May 2011

The Job Squad

The May Job Squad: Michelle Mone, Carolyn Currie, Richard Price and Ginny Lunn.The Job Squad included the entrepreneur Michelle Mone and Carolyn Currie, head of women in business at Royal Bank of Scotland.

We'd like to thank all those who posed questions and for our Job Squad who gave up their time today. Please come back next month.

We apologise if we didn't get to your question, we've answered as many as we could today. See below for questions and answers

The May Job Squad

The Job Squad included the entrepreneur Michelle Mone; Carolyn Currie, head of women in business at Royal Bank of Scotland Group; The Trust’s policy director, Ginny Lunn and Richard Price, a Prince's Trust Young Ambassador.

hrgurush Sandie Holmes @ @MichelleMone #jobsquad

What has been your biggest business challenge in managing your people?

Michelle Mone


Michelle says:

I would say that if they’re not prepared to work as a team then it won’t work for them and it won’t work for the business. Teamwork is essential.


joannasaurusrex Joanna Montgomery @michellemone

Do you think Scotland is leading with way in the UK in terms of innovation and enterprise? #JobSquad

Michelle says:

Scotland was the home of the telephone, penicillin and Ultimo – so why not more?

Carolyn adds:

I also live in Scotland. It’s really important to grow awareness of the benefits of entrepreneurship across Scotland and all the great success stories. There are many we have heard of but thousands more we should also celebrate.

Karl asks:

I can’t decide what I should go in to. What do you think the best industries are for the future?

Richard says:

Online is the future, that’s why I’ve chosen to set up a creative marketing agency.

Ginny says:

There are also lots of jobs in social care, hospitality and green industries.

Michelle adds:

We’re launching Ultimo Beauty and Ultimo Tan – people will always want to look their best.

YvieBurnettFans ★Yvie Fan★ @MichelleMone

So I'm at the stage where I really don't know what I want to do - any ideas how I go about realising/finding out? #jobsquad

Michelle says:

Do what you’re passionate about and give it 110%.

Anon asks:

I’ve never really had a proper job but I really want one. When I go for job interviews they want to know what I have done in previous jobs but I don’t have anything to say. They also want references but I don’t really have anyone to ask as I never got on with my teachers at school. I’m in a catch 22.

If I volunteer will I loose my benefits?

Ginny says:

You can volunteer without losing benefits, talk to your Job Centre adviser. Volunteering is a great way to learn skills and experience. There are also lots of courses to boost your confidence and skills, like the ones we run at The Prince’s Trust.


You can get references from people other than employers – people who have known you for a long time, through family, sports clubs, hobbies etc. Compile all of your skills and experience from school, volunteering and the process of applying for jobs. This will show your determination, communication skills and enthusiasm.

Ben asks:

Do you have to accept whatever money you are offered if you get an job offer? How do you get them to offer you more?

Carolyn says:

Be realistic about what you think you should be paid. If you can justify why you’re worth a little more, then ask – politely.

Michelle adds:

You need to prove your value to the company, then ask.

Kristina asks:

I’ve moved to England recently and I've been looking for a job for about month and I have nothing yet. I’m very disappointed. I have visited a lot of job agencies, Job Centre Plus every day (I send a lot of CV and so on) but I have found nothing. I live in Bristol.

Richard says:

You have to treat finding a job as a job in itself. When I was searching for work I set myself the goal of sending out ten applications a day. Try not to get too emotional about rejection – you’re not going to get every job, but it really will work out.

Ginny LunnGinny adds:

It’s really tough out there at the moment – we hear stories like this every day. We have programmes running in Bristol, which could help you get back on your feet. Have a look in the south west section of our website.

Carolyn adds:

Follow up your applications with a phone call – don’t miss any opportunity.

Michelle adds:

Find out where you want to work and follow them on Twitter – get yourself in the right place at the right time.

Rahim asks:

I’ve been to several job interviews in the past three months, but I’ve not yet had any job offers. Is it OK to ask a company to give me some feedback?

The whole panel:

Yes, absolutely.

Robert asks:

If you were just starting out now and trying to build yourself a career, what advice would you give yourself?

Carolyn Currie, RBS


Carolyn says:

Follow your passions and be confident about what you want to do. If you’re really passionate you will always find a way to succeed.


Ginny adds:

Keep an open mind and gain as many experiences as you can.

Michelle adds:

It’s all down to how hard you work – the commitment you show to your business or employer. The harder you work, the luckier you become.

Anon asks:

What are your thoughts on internships and volunteer work? Would you consider taking on interns within your business?

Michelle says:

Definitely: fresh talent and a fresh approach is a brilliant thing. We do lots of placements.

Ginny adds:

We take on volunteers and interns at The Prince’s Trust – it’s an invaluable way for young people to gain experience, new skills and it can definitely lead to work.

Justin asks:

What three things do you think it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur?

Michelle says:

Work the hardest you can work. Play the hardest you can play. And always give something back (which is why I’m here today)

Carolyn adds:

Relentless determination. Relentless determination. Relentless determination!

Richard adds:

Take good advice, which is priceless. Believe in yourself. Focus on what you truly want to do

Robert asks:

Do you think that the job market has reached saturation with graduates? What would you suggest doing to make yourself stand out to potential employers?

Carolyn says:

If you want to stand out, look at all of the options available to you. Consider voluntary work and use everyone in your network. You can develop contacts through online networks – this can be really valuable.

Michelle adds:

Look at your experience and your appearance. Ask friends and family what stands out – emphasise the strengths and improve your weaknesses. You never get anywhere without working really hard – you can never cut corners.

Richard PriceRichard adds:

Just go for it – you get knock backs, but you can’t take it too personally. Keep pushing forward and focus where you need to get to.

Carly asks:

Michelle, what one piece of advice would you give to young people who are only just starting out in business?

Michelle MoneMichelle answers:

Do your homework, do your research on your product and competitors – you need to be so much better than your competition.

Also create a great business plan, with clear goals for each day, week and month.

Never give up on your dreams.

Declan asks:

I work for an education charity, what advice would you give to sixth formers unsure about whether or not to go to university?

Ginny replies:

I would advise that they should think about what is right for them as it all depends on what job they are aiming to do. We support both the academic and non academic routes for young people. There is not one size that fits all.

Carolyn adds:

We’ve just worked with a group of sixth form girls who set up a business to create a beauty product. They pitched their products to a department store buyers and got great feedback. This is great business experience and could lead them to becoming entrepreneurs, without needing university degrees.

Richard adds:

I mentor at a school and some of the students face the same issues. Look at all the options, discuss them with your parents and careers/education counsellor and work out which is the best route to reach your goals.

Chris asks:

I‘ve been struggling to find a job after graduating last summer with a media degree and I’m currently working some part time hours in an off licence. I think maybe it’s time just to go on a gap year as I saved some of my student loan and have always wanted to travel.

My mum is basically saying that I should save that money to see me through hard times and show commitment to my career by finding a job rather than having a long holiday around the world and coming back broke. I think employers would like to see this kind of stuff on my CV and I’m not doing anything good here anyway. What would the panel do?

Michelle says:

Why not do both together - take a gap year, do a world tour, but gain some relevant experience along the way. You’ll be able to build up your CV, your mum will be happy and it will help you secure a job when you get back.

Anon asks:

I’m thinking of starting up my own business, however the banks aren’t lending any money to small businesses at the moment especially young people. Can the panel suggest another way of getting funding? What is the best way to start a business in the current climate? Is it even a good idea to start a business at the moment?

Michelle says :

The Prince’s Trust helped me start my business Ultimo 14 years ago – it’s now a £45 million retail turnover business. It’s not easy to get bank funding at the moment, but look for other sources – from local enterprise agencies to European funds. But start with The Prince’s Trust (or PSYBT in Scotland) and they can offer funding as well as mentoring support – which is fantastic.

Carolyn says:

Banks work very closely with The Prince’s Trust. Having a strong business plan is really important for any business seeking funding. At RBS we’re approving 85% of loan applications at the moment, however if you are turned down for funding, speak to your bank manager to find out why and work with them to look at what your options are to get future funding.

Richard adds:

As a small business owner, it’s really difficult to get capital, but The Prince’s Trust is a great first start. I talk to my Trust mentor all the time and he always gives me great advice – money isn’t everything. Remember Google is your friend – keep searching for grants and business competitions.

Jess asks:

I don’t have any qualifications because I didn’t get any decent GCSEs and didn’t get into college. I don’t even know where to start.

Ginny says:

One in three young people don’t get five good GCSEs and thousands leave school each year with none at all – you’re not alone. At The Prince’s Trust we know it’s possible to make a success of your life, whatever your background, so don’t give up hope! Check out the opportunities on our website.

Richard adds:

That’s so close to my own experience. See the bigger picture of where you want to end up - passion, goals and focus count for so much.

Michelle adds:

Think big, get experience and find a way to get through the door. If you don’t have qualifications, it’s not the end of the world – I left school at 15.

Sam asks:

I am 25 and unemployed. I have been for over 2 years now.

My problem is that I don't know what I want to do and I don't think I ever will. I left school and went straight into a plastering apprenticeship and I did the job for over 6 years, before leaving because my employer got short on work. I then decided that I would look for a completely different job but was unsure on what.

Since then I have applied for jobs and had interviews but none of them has lead to a job. I have a well presented cv and I got decent grades at school. But I just can't seem to decide on what I want to do. Any advice on how I can come to a decision would be great.

Ginny replies: The Prince’s Trust delivers a programme called Get Into which gives you a taste of an industry and the chance to gain experience. If you look on our website you can see what is going on in your area. Also there are some web sites such as which offer some helpful ideas.

Carolyn adds:

This is a very common issue. In my experience, few people start out with a clear idea of what they want to do. I suggest you think about the things you are passionate about – make that your starting point. Do as much research as you can and don’t be discouraged if the first job doesn’t work out.

@Breastford asks: I have been trying to get back to work for 2 months. Most interviews I have had, I have got the job, however I'm not even getting a response from companies I'm applying for. Its soo frustrating.

What am I doing wrong?

Ginny replies:

There is huge competition for jobs at the moment and every CV must stand out. My recommendation is that you make sure your CV is concise and is tailored for the job you are applying for. The more you can show that you have researched the company, the specific job and have the skills to match the better.

It can also be a good idea to follow up with a phone call. Good luck !

Richard replies:

I know those exact feelings, emotions and frustrations as I have been there not so long ago. Don’t see it as you are doing something wrong but a chance to change your strategy. You're getting interviews - that's great! This shows that you are doing more right than you give yourself credit.

Maybe it’s in your communication, cover letter or CV. Are you tailoring your cover letter and CV to the job specification? Ring politely a week later to see if they have received your application. If you don't get the job, ask for feedback on your application and ask them what your application needed to be successful - also ask what it might be lacking.

Always keep learning and sharpening up. Stay positive too - even though it can get very hard, don't give up. Try visualising yourself getting a great job to keep yourself motivated.

Michelle Mone

Michelle MoneMichelle Mone OBE, 39, is the co-owner of MJM International and creator of Ultimo, the UK’s leading designer lingerie brand.

Listed as one of the top three female entrepreneurs in the UK and recently voted as the number one woman in business by Glamour Magazine, Michelle has built a hugely successful career on an incredibly simple concept: giving today’s women what they want.

Entrepreneurial spirit was prevalent from an early age in Michelle, who grew up in the east end of Glasgow. She left school at 15, with no qualifications, to find full-time employment, after her father was struck down by an illness leaving him confined to a wheelchair.

To support her family Michelle took on a job at Labatt Brewers’ and quickly climbed the ranks from office junior to senior manager, running the Sales & Marketing team by the time she was just 20 yrs old.

But it was in 1996 when her idea for Ultimo was born. Whilst attending a dinner dance with her husband Michael, Michelle was wearing a very uncomfortable cleavage enhancing bra and, as a result, had a ‘light bulb’ moment; Michelle decided to invent a bra that was more comfortable, more innovative, more attractive and more cleavage enhancing than any other bra on the market.

MJM International was set up in November 1996. Since launching the business Michelle has established herself as one of Scotland’s biggest exports; in 2000 Ultimo was catapulted into the media limelight when Hollywood actress Julia Roberts wore an Ultimo plunge-bra to enhance her cleavage in Erin Brockovich. Later that year Michelle won the coveted ‘World Young Business Achiever Award’ at the Epcot Centre, Florida, and then ‘Business Woman of the Year’ at the Corporate Elite Awards in London.

In 2001 HRH Prince Charles invited Michelle to join the Board of Directors for The Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust. Michelle also won ‘Best Newcomer’ at the British Apparel Export Awards, presented by HRH The Princess Royal, adding to her long list of awards, accolades and recognitions. 

Over the years Michelle’s business has gone from strength-to-strength, developing beyond the original umbrella of Ultimo lingerie to encompass Miss Ultimo, Ultimo Shapewear, Ultimo Swimwear and partner lines including Diamond Boutique for Tesco, Adore Moi by Ultimo for Debenhams and Michelle for George for Asda.

Michelle currently lives on the outskirts of Glasgow with her husband Michael and their three children. Michelle has achieved a remarkable level of success to date, juggling the demands of her business together with motherhood - as well as a soaring media profile & TV Career, having recently appeared on BBC’s Comic Relief Does the Apprentice and ITV’s 71 Degrees North. But in her own words, ‘this is only the beginning’.

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Support in Scotland

Young people in Scotland who are interested in setting up their own business should contact The Prince’s Youth Business Trust (PSYBT). For more information see their website.