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Aspring To Lead

Friday, 10 June 2011 13:18

This year marks an all time high for the number of graduates seeking employment. As University exams loom in the summer months, soon a new fresh faced bunch of twenty-something year olds will enter the already congested arena of hopeful graduates battling to secure their first job.

Blood, tears, toil and sweat will be shed as graduates have been taking drastic action to get noticed. Publicity stunts include one young History graduate from the University of Manchester walking around London with a billboard style CV, while others have refused to shave until they succeed in their quest for employment.

Read more


Young Leaders

Friday, 10 June 2011 12:40

We are generally used to our managers being older than us; it's pretty much the expected way of things - age and experience brings wisdom, supposedly. But more and more younger people are being thrust into management and leadership roles, creating a challenging dynamic for both the managers and the people they manage.

One such person was Sean Purcell, Head of Learning and Development at Striding Out, who was promoted from lecturer to Curriculum Manager at the age of 22, and then again, at 24, to Acting Area Head.

We decided to ask him about his experience of being a young manager, and share with us any tips he could glean from his experience.

“I became Acting Area Head in 2007 and then a year later I went to head up a department of around 70 staff, with a turnover of over £1.5 million and hundreds of students.

The biggest change for me was that although there was a slight reduction in time spent in the classroom, that free time didn’t get anywhere close to being enough for my additional responsibilities. I now had the responsibility for target setting, team meetings, observing my past peers and their performance, and dealing with discipline of students who, to be honest, weren’t that much younger than me. And not to forget - all the extra paperwork!

However,  that is part of becoming a manager and you just knuckle down and do it.

Where my problems began were with long term staff members, some of whom had been there for a very long time, who took almost any change to college policy as a personal slight....and my fault. As a ‘them and us’ situation started to develop, questions about my age, which had never come up before, started to emerge and it began to get personal.

From my point of view it felt like a cheap shot, but it had the opposite of the desired effect as it made me acknowledge the divide and work even harder to fulfil my vision. Eventually in each environment I demonstrated my value and broke down initial barriers and negativity through being consistent, action centred and operating with integrity.

Success as a young leader does depend on the buy-in of your staff - if they feel threatened by your sudden placement or promotion then age can become an easy target. To combat this, I would recommend:

  • Taking advantage of leadership training. This helped me to grow a network of peers which were young leaders, and we all supported each other.
  • Request a mentor, preferably someone who has been there. I had a particularly outstanding mentor who had been through the hassle of handling difficult staff. It also provides you with a place to admit your own mistakes and discuss what you can do about them.


And what if you find yourself with a manager who is younger than you? What can you do to create a more effective relationship? MD of Striding Out, Simon Ireland-Davies ACC, CPCC gives us his tips and advice.


1.       Question your own prejudices. Think about when you were younger and being judged on your age. Have you fallen into the same trap?

2.       Consider the cultural references you use. Cultural references can strengthen relationships but if you’re talking about films and TV programmes they’ve never seen then you are effectively talking a different language.

3.       Avoid the temptation to change the way you speak to sound like them. You’ll end up sounding like an idiot.

4.       Think about the values you share. Most of us build connections through shared values. Those connections have nothing to do with what age you, rather they are more about you as people.

If  you want more information on leadership and management training or coaching please contact Sean Purcell on 0203 303 0468.



Supporting the unemployed into work

Monday, 06 June 2011 08:49

During 2010, our team of 20 coaches engaged with over 3500 unemployed young people claiming job seeks allowance, whilst working on the Future Jobs Fund.
From their experience this is what they found out about about the factors affecting youth unemployment

The main barriers to the young people securing the job were identified as the following, with the most common cited first:-

  1. No or little real work experience
  2. Low levels of motivation and confidence
  3. Highly competitive market due to high levels of unemployment.
  4. Lack of clarity on career ambitions
  5. Lack of suitable job opportunities
  6. Poor educational grades
  7. Low levels of verbal and written English skills
  8. Poor interview skills and communication skills

The types of support provided to young people at our 250 career support events, with the most common ranked first, included:-

  1. Job Information
  2. Career Coaching
  3. CV Support
  4. Interview Preparation
  5. Career Guidance

Candidates were looking for the following types of jobs:-

  • Admin
  • Customer Support
  • Manual
  • IT
  • Finance
  • Design and Production
  • HR
  • Marketing and PR
  • Event Management
  • Sales
Our team of coaches supported 640 young people during their six month FJF work placement and during this period they delivered monthly support to young people. The type of support the young people needed is detailed below, listed in order of importance.
  1. Life coaching
  2. Career coaching
  3. Career guidance
  4. Employer/candidate facilitation
  5. Job search support
  6. Business Coaching
  7. Business Mentoring
  8. Business Training.

It was felt on average that between ‘5 to 14 candidates’ per coach may have left their job early if it had not been for the support of the coach providing guidance or facilitation where necessary.

The coaches found the candidates left their FJF placement early, for the following reasons, with the most common cited first.

  • Unsuitable employer and job role
  • Multiple issues facing candidates
  • Benefit Issues
  • Low Pay
  • Lack of motivation
  • Team/management fallout
  • Change in career goals

As a result of the support package, the coaches found the candidates developed many skills and attributes. We've highlighted the top five below.

Skills - Interpersonal Skills, Communication Skills, Decision Making Skills, Relationship Development and Effective Team Work

Attributes -   Developed self-confidence, Gained clarity and focus, Being resourceful, Developing a positive can-do attitude, Taking responsibility.

On conclusion, we feel these findings reinforce the role and importance of coaching within the employment support infrastructure.
It demonstrates how it's role its distinct and complementary to the support provided by IAG advisers and recruitment professionals at the pre-employment stage of defining their career goals, as well as it's importance in supporting a young person during their first months of employment, particularly if they have been never been employed before and suffer from low confidence and self-esteem.
Many young people have needed life coaching to help them define their personal goals and ambitions and to explore how developing a career fits into their overall life ambitions inorder to find the motivation to do well in their job and progress their career.    

Simon Ireland-Davies - Clearly So

Tuesday, 17 May 2011 14:28

Lots going on at the moment...

Our MD Simon Ireland-Davies  ACC, CPCC is interviewed over at Clearly So, the global hub for social business, social enterprise and social investment. You can read his interview here:

Meanwhile, Social enterprise Striding Out, founded by Lambeth Business Award winner Heather Wilkinson, has teamed up with Lambeth based community learning centre and social enterprise Living Space to help get 100 young people into one hundred sales apprentice positions.

Striding Out’s Future 100 Campaign is placing 100 sales apprentices who will be trained in sales, marketing and other related fields, into companies that pledge to support a young person by employing them in a sales and business growth role.

And Striding Out is delighted to be working with Living Space as the venue for the Future 100 apprentice training days, recruitment events and Employers’ Events, where employers’ can find out more about taking on an apprentice.

Living Space has a social mission – to provide high quality training and employment opportunities for young people aged 16-25.

For information on the Apprentice campaign please visit:

If you are a young person living in London who would like to find out more about becoming a sales apprentice, visit to find out about our recruitment events.

Living Space can be found at


Words from our Big Leap Winner

Friday, 13 May 2011 11:58

Ruth Ferguson, founder of was the winner of our London Big Leap competition this year. We decided to catch up with her and ask her a little more about her business...

Tell us about Olga Olsson and what you do...

Olga Olsson is a new British Luxury label that I founded in 2010, beginning with a swimwear collection made in Brazil.  The concept of the brand is conscious luxury, meaning that at all points in the supply chain we look at how we can be fair to both people and planet. 

How did you get the company off the ground? Was it working in the back bedroom? Did you need funding?
Yes it was a lot of evening work to create the business plan whilst I was working, and I used my own savings to start the company and establish production with an atelier in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once I´d left my permanent job I continued to freelance for cashflow in the first year.  

We love that Olga Olsson is your gran. Who else in your life has beein inspiring?
I´m constantly inspired by people I meet when I´m travelling and working.

What's been your biggest challenge with the business?
The biggest challenge is juggling so many different roles, you have to be jack of all trades.

And the best moment, so far?
The best moment so far was winning the EFF Innovation Award for my Collection at london Fashion Week.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs starting up?
Do something that you love, because if you don´t love it you´ll find it very hard to spend 20 hours a day working on it.

What are your plans for the future?
My plans are to increase distribution of our collections worldwide and to expand the collections to include ready to wear and accessories, working with small producers around the world.