Build-a-CV Workshop for post GCSE / AS level students

There is life after exams……..!

Once the pressure of revision and exams is over it’s time to start looking to the future. Come and spend a morning in a friendly, informal setting with a group of people all at the same stage to put together the things you will need to get a job, develop your career options and think about the future.

Work with an experienced HR manager to learn more about:

  •  Why you need a CV
  • How to present an effective CV
  • How to build relevant experience
  • Finding a summer job, occasional work or volunteering
  • Preparing for interviews

Session Dates: Thursday 20st June or Tuesday 25th June

Time: 10am – 12.30pm, Costs £35 per head

Location: Old Catton, Norwich

Maximum 6 per group

To book please call Viv MacDonald on 01603 788 448 or email

Revision Diet


Polo mints, that’s what I remember fuelling university revision back in the 1980s – or extra strong Trebor mints if you were under pressure of doing maths or law.  Dentists could spot nervous students by the remarkable number of back teeth rotted by all that sucking.  And I have to say I have absolutely no recollection of what was eaten to aid revision for O levels, O grades, Highers or A levels – possibly Foxes Glacier mints or maybe the iconic Spangles…

As our household heads into exam season it is becoming apparent that things may have changed a little.

The hydrated brain is a better brain, I’m told.  It is less likely to over-heat (who knew over-heating was even an option in days of yore) and if you don’t drink enough water you could become dizzy, fatigued, with reduced cognitive abilities. Where the in-house consensus falls to pieces is when we try to agree on appropriate liquid: Lucozade (GCSE-er “Only with sport”); squash straight from a jug (Mother “Really!!!?!”); fizzy anything (GCSE-er “Keeps me going”, Mother “Only 1 bottle and at weekends”, dentist friend who often comes round on Friday when the only bottle of the week is being consumed “I’m not sure anyone should ever drink fizzy drinks ever…”). Water we can all agree on? (GCSE-er “not after sport – it’s pointless”).

The caffeinated brain, apparently, is slightly more able, perky and good-to-go.  That’s good to know until you factor in the diuretic qualities of caffeine with the quantities of water needed for the hydrated brain and find sitting through exams a potentially uncomfortable moment.  The good news is that some decisions are more efficiently taken while one is in a state of urgency – so a handy tip for multiple choice exams there.

The brain on fish – or more particularly fish oil/oily fish such as mackerel, sardines or salmon – is also a good brain.  All the advice would seem to suggest a quick fish-supper the night before won’t do the trick though – for maximum results the student needs to have been incorporating the right fish into their diet since before they attempted the move from Recruit to Regular in C.O.D.

The brain on fruit smoothies is proving to be most successful. In making one’s own smoothie by chopping, slicing and mashing a wide range of exotic fruit, the home-made smoothie handily combines nutrition, liquid and displacement activity. It also, by leaving all peel, juice, dregs and kitchen equipment dirty across every kitchen surface, allows one’s mother a chance to show how much she cares.

My helpful hints – sleeping on the open book so the knowledge seeps up through the pillow, and wearing lucky pants – has been met with mild derision. I was, however, delighted to read a recent news report that said that a sizeable number of exam candidates believed in wearing lucky pants.

On the sporty front there is also a new way of thinking about food. After lengthy discussions, the virtues of off-the-shelf protein shakes were ignored – saving a fortune in money and, apparently, avoiding potential liver damage in the future. The need for white protein immediately following rigorous exercise must be taken very seriously – as must a colossal calorie intake during hours of rowing.  I am delighted to share a recipe for “Kick-Ass Energy Bars” at the bottom of this piece.

As I listen to stories of students and parents going to similar lengths to find the right drink and the right food at the right time I wonder if it isn’t all a bit intense and serious today –didn’t we do OK on a small packet of Spangles and a wee lucky Gonk mascot?  But when people talk about increased pressure on young people today exam performance is undoubtedly one of the areas which shows it most intensely.  They say that to even be considered for a place to study medicine you need 5 A*s at GCSE level. From my Spangles days I don’t remember any pressure to well at O levels in order to do well at A levels in order to do well at university – though I was at a slightly eclectic school and it may have different for other people.  What would be unfair in the current system would be to tell young people these results really matter on one hand and then not support them on the other. (This doesn’t mean I’m not going to encourage, quite forcibly, our in-house smoothie maker to clean up after himself more thoroughly though).


Kick-Ass Energy Bars

  • 400g golden syrup
  • 400g peanut butter
  • 200g oats
  • 200g cereal (All Bran, Grape Nuts …)
  • 200g nuts/raisins/apricots/seeds
  • Decent pinch of salt
  1. Heat the syrup and peanut butter together
  2. Mix well with the dry ingredients
  3. Press into a square cake tin (probably lined with baking paper because it’s easier to get it out afterwards) and chill
  4. Cover with dark chocolate if desired

Cuts into 16 calorie packed squares

If the pigeon hole fits…

During a recent mother-of-16-year-old-son and 16 year old son contretemps my 7 year old daughter helpfully explained that our friction was entirely to be expected since I was a rabbit and he was a rat.  “It’s obvious you’ll never get on, because of your star signs from the Chinese zodiac”, she went on, “a quick-witted, charming, greedy rat is never going to rub along easily with a compassionate, home-loving pushover…”  And there was I thinking it was adolescence and fatigue (his and mine).

There’s a lot of popular psychology, often available in airport blockbusters, that supports my daughter’s confident pigeon-holing interpretation of different approaches to living.  Ranging from “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray to, more recently, “The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men who think like them) will Rule the Future” by John Gerzema there is no lack of categorisation tools.  These books are popular partly because they make us believe the world might be understandable and because we all love a bit of prejudice confirmed and self-defining caricature.

Several things, however, bother me about giving different types of people labels too easily.  Firstly, I wonder if the labels themselves might not create a limitation on possibilities for an individual.  For example at a recent all-female networking event one of the delegates was quite shy and self-depreciating about her business.  “That is so typical of us as women,” piped up another delegate “we find it so easy to downplay our achievements. Men would never do that”.  Which made me think that were I to trumpet my achievements I might not be considered a “typical” woman?  Because, a wee secret here, sometime I think like a man! I think I’m thinking like a man when I’m being analytical, linear, concise, target driven and not sentimental.  What’s more sometimes my husband appears to think like a woman – he is intuitive, kind, good at listening and charming – all feminine thinking traits according to Gerzema.

In “The Athena Doctrine” the hypothesis is that using feminine values such as intuition, charm, being a team player and reliable will lead to prosperity.  The alternative (masculine) attributes of being analytical, decisive, dominant and aggressive are not perceived as having as positive an impact in the 21st century as they did in days of yore.  Obviously the book is all about the using the gender specific characteristics rather than gender per se – however it seems to me one could find oneself thinking too much about how important it was to be loyal and expressive at the risk of closing a deal ahead of the competition, and empathy doesn’t pay many bills when the company you worked for goes bust.

Which leads me to the second thing that bothers me about labels: self-fullfing consequences (the next stage from self-fulfilling prophecies) because of colluding in a stereo-type.  If I’m told that as a “Rabbit” I avoid conflict I’m being nudged not to disagree and therefore become a pushover; if my MBTI* tells me I’m an extravert I’m going to feel quite confident and energised by spending time with people – like a happy gadfly. Whereas had I been told I was introverted I would be equally pleased with myself were I to sit quietly and think about it.

And whose labels should carry the most weight?  Quite apart from being born in the year of the Rabbit, female and an ENTP* I haven’t even considered the consequences of being born on the cusp of Leo (loyal, independent and melodramatic) and Virgo (observant and not emotional) – or of being left-handed (actually one study has shown left-handed people have higher “fluid intelligence” and better problem solving skills than right handed people – frankly this is no surprise since us left-handed, sinister, types spend a lot of time working out how to use gadgets designed for right handed people…)

Finally, and most importantly, I am concerned about what kind of message is being sent to young people in terms of what employers are looking for: should they present themselves like the contestants on the BBC’s “The Apprentice”, ready to “fight to the death to become Lord Sugar’s apprentice”, because “…I’m the complete package and when it comes to sales I’m the best”; and “…if someone crosses me, it’s game over” (all quotes from this year’s female contestants)? Or should they be as the wise, fair and strong Athena, who incidentally is also the Goddess of Strategic Warfare and Heroic Endeavour?

I wish Dr Suess’s useful advice when he says “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind” was a good steer, but with so much sorting, type casting and defining characterisation around I feel in as much a muddle as the next person…. or is that because my hair is currently blonde?

*Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, my profile showed an ENTP (Extraversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perceiving)