'Demonstrate that you are unique'

Paul Gilbert is managing director of Camp Beaumont, one of the UK's oldest day camp operators for children.

What did you want to be as a child?

I grew up on a farm in New Zealand and I wanted to be a farmer. My father insisted that I got an education first, which I did and I never went back.

What did you study at university?

Business and commerce. I didn't finish because I was too young and was having too much of the good life,but I did learn accounting and management. Then I trained as a primary-school teacher.

How did you first come across Camp Beaumont?

My wife and I wanted overseas experience and so we came to London where I did various temp jobs. A friend from South Africa told me he'd got a job at Camp Beaumont, while I'd just got a position with Lloyds Life Insurance. We flipped a coin and I got the Camp Beaumont job, while my friend went for the life insurance job and on the first day he went there as Paul Gilbert.

So you started at Camp Beaumont under another name?

No – I started as Paul Gilbert as well!

What was the job?

I was basically a letter-stuffer. It was only a seasonal job.

How did you end up as MD?

I returned to the Camp Beaumont job over the next couple of years until I was asked to join as an accountant. I also became friends with the owners. Then I went back to New Zealand and set up a telecommunications company, but I was asked back as general manager to help prepare Camp Beaumont for sale. When it was sold, I became MD.

Do you consider yourself successful?

Yes – when you look at the business I'm involved in and its growth.

What's the best decision you ever made?

When I was 18, I realised that what I was doing wouldn't be what I would be doing when I was 60.

What are your top interview tips?

Always answer the actual question and source an opportunity to demonstrate that you are unique – a sense of humour or a skill. You have to set yourself apart so the interviewer remembers you.

What are your top CV tips?

I've never done a CV but they should be clear and show your experience and qualifications at a glance.

What are your tips for getting on at work?

There is a North African saying that people are people through other people [your relationships with others make you what you are]. It's a powerful thing to say to yourself when you look in the mirror.

Describe your work/life balance.

Shocking.

Who are your heroes?

Nelson Mandela for his ability to overcome such racism and oppression. I also admire Thomas Aquinas.

What's the best perk of your job?

When children tell us they've had the best time of their lives – I get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

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