Author Archives: Kayleigh Rivett

About Kayleigh Rivett

An aspiring artist and writer. I believe that the young and new adult literature author has a role to play in supporting the development of good mental health and wellbeing of future generations through creative, thoughtful and appropriate writing skills and styles. Currently writing a young adult sci-fi thriller novel. A graduate of the University of Portsmouth - achieved 2:1 BSc(Hons) Biochemistry & MA Creative Writing then went on to complete a PGCE Secondary Science (Chemistry) and am currently part of the research team at The University of Portsmouth School of Education and Childhood Studies focusing on mental health and wellbeing.

Sleep Sucks!

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Sleep Sucks!

Here I am again, gone midnight, already been in bed for over two hours, no sign of sleep in sight. I’ve tossed and turned and practiced some mindfulness and then it starts. My mind . . . There’s a reason they call it ‘mind’ ‘full’ ness I’m sure. I can’t get rid of them! These thoughts . . . These ideas . . . Over and over they whirl and churn and grind. Deep, deep, deep in my mind.

They could be about horses, or money . Quite often my career and education. How can afford to do this PhD I so desparately want to do? Am I capable of doing it? Asking myself why I’m still fat and then why can’t I stop eating and I know it’s because I’m not sleeping . . . There’s a whole plethora of hormones and circadian rhythm and other signalling chemicals that are responsible that I just see whizzing around in my head as I lay here in the dark with my eyes wide open! Imagining the inner workings of my somewhat broken body.

And then I feel the stirrings of some ideas, wonders, marvels! Things that will make me rich, successful, fit, healthy, fulfilled. And then I feel annoyed, angry even, that I need this state if inanimation and unproductiveness we call sleep. Why? Why?! You’re just trying to fool my plans I swear. There’s only 24 hours in a day. Why can’t I use all of them to get to where I want to be without you. It’s not fair. I know I need you. The less I see of you, the less I’m able to follow those dreams I dare to hold on to when I do finally meet you. The more my creativity slips away from me with a long lost memory and inability to see within. I don’t want you, if I keep telling myself I don’t need, if I believe in you enough will that make real? Or is it all just one everlasting nightmare. I’ve thought about it for a long, long time through many a sleepless night. Sleep, you suck. Goodbye.

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The role of mental health and the responsibility of the author in young adult fiction

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The role of mental health and the responsibility of the author in young adult fiction

I recently attended a workshop hosted by Tom Harris, author of The Amber Room, The Amber Antidote and the forthcoming Wings, Wands and Weird Worlds series, and Hannah Morton, ambassador for Time To Change campaign which took place on Wednesday 7th June at The Spring, Havant. Both Tom and Hannah work for The University of Portsmouth’s Student Union and as such have become increasingly aware of the importance of the student voice for everything. This led them to feeling it necessary to address issues surrounding mental health in literature for young people. As a researcher at the University’s School of Education and Childhood studies, I am also very aware of the importance of this and especially the role it plays in the protection of mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

This translates to the use of language for the YA author. To quote Hannah’s opening slide: “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” As someone who is researching the development of mental health from the Victorian era to the present day, I find this both fascinating and alarming. Books being written that begin to deal with the turmoil of mental health in childhood and education are becoming ever more prevalent and popular in modern young adult literature but do they deal with the issues sensitively and sympathetically? There are certainly many authors that do but I still feel there are several examples of authors who do not necessarily focus on mental health and wellbeing that can carelessly use language that can cause internalisations that have a serious impact on children’s and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. I am not going to ‘name and shame’ as it were, but a few examples are as follows:

“You’re mental”

“Cheer up, it might never happen,”

“I need my room to be clean, I’m so OCD,”

“Why do you look so depressed, have you forgotten how to smile?”

As expressed by Tom and Hannah, I think it is really important to bear in mind the way words and language are used to convey certain ideologies and expressions. Terminology is especially important as we try to work towards greater acceptance and equality in this world. Children may, for example, come across terminology used by authors that they wouldn’t necessarily encounter and then translate this in to their own everyday use of language thinking this is OK, when in fact, it is exacerbating the situation of inappropriate use of language, this in turn could impact the reader and/or their peers in terms of their self-perception, confidence and overall wellbeing. The initiation of unhealthy thought processes and responses could be triggered by simply not feeling enough, when that was not necessarily intended. For example, “you’re so gay,” used in a negative connotation, or, “You’re far too sensitive,” such seemingly innocent phrases have a plethora of connotations that indicate to the young person that there is something “wrong” with them and that they will be judged for this.

What is interesting is that many of these phrases were originally coined as medical terminology; for example, idiot, imbecile and lunatic were used during the late 1800s to describe people expressing particular behavioural traits. The word spastic was first used in a medical context to describe people with the condition, cereberal palsy. It was only later that these words were adopted as insults as language evolved, as its nature. For that reason, it is essential to ensure that we, as authors, evolve with it so that our use of language parallels the generation(s) that we are writing for. Some suggestions for swapping some of the following expressions and phrases to more ‘mental health promoting’ ones could be as follows:

“s/he was feeling down/sad/upset” instead of depressed.

“Oh that’s alarming!” instead of mental/crazy

“S/he is a psycho,” instead say, “this person suffers with [the illness].” Or, “s/he has been diagnosed with [the condition].

“You’re so bi-polar,” or, “s/he’s got such a split personality,” or, “s/he’s such a moody . . .” these phrases should not be used to describe someone who is indecisive, of two minds or experiencing severe mood swings. If someone you know is exhibiting such symptoms, do not be off with them, instead ask them, “Are you OK?” You may perceive them as being ‘moody’ or ‘off’ towards you when they are in fact experiencing severe inner turmoil and require support or someone to ‘lend an ear’ to listen.

Film Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

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Film Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Introduction: As I have already written up the book review, I’m not going to bore us all by repeating what’s already been said. To find out the background of the story, you can read the post here:

The Fault In Our Stars – Book Review

But as far as being true to the story goes. I was pretty impressed with this. I’d only finished the book a few days before watching it and I got what I was expecting. My only disappointment was the lack of confetti in in Amsterdam! I was a little concerned about the authenticity in relation to this beautiful city, but I think they did a fairly good job.

The Actors:

I have to admit, this is not how I envisaged the characters in my mind at all, especially Willem DeFoe as Peter van Houten! But I went along with it as I think they did stay pretty true to the voice that came through in the book. Also, I did struggle a bit to get my head round the fact that I’d just watched the divergent series in which the actors who play Hazel and Augustus were brother and sister as Tris and Caleb and were now lovers!

Hazel: Looked far too healthy to pass as a girl terminally ill with this type of cancer, though I suppose this hits a lot of moral nerves and perhaps tackles some much needed addressing of stereotypes. Came across as more annoying and at times, unnecessarily sarcastic, than I imagined. Quite withdrawn and sometimes the words and the feelings being portrayed didn’t quite add up for me.

Augustus: Definitely not how I envisaged him, I would not have picked this actor to play him. I find him a bit too cutesy and preppy boy looking rather than ‘athlete with sex appeal’ which is what I had in my head. I despised the cigarette thing even more than in the book – it and he, I found very irritating to watch. I think the arrogance came across well. I think some aspects of the reality of Gus’s deterioration were missed.

Peter van Houten: Not what I imagined at all, this actor would have been among the last I would have picked to play this character, for one he is very slim and I had visions of a swollen, bloated, red-faced drunk and this actor is quite the opposite. Also, I couldn’t get over his ‘Americanness’ his attempt at playing a Dutchman I just didn’t feel was authentic at all. However, he is a very good actor and what I did find authentic about him, which came across even more so than in the book, was the genuineness of the tragedy he’d suffered from regards to his daughters’ death, also of cancer. Here there was some genuine indication of the impact that bereavement can have if one doesn’t grieve and the long-lasting trauma it can cause.

As an aspiring YA author with a particular interest and focus on mental health in young adult fiction I felt that in both the book and the film, this issue was somewhat overlooked. Yes – Green and the directors tackled the ‘in your face’ heartbreak of the impending doom of the situation Gus and Hazel face and completely romanticised the teenage dream in to a heartfelt love story, this I get, but I think that ultimately opportunities to address some hard-hitting truths about the impact of terminal illness on the sufferer, carers, and loved ones were missed. I am yet to read them but I have heard there are a few YA fiction authors who have nailed mental health issues. And yes, I understand this book is not about mental health, it’s about terminal illness – cancer to be exact, but I think that fundamentally mental health is always going to be an issue that needs to be addressed where terminal cancer is concerned.

Rating:

3/5

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

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Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Introduction

A multi-million bestseller, this book has been highly recommended as a young adult fiction must read. It deals with issues from your worst nightmare, whether you’re a parent, teenager or friend: the issue of dying. This is interspersed with romance, philosophy and a fictional book – An Imperial Affliction, which also happens to be about death.

Author.

John Green – one of the most renowned authors in young adult fiction.  I don’t think I need introduce him any further.

Main characters

Character One

Hazel Grace Lancaster – 16 years old, has stage 4 thyroid cancer, which is terminal. The main protagonist who tells the story from her perspective. Fierce and independent, she wants to make the most of the time she has left.

Character Two

Augustus Waters – 17 years old, ex-basketball player, somewhat cocky almost verging on arrogant. Highly opinionated and expressive.

Character Three

Hazel’s Mother – dotes on Hazel, almost suffocating at times, but very sensible and forgiving.

Character Four

Isaac – a mutual friend of Hazel and Augustus, who has lost his eyes due to cancer and is now recovering.

Story

Hazel has cancer, thyroid stage 4, this is terminal and through a support group, she meets Augustus who is recovering from an osteosarcoma operation that has left him somewhat different to how he was before. Without giving the game away, the story is about the interaction of these characters and the growth of their relationship, mainly through Hazel’s perspective.

Themes

I would have to call this a tragedy interspersed with romance, philosophy, coming of age and real-world issues.

Evaluation

I had a lot of expectations from this book, as I had heard and read so many good reviews. So maybe this has tainted my opinion, but I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed. Perhaps it is just the culture difference? But being British I found a lot of it way over the top. I understand the raw emotions of teenagers, I work with them and I was one, and in a lot of respects in my head, I still am one: everything is raw and intense at that stage of your life, even when you’re in good health. Time passes more slowly and things really do feel like forever. So, I totally get that if you’re a teenager whose dying, that’s going to increase at least 100-fold. But even so, there were just certain aspects that irritated me.

I thought the cigarette thing was just stupid. Every time it was referenced I cringed. I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s a metaphor, especially as even unlit there’s a lot of toxic crap in them that can harm you by putting them in your mouth! I found Hazel didn’t really have any depth to her and she didn’t really grow on me as a character. I don’t think the author quite got inside the mind of a teenage girl, Hazel’s voice wasn’t clear to me.

What it did like, was the dialogue. I thought the verbal exchanges between the characters, although sometimes over the top, were realistic and I really felt every word that was said. I thought the humour was relevant and well referenced. Subtle, yet obvious enough to be recognised. The interactions between the parents and the teenagers were really well portrayed, exactly as I would expect.

I also liked the, what as far as I could tell, sympathetic and realistic approach to the issues that were dealt with. The management and challenges faced by Hazel, because of the symptoms caused by her cancer, was really heartfelt; I developed great empathy for her, Augustus, and the parents and relatives. I think the author has taken some really sensitive, and somewhat taboo issues, and written about them really well with a balanced approach.

Overall, the book tells a heartfelt story of a teenage girl who happens to have cancer and falls in love with a teenage boy who is able to empathise with her situation. The dialogue is clear and realistic and the interaction between the characters if believable, if somewhat over the top at times. It is quite eye-opening and educational. Although I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, I think it has a very important place amongst young adult fiction and successfully portrays what so many authors are unable to.

Rating

 

3/5

 

Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

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Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Introduction

Waterstones ‘book of the year’ 2016, The Essex Serpent comes highly appraised by several renowned authors and literary professionals, including Jessie Burton. Set in the 1890s between Essex and London, it portrays the life of Cora, a palaeontology enthusiast, who finds herself in Essex through circumstance: where she is more than intrigued by the local legend that is the Essex serpent.

Author

The Essex Serpent is the second novel written by Sarah Perry. Born in Essex, she has a PhD in creative writing and won the East Anglian Book of The Year award in 2014, along with several other nominations.

Main characters

Character One

Cora Seaborne – tomboy, strong female character before her time ‘modernist’. Palaeontology enthusiast.

Character Two

William Ransome – vicar and farmer. Typical hard outer and soft inner type who dotes on his family.

Character Three

Francis Seaborne – Cora’s son. Autistic? Peculiar tendencies.

Character Four

Martha – Cora’s companion – a very strong and feisty female character with opinions, an active and vocal socialist.

Story

To be honest, it is hard to give a traditional overview of the plot and flow of this book as it doesn’t really have one as far as I can tell. The main focus is the journey of the protagonist, Cora – from a timid wife to an independent widow, which she accomplishes by overcoming a number of challenges and new experiences. To me, Cora’s transformation told through the interactions with several characters – of which I felt there were a few too many, highlights some of the issues prevalent at that time, political, medical, scientific and religious. I believe it to be a good portrayal from my understanding of the time, but then I by no means claim to be a historian of any kind.

Themes

Historical issues of politics, medicine, science, religion, socialism and feminism from the 1890s. A portrayal of the challenges faced by widows and unmarried women, those from backgrounds of poverty and deprivation and the balancing act of newly emerging science with traditional religious beliefs, amongst others that have probably flown over my lesser educated head.

Evaluation

I am attempting a retrospective review of this book, which I read over Christmas 2016. The Essex Serpent is beautifully written with wonderful flowing prose; displaying page after page of beautiful literature. Technically, Perry cannot be faulted in as a wordsmith. However, despite this, I found myself wondering what on Earth had happened between page 1 and 300? Not a lot! Full of colourful characters all described in great intricacy; as far a plot is concerned, not very much happens. I felt that Cora’s voice wasn’t strong enough to be heard above the buzz of all the other characters and became somewhat lost amongst the hype of the Essex serpent gossip. I was disappointed by the final outcome relating to the Essex Serpent and it doesn’t really have an ending per se, it just ends with no conclusions. Perhaps it is the scientist and romanticist in me, but I like a proper ending, preferably a happy, or at least a feel good one. The Essex Serpent just left me feeling unfulfilled. As I had chosen it as a Christmas read for our book club, I was really looking forward to it and found myself rather disappointed, to be honest. It just doesn’t end up going anywhere. When I read, I love to go places, I want the author to really take me there with them and on this occasion that just didn’t happen.

I have approached this review as best as I can based on my limited point of view, but it is just an opinion. For a more in-depth and academic approach to the review of this book, please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/16/the-essex-serpent-sarah-perry-review-novel

I am sure this fellow author enjoyed and appreciated the book far more than I ever will, though it is clear his intellectual capacity supersedes my remedial intelligence by far.

Overall, a well-written novel and a great educator in historical issues and an imaginative portrayal of realistic historical fiction (as far as my limited knowledge allows me to tell).

Rating

 

3/5

I hope you enjoyed reading this review and are able to glean at least a spec of usefulness from it. Please leave comments below if you have any suggestions or . . . anything really! Be nice though  . . . it’s my 1st one!

Pursuing Passions

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Pursuing Passions

So, with my job search journey finally over (for now), I have found myself once again with time and energy to pursue my love of The Arts, in particular, creative writing. My too-long-dormant novel has been metaphorically brushed off, printed out and read through. Once again I am picking up a different book every hour and enjoying the dance of different shapes and the meaning that they form across the page. Once again I feel hopeful, ignited, visionary.

Some may be wondering, why am I not writing about the elated success of my return to employment? A good question. And my answer is, I have spent so long dwelling on it that I once again left a part of myself behind. That subject, I want to leave that for another blog post and first and foremost, focus on the real reason I started this blog. Which is to pursue my passions for all things creative! Which I feel that I am once again, now able to do.

So where to re-start? As it were. Something I have been thinking about for a while. Last year, I joined a book club and most recently, I have signed up to the Portsmouth Writers Hub which I intend to attend on a monthly basis with at least a paragraph of a piece of writing for the required subject. What I have really kicked off with though, and something I am most excited about, is I have entered a writing competition! Not only that, but it was free. I found a list of writing competitions via a quick google search and the suggestions of others. I am hoping I will find out the result in due course this coming month.

So back to the book club. I think it would be naive of anyone to think that you can become a good writer without first, becoming a good reader. And that is exactly what I intend to do. As I have been partaking in the reading and reviewing of several books outside of my comfort zone anyway. I thought I may as well publish my thoughts here. So that is my plan, each month (hopefully) I will read a book and write a review for it here; with the aim of focussing my direction for my own writing development. I am also going to publish my reviews on Good Reads A place I have left long forgotten until now. I will probably do some reflective reviewing as a start. I hope at least some of you will find this interesting.

New Year, New Fear

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New Year, New Fear

In the eight-week run up to Christmas, I attended no less than eight job interviews. That’s one per week! (For those of you whose brains are still reeling from the impacts of the festive season.)

“Well, that’s great!” Some of you may be thinking. And yes, in some respects, it is. It means that my CVs, covering letters and job applications are good enough. They are working as they should. Writing CVs, covering letters and applications is one of my strengths; of this I am sure.

“But hang on a minute, if you attended eight job interviews that means . . . ”

Exactly, I didn’t get any job offers! And herein lies the problem. It’s all well and good writing job applications so good you beat hundreds of others to the interview stage, (for one job I was informed there were over three hundred applicants), only then to be told,

“You don’t have enough experience.”

I made my experience clear on the job application though? And this wasn’t just one or two times I heard this. It was every time. Feedback following every single interview I’ve had so far (and it’s more than the eight preceding Christmas), has been,

“You interviewed very well, but we hired someone with more relevant experience,”

Well, I can’t do anything about the experience I currently lack – unless someone gives me a break so I can get it! So where do I go from here?

 

Inspiration

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Inspiration

It’s funny, it can come from all places, from all times and all walks of life; but it is most often found amongst the deluge of depression and tragedy. Like a glimmer of hope in the form of a shining light of realisation that all of a sudden seems so obvious. And indeed it is where I find myself once again. I find mine in the form of a young aspiring artist called Emma Haines. Something about the visit to her gallery in Ilfracombe, North Devon really resonated with me. A fellow horse enthusiast, many of her works were horse based and vibrant and alive with colour, a trait I love. My wonderful partner very kindly purchased two of them as a birthday present.

I had been asking him to take me to the Woolacombe Bay Hotel for ages, years in fact. It was where he would stay with work. When he first told me he had finally booked a night for my birthday I felt so excited. I spent weeks looking forward to it despite the looming tragedy I have now endured. As we wound our way down the hill to the beautiful setting below my heart raced with anticipation. The dark sandy beach surrounded by the peaks and rolling lucid green hills were what dreams are made of. The sunlight glinted off the swells of the crashing waves as they lurched over the shore. As we pulled into the car park he pointed to the room in the tower on the 2nd floor and told me that is where we would spend the night. I couldn’t wait to get inside and see where we would be staying. When I opened the charming antique and slightly wonky wooden door to our room I gasped and smiled. The view from our room could only be described as spectacular.

The whole experience was so romantic, the only disappointment was that time robbed us of prolonging our enjoyment further. We strolled along the beach barefoot, hand in hand as the sea crashed around our soft and sensitive skin and we waded through enjoying the refreshing chill that lingered as we felt the strength of the pull on our toes and the sand was taken from beneath us. The waves crashed around us in a powerful yet peaceful and soothing roar. We glanced at the pristine picture of the blue sea meeting the green hills of the countryside surrounding us, the rocks etched like little reminders of landscapes once passed. It was simply glorious. A scene so serene I could gaze upon it for hours, I worked hard to capture it in my mind, locking it my memory for all eternity.

We navigated the windy country and coastal roads into Ilfracombe the following day, expecting a coastal walk and a look around the sleepy seaside town to be the hustle and bustle of our activities for the day. Feeling captivated by the wonderful views and feeling of peace and tranquility about the place, I almost passed Emma’s shop window without a second glance. It was my partner who spotted the beautiful colourful horse and marched me across the road and inside, and I’m so glad he did. What a wonderful experience. I’ve never seen use of colour so vivid and captivating in the form of illustrative expressionism yet so technically accurate. Details were missed yet only added to the charm and enhanced the aesthetics of the work. As an artist there is clear illustrative brilliance. The character and personality of each animal and human are captured and immortalised. I longed to pick up a paintbrush again; to feel the pressure of a pencil glance the pages of textured paper and watch images come to life beneath it. I was inspired. I had to ask how she did it.

Emma was delightful to speak to and we all had a lovely conversation and it was wonderful to hear that she was local and had followed her dream and won an award for her work which was displayed and toured the country. She was more than happy to talk about how she had acquired the shop, her love of horses and her hopes for the future. As I listened with delight to the enjoyment her work and life brought her I felt a warmth rise within me. A creative fire igniting that I haven’t rekindled for many years. A fire that had been all but extinguished in the years I had dedicated to education. For all these years and in the absence of my horse fix I felt something was missing. I was beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together once again as the embers burned.

I realise that your passions cannot be ignored, whether you have one or one hundred, it is equally important to make time to nurture each and every one one of them as best as you can. I have already promised myself a horse when I am able to support it financially; and I am pleased to say within a day I dug out my sketch book and once again picked up a pencil and put it to paper, I re-discovered my novel and the joys of reading for pleasure. I have reached out to my long neglected creative folk friends. I have decided to let go of my anxiety surrounding unemployment and to use this valuable time and energy to pursue my passion, for art, for literature, for creativity, for healing and therapy for me.

Transcending Tragedy

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Transcending Tragedy

My apologies that I have not posted as often as I had intended. It is my intention to continue posting with my ideas about the job hunting and career process and overcoming challenges in due course.

Unfortunately I have just had to witness the rapid deterioration and passing away of my dearly beloved grandmother. A very sad and despairing time it has been. She was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer on the 3rd of August after being admitted to hospital on Friday 29th of July. I am in shock that it all happened so quickly. What a truly brave and wonderful lady she was and how I shall miss her dearly.

I have never experienced such loss, helplessness and utter despair at the NHS healthcare system. I know that nothing could be done to save my grandmother. Her prognosis was bleak, but the level of care she received during her time at The Royal Sussex County Hospital was something to be desired. It just highlighted to me the importance of good communication amongst large organisations. I have worked for the NHS and I have great respect for anyone who commits their life to making a difference in a failing system. The people are wonderful, the bureaucracy and the system are failing. Misinformation, no information and poor or no communication occurred from the moment my grandmother was admitted to The Royal Sussex County Hospital and I am deeply disappointed that an organisation that I believe in so much, I feel, failed my grandmother in terms of the lack of quality care provided.

She had to wait for over two weeks before being transferred to the beautiful St. Barnabas Hospice near Worthing at which she spent only 36 hours before passing away peacefully in her sleep. For this I am grateful. I am grateful that it was quick, that she did not have to suffer for long, and that she passed away peacefully in a place she wanted to be, surrounded by happy memories in the form of photographs of those she loved most. Gratefulness is something that I believe we all need to practice more fully on a daily basis.

 

 

 

Sell-fie

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Sell-fie

I’m posting about the entire process one has to endure to find themselves in the world of employment. Whether it be forging a new career, starting on a new venture, or just a job to tide you over, we must all try to sell ourselves! I, like most, often find this a particularly tricky issue despite being able to do this for others so easily. Having had some experience with creative CV writing for others with success, I understand the basics of what is required to grab the attention of employers and make a job application really stand out. However, when it comes to me, I often struggle to think of a single USP on the spot, despite having several filed away in there somewhere . . .

This begs the question:

“How can I sell myself successfully?” 

For that is essentially what we have to do. We need to make it transparent to a potential employer why they should hire us and not someone else. What we have, that no one else does, has to be displayed like a Peacock to grab their attention. For those of you like myself; reserved, quiet, introverted, anxious, this does not come naturally! For most it is quite unnatural to think of ourselves as being better than others, in fact, quite often, it is the exact opposite. This means that sometimes the more modest of us lose out to our more flamboyant competitors.

I believe that clear and transparent communication is the key. Quite often, how we perceive what we are communicating to others is quite different from what they actually hear. It is natural to think that your interviewer knows more than you do, after all, if they are your superior, surely they must do to be hiring you? I have learned that this assumption is not always the case. Always explain fully how you demonstrate a key skill or USP through an example in detail and why it is relevant.

I’m discussing feedback for an unsuccessful interview (it happens to us all from time-to-time); the interview feedback was positive and the reason the candidate was not offered the position was because there was another candidate who had several years more experience (not much can be done about that). Constructive criticism given post-interview, was that they did not give specific enough examples when answering questions about how to demonstrate necessary skills and experience. They had rehearsed their responses and were sure they had linked relevant work experience and how those skills are transferable to the current role, with a supporting example! On paper, it all seemed flawless; but clearly this was not how the interviewers (there were three of them) perceived the responses.

This just goes to show the discrepancy between what the two parties were hearing. Also the importance of understanding exactly what it is the employers are looking for. Sometimes, it just is experience, and no matter how creative your responses are, all you can do is keep seeking more experience! Whether it’s voluntary, taking a step down or making a side-step. However, most often there are ‘buzz words‘ employers are looking for that they must hear to grab their attention.

“Where do I find these ‘buzz words?’ you may be asking. The answer is: Do your research! It may seem obvious but I have found that more often than not companies use their favourite buzz words and phrases within the first two paragraphs of their home and about section. Linking your ethos and values to this can really help to support an application and when being interviewed.

Another really important point is – keep it relevant. If you are lacking a bit in experience and don’t want to make this too obvious; when giving examples of your transferable skills, check that you have supported their relevance with a clear example that relates to the job role you are going for! The best way to do this is to read and highlight the job description/profile you have been provided with. Often employers will list the most essential skills first and quite often will indicate whether a skill is essential or desirable by marking it ‘E’ or ‘D’. Be prepared to have at least three examples rehearsed and choose whichever one is most appropriate during the interview.

If you can, support your previous successes with facts and figures where appropriate. If you improved the efficiency of the company’s CRM system by 80% then jolly well say so! Take pride in your success and of course, do keep these honest and be prepared to show evidence – don’t manipulate them as this may come back to bite you when the employer checks with your references and this won’t bode well with either party – you want to keep your referees thinking highly of you, just in case you don’t get this one.

A few ideas from my own personal experience and that of clients. I do not allege to be an expert by any means and if anyone else has anything useful they would like to share – please do so. It would be very much appreciated in the fast-paced and competitive job market of today!