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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Need career advice?
Where can you go for career advice?
There is so much you can do, where do you start?
By BBC News Online's personal finance reporter Sarah Toyne

If you feel let down by your current job and need a new direction, the first step is to identify where you can get expert help in your area.

Your local job centre, library, yellow pages or local council should have lists of career advice centres where you live.

You have to be prepared to show your employer that you are developing yourself

Stevie Martin, former president of the Institute of Career Guidance

The Careers Services National Association has details of local careers services by area, including some free services.

Unless you are unemployed or working less than 16 hours a week you may have to pay for advice.

If you do have to pay, the amount will vary - from about 50 up to 2,000 for executive services.

It is important to ensure that the career adviser you see is qualified - and do not pay over the odds for advice.

The Institute of Career Guidance's website does not give careers advice, but the organisation will put you in contact with a career adviser in your area (01384 376464).

Alternatively, try and get a personal recommendation.

Where do I look for work?

Jobs are advertised in newspapers, college notice boards, agencies and increasingly on the internet.

According to the Online Recruitment and Employment Survey (ORES), online job seekers now account for 38% of all internet users.

Stevie Martin
Stevie Martin, former president of the Institute of Career Guidance
In the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's (CIPD) 2001 recruitment survey, 54.2% of organisations were using the web to recruit staff, with the highest number in the public sector.

Many companies and agencies which are on the net have e-mail alert facilities whereby you will be notified once a job appears that matches your details.

There are also some sites which deal with specialist sectors - and some which can help people who often face discrimination in the workplace.

For example, the Recruitment and Employment Federation (REC) website has a section for "mature" workers.

If you go to an agency, remember that they are sales-driven. It is important to be firm about the kind of job you want.

Angela Baron of CIPD says: "Sign on with lots of agencies and not just one. Question them ruthlessly about the job and do not just take their word for it - ask them searching questions."

Total career change?

It is becoming increasingly common for people in their thirties and forties to switch careers, as personal values often change.

But experts suggest anyone who is considering a career change should think very carefully before quitting their current job.

Stevie Martin, a career consultant and former president of the Institute of Career Guidance says: "Think seriously about whether you want a career change or whether this is a temporary hiccup because things aren't going quite right".

Stevie Martin's tips:

  • Do some part-time voluntary work in the area you would like to work.

  • Is there long-term training involved? Weigh-up the costs and commitment involved and your responsibilities, such as a mortgage or children's university fees.

  • You must accept that it will be harder for you entering a profession at a later age, and that you will need to persevere.

  • Network among your friends and colleagues.

Information on different jobs?

The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service - although for graduates - has detailed information on different careers on its website.

There are also two other sites - Inside Careers and Careers Portal - which have information on different sectors and links to useful websites.

You could also contact the trade association or body which deals with a particular profession. They usually have information about careers.

Improving your job prospects

Mrs Martin says that an easy way to improve your job prospects is through attending a part-time course.

She says: "You have to be prepared to show your employer that you are developing yourself.

"Perhaps go to an evening class which is related to work and will help you get a promotion. Do not always expect the employer to pay for the training."

College bar
Meet similar people at a college

Brushing-up on basic skills such as computing and language courses will pay dividends for your career chances, according to experts.

Siobhan Hamilton-Phillips, a senior consultant psychologist at Career Psychology says that part-time courses can be very good at building-up confidence - especially for people who are returning to work, such as mothers.

"They are a chance to meet other people who are wanting to make changes and they are usually full of people of all ages."

Evening and weekend courses can be cheap - you may even qualify for a concessionary rate.

Individual Learning Accounts are one way of saving money and are open to anyone over 19 years old.

You can get 20% off any course up to 100 a year, and an additional 80% off (up to 200 a year) on some courses, such as computer skills.

The Individual Learning Account Centre can be contacted on 0800 072 5678.

There are also Community Learning Centres, which offer highly subsidised and often free computer tuition and language training.

Temping agencies are increasingly offering training courses for their staff.

Manpower, an agency, has a "Global Learning Centre", which offers web-based training for 2,000 courses. This is free for people working through the agency.

Voluntary work

Career advisers suggest voluntary work as a way of building-up confidence and learning skills without the pressure of a full-time job.

They say this is particularly useful for people returning to work after a long absence.

There are a number of websites, such as Community Service Volunteers, Millennium Volunteers and Do-it, which list opportunities.

Do-it allows you to search by area and interest.

Further information:

Which? Consumer Guides publish various guides to employment, including The Which? Guide to Changing Careers by Sue Bennett and The Which? Guide to Choosing a Career by Barbara Buffton.

Workplace woes

Women and equal pay

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