My Way: Claire Lister, MD of Pitman Training, on how to do well

'Accountants always find work'

Claire Lister is managing director of Pitman Training, the business and computer training company with 90 centres in the UK

What did you want to be as a child?

A doctor. But I faint at the sight of blood, so although I applied to medical school, I backed out. Instead I read chemistry with industrial economics at the University of York.

Was it worth it?

It was for me, although a lot of people don't leave university ready for a job. However, I had one lined up, as an accountant with Deloitte.

Why accountancy?

My father was an accountant and everyone says you'll always get a job if you're an accountant. But having full-time work and studying to become a chartered accountant was very demanding.

How did you work your way up?

I worked as an accountant in the industry sector and changed jobs frequently.

How did you get the Pitman job?

A friend was a recruitment agent and kept nagging me about a finance-director role. I said no a few times, but when I heard that I'd be part of a management-buyout team, that attracted me and I joined as finance director, later becoming MD.

Do you consider yourself successful?

On some levels, but I'm my own harshest critic and there's still more to achieve.

Any interview tips?

Be on time, be presentable and be honest. A good interviewer will spot if you're not telling the truth. Show an interest in the person interviewing you, but don't be too chatty.

And your CV tips?

It should be two pages maximum; write it yourself; and make sure there are no errors. Focus on your recent achievements first. Employers like to hire people who are committed to personal development, so tell them if you've done a course or training.

Who are your heroes?

My mother. She lost her father at 16 and had to go out to work, so she made sure that I succeeded at school. She was then widowed at 58, and is severely disabled after a major stroke but she still lives by herself. She has experienced adversity but she always rises to the challenge.

How do I get to be where you are?

Learn to type! You also need a business background, gained through experience, not necessarily through academe, and keep learning because technology is always changing.