Stranger than strange contacts!


On Social Media, do you ever find a new Follower, or clock a new Contact and think: “Why on Earth have they chosen to link up with me?!”

Whether it’s a balloon-bender from Bolton, or a butler-in-the-buff from Brighton, there are times when the folk who want to be “part of my gang” make no sense whatsoever! To be fair, when I started out on Social Media, I probably did the same. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing and assumed that the more “Likes” or “Friends” I had, the more popular I’d appear and the more the phone would ring, or my email would ping with offers of work. Wrong!

Over the last couple of days, I’ve reflected on how I use Social Media and who I’d like to be in my troop. For a training and consultancy service such as mine, Linkedin has reaped rewards in terms of hooking-up with long-lost colleagues, showcasing what I do and bringing in business. I’ve happily sought out other professionals with a vested interest in careers guidance and working with children, young people and adults in the hope they’ll be just a wee bit interested in what I post.

My question is – what do you “do” with your list of contacts? Do they just sit there looking lovely, or, do you actively engage with them, promote and market what you do? Do they respond to that? I often worry it feels a bit like “cold emailing” and that gets up people’s noses.

I run a Linkedin Group for professionals in the Career Guidance sector. It’s very rare I shout from the rooftops what I do. I’ve seen other forums become choc-a-block full of self-promoting posts and I wouldn’t want that. However, of late, I HAVE promoted an exclusive qualification discount for staff who are members. Even THEN I felt a bit cheeky!

Am I just being overly sensitive? Some online gurus would say: “Well, these people CHOSE to be one of your contacts and it IS “social media”, therefore, they need to be sociable!”

Your thoughts  please?



“Thank you for flying Adrian Airlines!”

An ex-colleague of mine used to say that us trainers are a bit like actors. Regardless of how we’re feeling on the day, we stand at the front and perform! I regularly liken myself to an air steward when I’m delivering a training session. For up to seven hours on this long-haul “flight” I ensure I’m:

  • All “eyes and teeth, eyes and teeth”
  • Making my “passengers” aware of health and safety procedures
  • Fulfilling basic human needs
  • Keeping a keen eye on folk who are a little highly strung
  • Asking one or two bods to stop playing with their mobile phones
  • Dealing with people’s “baggage” !!

Can you relate to my analogy? Have you any of your own?

Our careers qualifications are causing a commotion!

Remember the days of NVQs? I can confidently claim that some national standards became SO “watered down” that, for many candidates, undertaking their qualification became nothing more than a box-ticking exercise. They were lucky if they saw their Assessor once a month!

Not the case with the Develop-meant and Always Consult team! We pride ourselves on “the personal touch”. Even though we use modern technology to support our delivery, the staff we train tell us there’s nothing more rewarding than attending our underpinning knowledge workshops and meeting their Assessor on a regular basis.

Take the OCR Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development, for example. Practitioners need a friendly face to guide them through. The standards require unpicking, there’s research to do and a lot of prep before assignments are written, or Professional Discussions are recorded.

It’s the first time in a while that a qualification in the careers sector has had an impact on practice. Staff claim the Unit on Labour Market Information has really made them consider how much they DON’T know about employment and trends locally, nationally and in Europe. The module on Careers Theory has reinforced that careers guidance isn’t just “a cosy chat” and there is some “science” behind what Advisers deliver. The programme also focuses, among other things, on reflective practice and Continuing Professional Development. Staff have the opportunity to take a step back and consider their role in the careers industry, recognise their skills and strengths and take action on how they can improve their practice.

It’s great to have a choice with the range of qualifications on offer at the moment. If the Level 6 sounds scary, newbie Careers Advisers can undertake the Level 4 Diploma in Career Information and Advice. For staff who don’t work in the careers sector yet still advise clients on a multitude of topics, we deliver the OCR Level 3 Certificate in Advice and Guidance and the Level 4 Diploma for more experienced professionals.

If you’re interested in one of our qualifications, get in touch! Together we’ll determine the programme that’s right for you and bespoke our delivery to meet your learning style. With payment options available if you’re self-funding and a boatload of glowing testimonials to our name, you’ve come to the right place!

Drop us a line at

Do employers expect too much of young people?

I’ve worked with young people for the last 20 plus years. When I ask fellow business bods what they want to see from the youngsters they employ, interestingly enough good literacy, numeracy and IT skills rarely crops up! What I AM hearing is: there’s a lack of self-awareness and confidence, poor verbal communication skills, the inability to confess: “I haven’t any more work to do, what would you like me to do next?” or: “I’m stuck, can you help me?”

I’ve burrowed down into these comments over the last few years and this whole discussion can be flipped on its head. More often than not – particularly with some smaller employers (although the big boys don’t get away scot-free!) it’s the lack of induction into company policies, procedures and protocols that have tripped up many young ‘uns.

I spoke to one boss who said: “We had this lad, good kid, bit shy. He was with us for three days, didn’t turn up on Thursday. I had to ring him. Turns out he was sick…” Mr Employer, did you inform him he had to contact you before 9am? The answer was in the negative!

I also found that several Managers weren’t particularly good Mentors – very little time, patience or empathy with their newbie recruits.

I still haven’t sussed out a confident answer to the original question! Do you think employers have this assumption that young people are learning all about themselves, the world and careers at school? I know, to some degree, they are. Some schools better than others. Should employers take more responsibility for making links into education AND mentoring, training and developing the school leavers they employ?

Some Year 11 pupils have no interest in “careers”

I often work in schools with Careers Advisers observing them in action for their careers qualifications. Some of them choose a Unit on delivering group work sessions to clients.

From my experience, careers staff work really hard on the preparation and planning for this module. Group work delivery is usually outside their “comfort zone”. They’re keen to develop a programme that meets all learning styles, keeps students engaged and – most important – is fun. Often Advisers will invite employers to get involved in an attempt to keep things “real”.

So, why is it that – particularly when I’m sat in a room with Year 11 students – I want to crawl into a corner and die?! I’ve worked with children and young people for nearly 25 years and it’s very rare I “knock” youngsters, however, it can be NO coincidence that I often observe absolutely appalling and disrespectful behaviour from young people.

Put it this way, I went to a school in Wolverhampton that didn’t have the best of best reputations, however, I don’t remember ANY of my classmates behaving so badly, particularly if someone from the “outside world” had taken the trouble to visit and present.

I wouldn’t still be working in this amazing sector if I couldn’t relate to young people and share my experiences with the staff who support them. However, if my collective experience of late is anything to go by then – blimey!

The teachers present in these sessions- who are ultimately responsible for monitoring behaviour – do their utmost and are usually no “push over”. The attitude of some young people I see is bordering on arrogant with a complete lack of interest, i.e. “This means nothing to me!”

Can you fathom out what’s going on here? I’m not sure I can! Is it a society thing? Behavioural? Education not prepping young people for “the real world”? Lack of importance given to careers? Careers IAG delivered in more innovative ways?


Careers Guidance staff focus on the future!

December was the month when Develop-meant with Always Consult helped inspire Telford and Wrekin careers professionals with a mini-conference called “Count Me In!”

Future Focus offers information, advice and guidance to young people so they make well-informed, realistic career decisions. The conference was designed to help staff recognise their achievements, plan for the future and move the service forward.

The day started with a celebration of success! Staff were asked to identify what Future Focus had achieved since its transition from the Connexions service and what they valued most about each other. There was a real buzz in the air! The team found that taking time out for this kind of recognition was not only enjoyable, it helped boost morale which would have a marked effect on future performance.

One of the objectives of the day was to investigate “The Circle of Influence”. The Advisers had to consider the facets of the business they could change and improve. As a result, a “Future Focus Action Plan” evolved. The group also contributed to the design of their new Mission Statement. Everyone was delighted the service now had a clearly-defined statement to help promote the organisation’s goals.

Future Focus Team Leader, Tara Foran, said: “I’m extremely pleased with the input from the group and the results from the day.” Service Delivery Manager, Sue Marston commented: “It’s the best away day I’ve ever been on!”

Based on feedback from the delegates – a great day was had by all!

future focus

Future Focus staff writing nice things about each other on their away day


Networking CAN be a nightmare!

Self-Employment can be a lonely old life. I remember “Day One” for me was pretty miserable. Sat at home, fingering the filling of a Jammy Dodger (I was comfort eating!) staring at a missed cobweb, tempted to turn on “Vasectomy Watch” or “Animals Do The Funniest Things On Acid” or whatever tripe they show on daytime TV these days!

Were there like-minded people in Shropshire who had just given up a 30-odd-thousand-pounds-a-year job for a life of navel-gazing, Pot Noodle and Monster Munch sandwiches?! I had to find out…

Fortunately, a mate’s sister (and fellow trainer) had moved back to the area from Cornwall and we were keen to explore the networking opportunities in our beautiful county. A spot of Googling later and we’d invited ourselves along to a small local forum, tempted by offers of bacon baps, Danish pastries and the opportunity to find out if there were other crazed fools out there having a mid-life crisis!

“Welcome!” said the lovely lady in a gingham two-piece on our arrival at the hotel. “You are ready to do your sixty-second spiel are you not?” Of course, we immediately lost our appetites and stood cowering like a couple of kittens in the corner! With hardly a moment to gather our composure (or to find the exit!) we were ushered to our seats by our tablecloth-wearing hostess, where fellow “networkers” gave us sideways glances, friendly nods and that “look” that says: “YUM! YUM! Fresh meat!”

And so, the introductions began…like ‘creeping death’ it was! Dianne and I weren’t listening. Liberace could have stood up in a long-line bra and we wouldn’t have twigged on! The others in the room were SO good; you could tell they’d been to the “Angela Rippon School of Sixty-Second Spiel-ness”. What on EARTH could I tell them about myself?!?! “Hello, I’m Ade and yes, I used to read the boy’s problem section of my sister’s Just Seventeen…I know what you’re thinking – that won’t get me very far in the business world, however, I do know how to clear up a decidedly bad bout of back acne!”

Dianne was eloquent (I hated her!) AND it was exactly sixty seconds long! I gave her one of my “I’ve just been turned down for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar” smiles, stood up, knees knocking more than a privy door in a thunderstorm and prepared to project my spur-of-the-moment minute.

I couldn’t to this day tell you what I said! I know I got a laugh, which helps; tumbleweed didn’t whiz past me as I sat down and the gingham goddess et al gave me a round of applause!

Remember that corner Dianne and I were cowering in? That’s where you’ll find us 45 minutes later, only this time, it’s coffee break and we’re approached by entrepreneurs keen to encircle us like rabid wolves.

“Hmmmm…nice business card!” we coo to one gentleman through gritted smiles as we unfold the equivalent of the Bayeux Tapestry! “Hi! I’m Annabel,” says a rather horsey-looking lady as she launches her card at me: “If you’re ever after a side-winding thermal body belt to take away the chill during those cold winter months at the office, I’ve got them in several colours, shapes and sizes!”

“Daaaarling! In need of coaching?” shouts across a Mrs Doubtfire look-alike, “I’ve got free taster sessions happening all next week…” by the time I’d finished chatting to her, I felt like I’d been through a serious stretch of post-natal depression, acquired a new-found inferiority complex, as well as a burning desire to self-harm with the bacon tongues on an adjacent table!

“Quick Dianne! Let’s get outta here!” If Batman and Robin appeared at a “50% Off Lycra Sale” at New Look, they couldn’t have shifted themselves any faster! We made for our bat-like ‘Trainer-mobile’ and scarpered down the driveway! A HUGE sigh of relief…

Please, dear colleagues, tell me that not ALL networking is as intimidating as this?! I’ve regressed back to the sofa, with my Jammy Dodgers and Waggon Wheels this time around! Can you tempt me out of “hiding” with more than a bacon bap?!

Stay tuned for more of Ade’s rants and rambles! You can find him at

Self Employment Survivor’s Guide!

It’s “Happy Birthday” to Develop-meant Training Consultants – six years young just gone! Owner Adrian Cuzzocrea has a flashback to his first few weeks of going it alone…

Monday 26th October 2009. I awoke to my first day of self employment. At the time, it sounded far better than “unemployment”! I’d left a 20-year career in Youth Training behind me the previous Friday. Scary! I’d been in full-time employment since the age of 16 and had almost reached the top of the tree in terms of position and salary. So, what the hell was I doing?! I’d been contemplating the idea (and my navel!) for five years. Concerns around bills, the mortgage, living the life to which I’d become accustomed etc. all got in the way. It took three months with the new employer from hell, a self-help book and a week in Kos for that “light bulb moment” to manifest – “I CAN do this!” So, here I am! Not in Kos (or Kansas!) anymore, but marvellous Market Drayton, Shropshire pursuing an ambition I wish I’d realised years back (hindsight being a wonderful thing and all that). What a rollercoaster ride of emotions! Which got me to thinking there may just be others in the same predicament as I was; toying with the idea of making the leap into self employment. Here are my survival tips for the first few weeks:

  • Day 1 is incredibly surreal. Grant yourself “annual leave”. Allow 24 hours for the “self employment” concept to sink in. Keep saying to yourself “I AM actually doing this!” rather than questioning “AM I actually doing this?!”
  • Do as much research as possible. Your PC and the Internet will be your bestest buddies. Business start-up courses are incredibly reassuring, too. When you listen to the other entrepreneurial ideas in the room you’ll think: “Maybe I’m not so crazy after all?!”
  • Set yourself objectives for each day. Don’t have a “lie in” or turn the TV on! There are so many temptations working from home. When I designed training courses for the Careers service, I’d look out of my office windows for inspiration. Now I look out of my living room windows thinking: “Blimey! They need cleaning!” Don’t be distracted.
  • Shop around for an accountant and a business bank account. Recommendations from people you know are by far the best. Don’t compare and contrast reviews online. People don’t gush on the net about how wonderful their banks are; they write reviews to have a good old moan.
  • Network! Network! Network! Suss out the small business groups running in your area and invite yourself along. The first couple of meetings are usually free and if you’re lucky, you might get a buffet or a bacon sarnie! Go armed with business cards. You can design your own online at a great price. However, word of warning – don’t spread yourself too thinly. You could spend all your time networking and for what? Think carefully about where you network. Don’t be a “busy fool”.
  • Consider Social Networking, but choose your platforms wisely. Don’t believe all the hype. Are your Facebook fans interested in Neuro-Lingustic Programming?! Do colleagues on Linkedin want that Tantastic all-over glow? Are you Tweeting like a canary but not really engaging with your Followers?
  • Don’t be tempted to just go for ANY old work that comes your way. You’ve become self employed for a reason – you want to ENJOY it! Don’t take contracts or work with people that you’re unsure about. Get to know folk, determine their way of working and their ethos. OK, so, there may be some financial reward in the short term, but some people will drive you crackers and drag you down. Think about your sanity and happiness in the long term!
  • And finally – take some time for yourself! Don’t feel guilty if you’re not sat in front of your laptop waiting for emails, or designing your business cards, or planning your latest marketing campaign, or sweating over your accounts, or updating your business plan, or…or…or!! I had a HUGE guilt complex when I first started out. I knew there was washing in the machine to hang out, but I just HAD to finish the article I was writing. I knew that Jack, Louie and Levi needed feeding (they’re my cats by the way, not my triplets!) but I just HAD to put the finishing touches to the presentation I was working on. I knew there was a big wide world out there and I desperately needed to go to Wilko’s for bin bags, but I just HAD check out who’d been nosing on my website! Keep calm, it will all still be there when you get back!