Our regular roundtable this month involved questions about politics, succession planning and a disastrous pandemic. Finito mentors Sophia Petrides, Pervin Shakh, Caroline Roberts, Robin Rose and Andy Inman gave their advice
I’ve always wanted to go into politics. There are a number of good experience routes through the Civil Service, Public Affairs agencies, Think Tanks and working as a Parliamentary Assistant for an MP. How do I determine if I will be suited and where I begin? Damien, 27, Exeter
Robin: Damien, let’s deal with the suitability part of your question first. It’s encouraging that you’re asking whether you would be good for politics, not if the role would be good for you. The best politicians are those who genuinely want to make a difference, if that is you then stick with your ambition.
Caroline: Yes, you clearly have a strong interest in working in the political arena so that’s half the battle won. The civil service and think tanks will have a strong focus on research skills and policy development. If you are in a position to offer some time to an appropriate organisation voluntarily, then that may also be a good starting point.
Robin: I agree with Caroline. You mention some of the traditional gateways into politics and these areas should not be overlooked. However, if this is seriously the sector that excites you, these suggested routes are slow and too dependent on chance. To really make things happen just get involved in causes you believe in. Join groups actively fighting to promote your chosen cause. Hone your human relations and public-speaking skills. Study negotiation and conflict resolution. Do all this and your political career will take off much faster.
My parents don’t want me to join the family paper business. They feel that I need to prove myself elsewhere before joining, which I understand but I’m also proud of the family and want to continue the tradition which goes back several generations. I am all for succession planning, but this is tearing me apart emotionally because there’s really little else I want to do. Harry, 20, Norwich.
Pervin: Harry, it’s great to hear that you are very keen on being involved in the family business. Your parents’ perspective is understandable too. It might be a wise idea to get some external experience first, maybe in a non-related business, so you can pick up new experiences, develop commercial knowledge and formulate new thoughts and build a network. In the meantime, you can still be involved in the family business informally by looking for ways to improve the existing business, but try not to impose your ideas as an absolute rule, especially never at the dinner table!
Sophia: Your parents should be very proud of their son wanting to support the family business and continue the tradition. However, I agree with Pervin that it is important to broaden your horizons to other experiences to grow your business skills.
Robin: A thriving business has to continuously evolve with the times. It has to be agile, adaptable and resilient. When you are in the thick of daily business life you don’t get much time to try out new ideas or discover new approaches, so use this time to go out there and learn how you could take your family business to the next level for when you hand it over to your own kids. Look at the logistics chain, the suppliers, the customer service aspects, the customer journey and demand influencing factors. Try walking in your customer’s shoes for a bit. You can only achieve this by experiencing many different challenges in your life that push you out of your comfort zone.
Pervin: I’d add that maybe you could use your social and digital media skills to help improve the company’s social media strategy and increase visibility and client engagement. This way, you’ll gain your family’s trust, build credibility, whilst proving that you have what it takes to be involved in an official capacity later on.
Robin: Think of it like this. If you were to start straight away at your age you would immediately encounter difficulties from which your parents are trying to protect you. Other staff are unlikely to give you the respect you will eventually need to become a leader. You would be just thought of as the ignorant kid who is just there for nepotistic reasons. If you were to spend a couple of years elsewhere, think of the potential advantages that would result.
My gap year was a disaster due to the pandemic. I don’t feel ready to start a job nor do I want to study for a Masters. What options are there for someone like me? Lucy, 22, Tunbridge Wells
Caroline: Sorry you didn’t enjoy your gap year but you are clearly ready to move on to the next step. First of all think about what you would like to do. What are the skills you have developed through university and any other activities you have been involved in? Is there an industry that particularly interests you and why? Once you have narrowed that down you can then start to think about how you get there. Many industries now have good apprenticeship schemes which will allow you to earn while you learn, offering a great blend of study and work. The National Apprenticeship Service will have all the details of what’s on offer.
Pervin: It’s natural to feel disheartened, Lucy, especially as the pandemic has been incredibly challenging for those looking for work or trying to get good quality work experience. If you are unsure, don’t rush into the next step. Instead, step back and think about what you’d like to do. Your interests, motivation, and aspirations may have changed because who you were 15 months ago is not who you are today, and not who you will be in the next 15 months. Be flexible with your plans and try different things and see what you like and dislike.
Andy: 2021 has not gone to plan for many. The great thing is that you have so many options available to you. One of those options could be to take a role in the care sector, earn some money to either fund a future gap year or help pay for further education, while developing your people skills and helping those less fortunate. If not that, then are you in a position to do some voluntary work and get similar benefits? Doing something positive will always be better than doing nothing, it will develop you and reflect well on your CV, those that come out of this pandemic ahead will be the ones who have acted in one way or another.
Sophia: Andy’s right. When life throws us a curveball – and it often does – the hardest thing is letting go of your previous plan and thinking up a new one that’s a better fit for your current circumstances. This is also a great time to give something new a chance. Throw your own curveball back at life! Have you considered supporting your local community and giving a helping hand to those less fortunate? Are there any local charities where you can offer support? Volunteering can transform your CV as well as offer real, life-changing help to elderly people who live alone and have never felt lonelier.