The Careers Adviser

How do I become a personal shopper? And how do I go about teaching from home?

Dress you up

Q. Can you help me become a personal shopper? I have a good sense of fashion, and already shop for friends and family, helping them bring out their main features, and hiding the bumps they don't want to show. I want to put my talent into a job where I know both I and others will benefit. But I don't know where to start.

A. You've probably already worked out the qualities you need for this job. It requires stamina, time management and good interpersonal skills, the ability to be prepared for the unexpected - and you do need to be a natural born seller. If you have all those, the advice from Amanda Slader, who introduced the service at John Lewis stores, is to get as much experience as you can in retail work, preferably in fashion. Academic qualifications are not always required and you don't need to be a textiles technician, though you should know how to put fabrics together. Some companies provide on-the-job training or work experience opportunities.

"You can apply to any large department store that runs a service, or to recruitment consultants that work in the area," says Amanda. She adds that you should be aware of the environment you're signing up for - will you be working on commission, for example? And she warns it's not always a job for the not-so-mature - sometimes those "with more life experience" are preferred. Top Shop and Selfridges may be the exception. You can improve your chances by signing up for image consultant courses such as Colour Me Beautiful. The Federation of Image Consultants (TFIC) provides workshops and events for those in the business and runs a professional qualification in partnership with the City and Guilds of London Institute.

Finally, if you go for an interview, don't forget to check your own appearance is immaculate...

Learning down the house

Q. I would like to leave teaching as I have been doing it for 25 years and it is becoming increasingly taxing. I have been an English and special needs teacher. I would love to work from home but do not know which sources of work are reputable.

A. You can tutor from home, but you might find that agencies prefer you to go and visit pupils. This is generally evening and weekend (out of school hours) work and English tutors are in demand, especially for GCSE and A-level work. English is generally the third most popular subject for tuition after maths and science. You'd have to be flexible and ring agencies. Ask whether they use qualified staff and how they select their tutors - do they meet them or rely on written references? (Although agency shortfalls in these areas rebound on students more than tutors).

It can be hard to amass enough work to make a good living, so you might want to consider other forms of teaching at private institutions or colleges. You could teach English at further education level without further qualifications, or you might find that teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) might be challenging without being as stressful as your present job, with more opportunity for afternoon or evening work. You will need a Level 4 qualification as an ESOL subject specialist. Most colleges will specify they need this in the job advert - it is possible though to gain it while teaching. For more details about this, check with the Lifelong Learning UK helpline on 020 7332 9535.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to

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