjoyed the status, salary, stimulus, and professional camaraderie, and even the hard work and monumental legal studies.

Yet, my true passion is wine. For years, I have been consumed by discerning wine choice and drinking, never-ending wine education, wine tasting, visiting world wine regions, charity wine evenings, and taking wine exams. Last January, I obtained my WSET Diploma in wine (equivalent to a degree), culminating in my graduation ceremony at London’s Guildhall. I may now use the letters AIWS and wear the small, oval red lapel diploma badge. My next big challenge? Breaking into the on-trade or off-trade wine sector through a role in hotel/hospitality, or as a sommelier, wine merchant, supermarket wine buyer, wine educator, vineyard manager, or even wine producer.


It takes courage to ditch a financially-secure and established career and plunge into an unfamiliar job sector, but when you truly know your passion, it’s worth pursuing it.

When did you get your lucky break?

After years of irregular internet searching for that illusive wine job, one day while out shopping I was seduced by the purple façade and wine on display at a newly opened local wine merchant. Lured inside, I chatted to the Australian owner who poured me a glass of Torrontes (Argentinian signature white grape and wine) and I promised to email my CV (panic – I needed to revamp this into a wine CV), with a view to working Saturdays as an intern wine sales assistant. Although unpaid, the reward would be tasting the wines and taking home bottles to evaluate and appreciate. I soon emailed a credible wine CV, thanks to Giraffe CVs, securing this valuable work experience to kick-start my wine career. I worked Saturdays in the wine merchants for two years, learning about the off-trade, regional wines, wine producers, fine wines and champagnes, and wine suppliers, all the while studying for my wine diploma with the Wine and Spirit Trust in Bermondsey, London.


Your lucky break could come when you least expect it, so be ready with a credible and tailored CV that reflects your relevant skills, experience, and motivation for the job in question.

How did you build further experience?

Although I enjoyed my time at the wine merchants, I came to realise that wine retail was not for me. I wanted to try my hand as a sommelier in an upmarket hotel, where I could immerse myself in a huge wine cellar with hundreds of fine and expensive wines, and learn how to deliver amazing hospitality to guests. I wanted to emulate the brilliant service experiences, which I can recall as a guest in a hotel or fine dining restaurant, knowing how this service enhanced the food and wine experience.

Having thoroughly researched the role of sommelier, a couple of years ago I responded to an online job advert for a junior sommelier at a boutique wine hotel. I didn’t hear anything for a while, and the silence brought up fresh doubts about whether I really wanted to leave my secure, long-term role as a solicitor. After much thought, I contacted the hotel and asked to speak to the head sommelier, making an appointment to meet with him one Friday evening, prising him away from his busy work schedule. We agreed that I would work evenings and weekends on a part-time basis, allowing me to maintain my day job. I was willing and enthusiastic to work unpaid in order to obtain this valuable experience. After a couple of weeks’ hospitality sector culture shock and the steep learning curve of hard, physical, fast service work, I was given a zero-hours contract to sign, with copious company policies and workplace information to memorise.

My three months at the hotel, working under the valued guidance of the head sommelier, was far from easy. The long evenings working in the fine dining restaurant/bistro after my legal day job, running to and from the cellar via a dark narrow staircase, and cleaning up at the end of wine service, were exhausting. My expectation of the glamourous sommelier role advising guests and diners about choosing wonderful wines was modified by all the extra menial duties, such as the emptying of bins full of empty bottles into the huge glass receptors. I left the role to concentrate on my final course module and exam for the wine diploma.


Be gutsy about pursuing your goal. It’s unlikely that emailing your CV in response to an advertised role will be enough. Take the bull by the horns, and contact the hiring manager directly, explaining who you are and what you can do.

What happened next?

So to continue my fledgling wine experience in the hotel hospitality sector, in September, I emailed my CV to Gerrard Basset, a formidable figure in the world of wine. The only person who has obtained Master Sommelier of the World (2010), Master of Wine, and a Wine MBA, he is also the president of WSET, and the man who personally presented me with my wine diploma at the Guildhall London. Gerrard and his wife own and run Hotel Terravina, a cosy, fine dining wine hotel in the New Forest, where I celebrated my birthday with friends, last year. He encouraged me to email him dates for doing a one-week stage at the hotel, which I completed in early December.


Identify those who can help you with your new career, and find opportunities to develop the relationship. A confident yet polite approach can open unexpected doors.

How did you find your next experience?

I arrived on a Sunday evening and was met by the head sommelier, who I would be shadowing that week. What a fun first hour! I was invited to watch the dramatic performance of the Sabrage, a guest experience that involved slicing the neck of a chilled champagne bottle with a long, curved sword/sabre. It looked magnificent on the garden veranda as the head sommelier expertly demonstrated the swift sword action, skimming up to the thin neck of the bottle and the cork catapulting into the garden.

The head sommelier had planned an interesting week for me, and I learned many aspects of the sommelier role that I had not covered during my previous experience. The wine service element actually only represents 20% of the role. I experienced the office and paperwork; ordering and checking deliveries; stocktaking of wine, spirits, and glassware; cellar work; cleanliness and care of the different glassware and equipment; meticulous wine service; the bar (I had to taste all the wines by the glass from the Enomatic wine dispenser!); wine tastings; and wine education. I was anxious not to put a foot wrong, but inevitably made a few, luckily not disastrous, mistakes. My role was not as autonomous as before, but this hotel was even more prestigious, with meticulous standards, so I was happy to shadow and observe.


Once you have secured a placement, throw yourself into it and learn and experience everything you can. The next step is to capture that experience on your CV and use it to secure your next position.

How will you progress your career change?

I am currently reflecting on my weeks’ experience and the myriad responsibilities involved in being a sommelier. There are lots of advertisements for sommelier jobs but, for now, I plan to carry on building up my experience in the wine sector until I find the right wine job for me.

My experiences have taught me that it is possible to pursue an entirely new career from a passionate interest while retaining your existing role, giving you the courage and motivation to educate yourself and build up a great new CV.


With a second career, give yourself the time and space you need to carve out the right path. Don’t rush headlong into a job that feels wrong. It’s worth giving your choices due consideration before making a leap.


Tips for wannabe career changers

Here are some practical tips to help you convert your career dream into career reality:

Be clear in your own mind what you want from your career. Start to manifest it by telling yourself aloud and, better still, by writing it down. If you are unsure what it is that you want, here are some ways to uncover your inner career desires:

Picture your perfect working day, capturing as many details as possible to bring the scene to life. Get as clear about your aspirations as possible, then work towards every element.

Leverage online career tools, such as the brilliant Plotr. Free to use, Plotr was established to help 11 to 24-year-olds discover and explore careers they’ll love. In fact, this engaging tool is extremely useful for adult career changers, leading to some true light bulb moments.

Conduct your own skills audit, clarifying your strengths and interests to define your target career path. Challenge yourself to write down every skill you can think of, and then group common themes. It should become clear where your strengths lie.

Establish your ‘zone of genius’, a phrase originally coined by psychologist, Gay Hendricks, in his book, The Big Leap. Hendricks said, “In your Zone of Genius, though the time you spend there produces great financial abundance, you do not feel that you are expending effort to produce it. In your Zone of Genius, work doesn’t feel like work.” Note every skill you have under the headings of genius, excellence, OK, poor. The items you list in your zone of genius should become the most important requirements for your next role.

Recognise the potential challenges and obstacles standing between you and your dream career. By facing potential problems and fears, you will be in a better position to seek support and plug any skills gaps. Do you need to find and enrol on some relevant training? Do you need to build your network? Do you need to find out more about a specific industry or role? Do you need more training? More hands-on experience? Is there something you struggle with and you know it is an integral part of your desired career, such as giving presentations or managing a team? Is there anything you can do to boost your confidence in this area? Is there training you can undertake to improve your management skills? Would working with a mentor help you tackle the challenges of a desired role?

Use your end-game picture to set clear, time-defined immediate, medium- and long-term goals. This can help to ensure you are always making the right choices and devoting your energy and resources to an action or path that directly relates to what you want. Frame every decision in terms of the question: “Will this take me closer to my goal or further away from it?”

Once you have defined your goals, take focused and consistent action to bring you closer to your career dream. As you achieve each set of tasks, cross them off and move down the list. You don’t always need to make huge leaps, it’s enough to move forward one step at a time.

Four lessons from my worst job ever

Four lessons from my worst job ever

I’m sure we’ve all had them. The jobs that stick in our minds as being the ‘worst ever’ long after receiving our P45. Bad feeling can develop for any number of reasons – an intense atmosphere, a bully in the workplace, we may feel underpaid or overworked, or just hoodwinked about the scope of the role. Whatever the cause of our discontent, the bad taste in our mouths can linger long after we have moved on. Some jobs do just suck but, remember, there’s always something to be learnt from a negative experience.

Here are four lessons from my worst job ever.

#1 Know what the role is

My worst ever job was a brand new, never-been-done-before role, and turned out to be far more experimental than I’d anticipated. The job was with a well-established and prestigious company, who I naively imagined would have mapped out more of a direction for the role in question. Uh-uh. Wrong. My main beef with my job was that I simply did not have enough to do and, despite all my best efforts, could not fill my time with the allocated workload. As I’ll explain later, I tried and tried to build responsibility, but the scope was actually very narrow and there really was no room to widen it.

In reality, the actual work turned out to involve one task, which wasn’t very challenging and didn’t take very long, leaving long periods where there was simply nothing to do but stare out of the window and twiddle my thumbs. If I were reading this, I’d question the proactivity of the writer – surely, there must have been something else to do? Did you look hard enough? Unfortunately, yes I did, and no, there wasn’t. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a ‘doer’, so you can imagine this lack of work drove me insane. One other girl and I were shut away in an office, away from the main hustle and bustle of the office, tormented by the hive of activity and interaction that was evident on the other side of the glass.

I must have asked about what was expected during the interview, but my inner optimist saw the lack of substance as an opportunity to shape my new job. Excited about the prospect of working with this well-known company, and unwilling to rock the boat, I sat tight and let the company interview and select me, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to interview and select my next employer.

What’s the lesson?

Don’t assume. Instead, make sure you are as clear as you possibly can be about what a role entails before you take it on. Probe the interviewer to understand what you will be doing on a day-to-day basis, the results your performance will be measured on, and how your role can evolve. If someone is already doing the job, talk to them or, at least, look them up online. Your interview is your chance to make sure this job in this company is right for you, just as much as the company uses the opportunity to ensure you are right for them.

#2 Don’t deflect career unhappiness into other areas of your life

Here’s what happened to me. I was bored out of my skull, extremely unhappy, nothing to do for most of the day. So what did I decide the answer would be? Food. Not a clever move. Lunch seemed to be the only thing to look forward to, and I made much more of it than I should have done. As a result, lunch made a lot more of me than there should have been. Once home, in the evening, depressed by the prospect of the next day, I continued to comfort eat, making my weight problem worse and worse. In four short yet extremely long months I ballooned, putting on more than a stone in weight and setting a scary and lasting pattern for the next 20 years of my life.

What’s the lesson?

If I had the opportunity to advise my younger self, I’d urge her to focus on other projects and activities, allowing her to advance outside of the nine-to-five. Work is a really important aspect of our daily lives but, whilst it is not fulfilling your dreams, it’s a good idea to ensure it isn’t all-consuming. I must have been job-seeking during this time (I’ll come on to that later), but I wish I had taken up other interests to distract myself from the depressing hours spent in the office. Whilst your brain isn’t fully engaged in one pursuit, it has room to fulfil another, and I could have achieved a lot with that available headspace. I wish I’d pursued another interest, like running at lunchtime, something I did the following year. One day, I even ran past the Queen in her carriage on the Mall.

#3 Explore other avenues before you quit

I must have been fairly desperate to knock on the door of my boss’ office and ask what else I could do to help, but I mustered the courage on more than one occasion. The wider team were bustling with enterprise, and I felt sure there must be something else, anything else, I could do to get involved. Unfortunately, I was shut down on each attempt, and my role never did evolve into anything more.

I took to wandering the open plan floor, getting to know the movers and shakers, trying to get an insight into their activities, hoping it would lead to more work. Nothing doing. It seemed like a closed world, with no welcome to outsiders.

What’s the lesson?

Although it didn’t work for me, I can say hand-on-heart that I did my best to make the best of a bad situation. If you are in a bad job, I’d encourage you to explore every possible avenue before you quit.

#4 Know when to call it quits

I must have decided fairly quickly that this role wasn’t for me, as four months later I had started a new role. Less than a mile down the road, the new job was a world away from my worst role ever. I had wide-ranging responsibility, a boss who embraced professional development, and the opportunity to learn every single day. More than that, I was busy! Busy and energised. I even took up running at lunchtime.

What’s the lesson?

Sometimes, jobs just don’t work out, and no amount of hope or anguish will change the outcome. Once you have made the decision to move on, move on.

So, that’s my worst ever job. What was yours and what lessons did you take from it?