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Career Advice – Sandy Cullen

Why do we need it?

It has often been said that one of the most effective ways of grabbing someone’s attention is to ask for their advice; essentially, it appeals to their ego. “Mm, you need my advice, eh? Why of course, I’d be delighted to help.” And the topics upon which we’re prepared to admit that we do, actually, need the advice are endless: “How do I make a good soufflé?” “Which tie do you think I should wear?” “What book would you recommend for my 12 year-old?” “What would you say is the best way to drive to Skye from Edinburgh?” For questions such as these, we wouldn’t think twice about asking for someone’s help or guidance.

However, when tasks become more complicated, possibly even life-changing, we’re unlikely to rely totally on friends or family. We go to the professionals. Indeed most major decisions in our lives are usually taken with the benefit of professional advice of some sort, and we start at an early age. Even the most academically gifted child will need the advice and guidance of a qualified teacher in order to gain an education. But when it comes to something with which we’re ill-equipped to deal or face head on, we tend to turn to others who we know can help, e.g. plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, lawyers, accountants, doctors…

These are basic requirements and we’re prepared to pay for the advice or help they offer. So why is it, when our career is probably one of the most important and influential aspects of our lives, are we so reluctant to seek professional career advice? Possibly because we’re unaware of its existence!

So - how can it help you?

The first time we’re offered external (i.e. non-parental) ‘careers advice’ is at school when well-meaning but, essentially, ill-equipped teachers will probably cover the subject by offering myriad ‘safe options’ whilst being unable to establish the true ambitions of the individual concerned. (That said, advising a 16 year-old on a long-term career path is rarely going to be straightforward.) On the other hand, career advice for adults is a totally different concept which, not surprisingly, can offer a great deal more. There can be any number of reasons why we might seek it and not only as a result of a significant change of circumstance, e.g. redundancy. Many, often senior, people simply feel that they need a change from what may have become, to them at least, something of a chore. They may have been quite successful in their current role, but now perceive a ‘glass ceiling’ above - and a long twilight ahead.

Just as we would be unlikely to seek (far less act upon) advice from a friend or family member on a legal matter, or how to complete our business tax return, so we might seek out careers advice in order to help us, for example:

  • To identify a new role that offers greater job satisfaction – possibly towards retirement?
  • To establish what are the options for enhancing our career prospects and finding our true ‘niche’
  • To navigate a way through a tricky negotiation for promotion
  • To investigate the possibilities of moving to another sector entirely
  • To relocate – possibly even abroad.
  • To even look at setting up our own business…

We will almost certainly benefit from help with tasks such as producing an effective CV and/or cover letter or helping to secure success with interviews and presentations. To those seeking the advice nonetheless this may well have been a reactive, rather than a pro-active, exercise; in effect, a lifeline. But career advice can do so much more.

So what now?

A career tends to last between 40 and 45 years (and possibly longer as the State Pension age increases!) and these days people will, on average, change jobs between 6 and 8 times during that time – sometimes even more than this. The days of a ‘Job for Life’ have long gone and the dynamic is now totally different. Many of us will not only change jobs, we’ll change sectors as we go through our careers; but rarely do we stop to take professional advice along the way.

Does it not, then, make absolute sense to at least take 30 minutes out of our 45 years to meet a professional, if only to discuss our careers, our ambitions – and to be shown how we might achieve them, or at the very least improve our situation?

I will be happy to arrange an exploratory meeting (Edinburgh or Glasgow) to assess your options and offer immediate advice. Call me on 07711-948273, or email me at


You would have nothing to lose, and possibly a whole new career to gain….!

Sandy Cullen, Cullen Career Consultants;

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