Lia (6)

Motto: Patience and perserverance.

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Lia is 27 and female. She lives alone in a rented flat in a big city – occasionally with a boyfriend. She has a wide network of friends and is very sociable. Her father is a training consultant and management coach, her mother is an artist. She enjoys cooking, hill running and other outdoor pursuits. They are a very close family and her parents are very ‘hands-on’ in terms of her education and career.


Educational and transitional pathways

Lia started a degree course in Architecture in U.Newcastle, hated it, left and worked as a research assistant for her father until she went back to the same university to do Politics and Government the following year. After a 3yr B.A she graduated and went to U.Manchester to do a 2yr M.A in Economic Development. She graduated two years ago. She was unemployed for about 9 months after graduating and calculated she had applied for about 40 jobs and been shortlisted and interviewed for about 20. She had almost given up when she was offered a junior position in a Regional Economic Development agency in the North West.

After she had been in post for only 5 months her boss went off on maternity leave. There were no arrangements in place to cover her absence so Lia found she was having to cope with much of her boss’ s work until they could appoint a temporary replacement. She took on more and more responsibility, representing her boss at important meetings etc but had to go to her boss’ boss to have decisions authorized, which was time consuming and irritating. For this reason only, she decided to apply for the temporary post, not really expecting to get it but to her surprise, she was appointed. After 6 months her boss returned after her maternity leave but said that she was only staying for 3 months then leaving permanently to raise her family. Lia was asked to continue in the job, which was then made permanent just a few months ago.

She is extremely happy in her job and says she “Cannot believe my luck!  I went from  long-term unemployed to being a glorified personal assistant-come-researcher to quite senior manager in just under a year!” She has no intention of moving jobs in the immediate future as she hopes that her early promotion will lead to a long term career in the organization. 

Motivations and Strategies

Lia does dogged determination and effort but lacks self confidence at a personal level and in relationships.  When she was unemployed she spent every day looking for work and writing applications. This was totally demoralizing and she lost even more confidence.  However, she was confident enough in a professional context to take on work at a much higher level than her previous experience

“I don’t think I was confident or not confident – stuff just needed to be done so I did it. It was a bit hairy sometimes – there were lots of times I was winging it, especially in meetings but you just have to get on with it. I didn’t think about it. I applied for the job not because I thought I was better than anyone else but that I thought I could do the job more efficiently if I didn’t have to spend so much of my time checking out things with senior managers and getting their approval for everything.”

Lia is very mature and focused in her approach, very thorough and very disciplined. She does not panic and is totally reliable and always well prepared. It is easy to see her as a senior civil servant or chief officer in local government  - a career which she said she would love.

Her motivation seems extrinsic to herself – she is motivated to do things well because it is expected of her and to do them at all because it is required of her. She has a strong sense of duty and responsibility but it is difficult to extract any internal drivers or ambition.

Ad hoc learning scenarios

Lia said that the subjects she studied for both degrees were interesting and exactly right for her. She did not enjoy her Masters degree and felt that the teaching and support was bad but she is good at going and finding her own support in a methodical way. For example, she had very little confidence in her dissertation supervisor and felt she had no expertise in her subject area and that her thinking was muddled. She asked to change supervisors but this was refused. She then emailed a niumber of people she had met and asked them if they would help – outlining exactly the help she needed and how long it would take and when. It was very methodical and organized.

She also said she had found one or two of the more conceptual courses quite difficult

“Political Thinking was a nightmare – it was all philosophy and ideology and cultural studies stuff – there was no substance – it all seemed a bit ephemeral and nothing to catch hold of. I liked the factual subjects better” She said she coped by “either dropping those subjects as soon as I could or just learning enough stuff parrot-fasion to pass the exams.”

Support Services used

Lia had a lot of support from the university careers service and found them helpful. They suggested she applied for graduate entry to the civil service but she was unsuccessful. They were her main source of information and many of the vacancies she applied for in her 9 months of unemployment were as a result of the university careers service support.  She also used the extensive network of business contacts that her father has and registered with several agencies. Despite help from her parents, money was a problem . She registered for unemployment benefit and after a few months she had to be interviewed and attend a course on finding a job, which she found insulting. She said

“the staff made me feel like a criminal – they just kept telling us we had to try harder and we had to use their database of vacancies. They were all for shop assistants and I didn’t eel I could try any harder. She stopped claiming benefit and got a job working a few evenings a week in a bar.

Learning type

Self directed learning: Lia is temperamentally well suited to organizing her own learning which she does very systematically. She made an interesting point –

“If you know what it is you don’t know then  you can go and find out about it or find someone to help but there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know and didn’t know that I didn’t know. You can’t do that on your own.

Peer learning: When she really cannot find a way around a problem, Marie will ask for help from her peers or family.

Learning from experts: Lia is good at researching who she knows or asking her friends if they know someone who could help her –  slightly different from networking. 

Information and Communication Technologies

Lia used to use facebook but rarely uses it now. She is concerned about on-line identities. She is very young to be a senior manager and is aware that she has to work hard at being mature – she is trying to distance herself from the drunken photos when she was a student.  She rarely uses skype but using her mobile to send texts is her main form of communication with friend and family. She has joined Linked In because she thinks she should (all part of her professional identity) but is not sure what the point of it is and almost never logs in.

She has fairly high level computer skills but doesn’t make much use of social software. She tried twitter for a while but said for her it was no different from  the micro blogging on facebook or even skype and she got bored with it.

“ it was just communication for communication’s sake and most of it was really banal. It used to really infuriate me when someone who send a tweet, then post it on facebook then you’d get an email  from facebook telling you it was there and waht it was.”

She also used the internet extensively as part of her job hunting strategy but said the ‘general’ sites were not very good compared with some of the specialist ones.  She eventually enrolled with a professional ‘head-hunting’ agency and said she wished she had done it sooner as they got her about 6 interviews very quickly, including the job she was offered.  She is not clear what gap in the market another support service would fill.