Personal and Career Development: The Value of Friendships at Work

Personal and Career Development: The Value of Friendships at Work

mark-twain-quote-on-friendshipYesterday I had lunch with friends that I made at work more than 30 years ago. Meeting them led me to meditate on how important friendship can be in supporting you through the difficult times in your career.

I met those particular friends when they were fresh from university: now, they are on the verge of retirement.

We were part of a cohort of young Civil Servants setting out on an intense, month-long,  course in Economics. I don’t know how much of it we retained for use in our later careers but the friendship has certainly stood the test of the years.

I don’t know what bound us together so strongly as a group beyond our variety – we a had nice mix of art, science and scepticism, in youth. The scepticism has mellowed with the years like our competitiveness.

I know that their friendship, and that of another former colleague, has been important to me in a life which has had more discontinuities than most.

Certainly, friendship has been one of the things that has sustained me through difficult patches at work.

The ability to talk in confidence to someone you trust, who understands what you do, can help you get through hard times in one piece. A true friend’s on-going respect for you, and what you stand for, can help keep your self-esteem and confidence in tact through a storm.

Wendy Mason  is a Career Coach and Life Coach helping you to solve difficult problems at work and at home

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Can People From The Public Sector Survive In Business?

Today we have a guest post from Margaret Adams who is an expert in all aspects of business communications.  She started her career in the public sector but has gone on to run a successful business.  You can find out more about Margaret at this link

I get very cross when I hear radio interviews asking THAT sort of question.  You know the sort of interview I mean.  The subject of the discussion is how someone who has just left a job in the public sector is struggling in the “real” world.  The implication is that people from the public sector can’t survive in the business world. 

I would like to disagree.

I spent my employed life in the public sector – in the education world.  Just for the record, I’ve been in business for almost twenty years.  That means that, at one level, I’m living proof that ex-public sector employees can survive in business.

From my standpoint – having been in business for a long time – I would like to remind people in the public sector who are about to launch themselves into the business world, that they have three great advantages when they decide to set up their businesses.

You have large organisation experience

If you’ve worked in the public sector you’ve worked in a large organisation.  Even if you’ve worked in an outpost of a local authority or health establishment, you’ve been linked to a large organisation.

You know that large organisations have systems, processes and procedures to help them to function.  That means you understand the value of adopting a systematic approach to getting things done.

Lots of people who set up in businesses don’t have this type of experience.  They often end up trying to complete every task that needs doing in an ad hoc manner.  They do things in one way on Monday and they adopt a very different approach on Friday. They struggle with systems and processes.  They don’t like to be constrained by rules.

As a result they work extraordinarily hard and use up lots of energy.  However, they often work inefficiently.  They don’t treat their customers very well, because their customers never know quite what to expect of them.  When they grow their businesses, they can make poor employers, because they hate rules.

These are mistakes that you’re not going to make.  You know about the benefits of organising work.  You value your experience of functioning in a structured working environment, and you know how to make use of your knowledge now you’re starting your business.

You know negotiation comes with the job

As someone who has worked in a large organisation you know that you often have to negotiate with people to get things done.  You don’t have formal authority over every one who you need to interact with and work with.  You know that if you’re going to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for, you must become an expert in setting up win-win situations. You must be able to explain the benefits of co-operation and collaboration to other people.  You must be able to persuade and influence others.

You’ll need these skills again, once you’re in business on your own account.  Congratulations on having developed them to a high standard already.

You know that plans are important

Strategic plans, new projects, strategies for implementing the requirements of white papers and instructions from government departments are things you understand.

You know how important plans are.  You’ve seen how bigger plans are broken down into chunks to be implemented in different units and departments and by different teams.  You also know that you need to stick to a plan once it’s agreed.  In short, you know that plans and planning matter.

Again you’ve had some excellent training.  That means that once you’re working in your business you’ll be less likely to be blown off course than the business owner who doesn’t have a plan and doesn’t value planning.

And the downside

Every one has lots to learn in the early days in business.  That applies to people leaving jobs in the private sector to start businesses just as much as it applies to people leaving the public sector to become business people.

People leaving the public sector have different things to learn because their experience of employment is probably different from that of many of their private sector counterparts.

In neither case does the fact that new business owners have a lot to learn mean that they’re not going to survive in business.

The challenge for you is to learn enough to ensure your business survives before your cushion of resource or savings runs out.

Therefore, don’t listen to the people who tell you can’t build a business, because of your background.  Show them you can succeed by learning what you need to learn quickly and making good use of the experience you already have.

Margaret Adams helps businesses to find the right things to say about themselves both online and offline.  She specialises in helping solo professionals to succeed in business.  Find out more about her work at:




Wendy worries about Dave, replies to his latest letter and promises new posts on CV writing.

Woman writing a letter.

Wendy is a bit worried about Dave, particularly his reluctance to network.  She hopes that her recent posts have encouraged him to give it a try.

She isn’t surprised that Dave is feeling a bit depressed and that things are difficult with his wife. Being made redundant is stressful for the individual concerned and those around them.

Life changes for the partner or spouse too and this can take a toll.  It helps if you can talk about this together. And sometimes you may need outside help from a counsellor.

Keep an eye on how things are developing between you and if they are getting worse have the courage to ask for help!  Much better that than to lose the relationship. 

Dear Dave

Thanks for your last letter.

I hope that my recent posts have encouraged you to try networking.  I’m sure it really will help in your search for the right kind of work.  I’ll be very  interested to hear how you are getting on.

In my next couple of posts I’m going to concentrate on CVs and how you can use the work you have done on your STAR stories to show your competencies.

Yes, I do think potential employers will be interested in both your Civil Service jobs and the voluntary work you have done.  But it is up to you to work out how to explain what you have done in a way that shows other people what you have delivered.  Potential employers want to see evidence that you can deliver what they need. I’ll help you with this!

That is one of the reasons why you need to establish your own CV template that you can then adapt to each job application.  If you read the adverts carefully you will usually find each advertiser is looking for something a little different.  If it isn’t obvious from the advert then it may be when you do your home work. 

If you are serious about your application, it is worth finding out more about each organization you are applying to be part of.  You should be able to find out quite a lot using the internet.  Then work out what extras you may be able to offer in terms of your particular experience.  As I say above this needn’t just be related to paid work.

Anyway, when you have read my next couple of posts, I hope you have a go at producing the first version of you CV.  I’ll be very pleased to review it for you.

 Mean while, if you have any further questions please get in touch.  

As I’ve said before, if there are other things you would like me to write about here please let me know

With very best wishes


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Wendy Mason is used to working with people moving out of the Public Sector! She is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger.  Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her at or ring ++44(0)7867681439
You can find her business blog at


Your Help Needed – New Blog – Leaving the Public Sector

I’ve been blogging here at Wisewolf Talking for the last couple of years!  Now I’ve decided to add another blog to the Wisewolf family – Leaving the Public Sector – and I’m seeking your help.

Following the 2010 UK Government Spending Review it was revealed that between them UK Government departments were expected to shed over 100,000 civil service posts as part of their efforts to reduce administration costs.

The UK Government’s cull of quangos, in which 192 public bodies are to be abolished and a further 112 will be merged, will also contribute to an overall headcount loss in the civil service.

In addition vast numbers of posts are likely to be lost from the wider public sector – Local Authorities, the NHS, the BBC etc.

Many public servants have already been invited to consider taking voluntary redundancy, and many more will be invited to do so as reorganisation plans begin to take shape.

Compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out.

For many public servants this is a time to consider the future and the challenge it presents.

Four years ago I was facing the same challenge.  I left the Civil Service in May 2007 and despite the changing economic climate I have not had one moment of regret!

Since then, as a coach, I have worked with a number of other people leaving public service.

So I’ve decided to start this new blog to share learning and to help people leaving make the most the time ahead. The aim is to;

  • Give them honest advice about the realities of life outside
  • Support them in making their plans
  • Help them carry their plan through!

It will also be a place for people to express their views, if they wish, in the form of comments and to ask questions!

I will welcome contributions from those with experience of leaving, or supporting people leaving, the public sector.

I would be really grateful for your help.  Would you please pass the word on about Leaving the Public Sector to anyone you think might find it helpful!

Also I would love to hear from people who might  be interested in writing for it or sponsoring it!

I am sure this is worthwhile exercise: helping people make the most of their lives has got to be a good thing to do!

Please pass the word on!

Wendy Mason is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her or ring ++44(0)7867681439