The Careers Adviser

'I need to increase my earning potential; I want a career change, but am I restricted?'
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The Independent Online

Dead-end dilemma

Q. I feel a dead end ahead. As a divorced mum with one son entering his second year at university and the second starting sixth form, I need to do all I can to increase earning potential. I chair a local health trust and I am a parliamentary adviser working on various issues, including the International Climate Change taskforce. I have a BSc in politics and the environment, and I am studying for an MSc in environmental decision-making. I have done lots of voluntary work.

A. You have excellent contacts, a proven background in voluntary work, two degrees that would naturally lead you towards policy advisory work in the environmental field, and are obviously used to dealing with issues at top level. The time to exploit the ever expanding business of environmentalism is now.

As this field has expanded, it has increasingly taken on those who don't necessarily come from a strict scientific background but are trained to help implement the growing mass of environmental legislation. There is even, in the business, a new word for it - environmentalist, someone rather different from the more hands-on "environmental manager". There are also more women now being employed in this area. Write to the Bristol head office of the Environment Agency, the environmental regulator, to see if they have advisory jobs at their head or local offices. Talk to local authorities, conservation groups or search for industry jobs on the plethora of corporate socialresponsibility sites. Try the Environmental Data Services) job search on; or there is a long list of good links on, the site of the UK Social Investment Forum. Join up with conservation groups to grow your network, or get involved in activities run by a professional body for those in the business, such as the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment ( - their site also lists jobs. Walking in to a job at the sort of salary you might feel you need to support your sons isn't going to be easy in this sector, but, with your CV, it is at least worth exploring.

Bleak after bankruptcy

Q. I recently graduated with a BA in combined business studies. I am a mature student - 30-plus - with 14 years' work experience. In 2003, I became personally bankrupt but was discharged in April. I am interested in a career change but believe I am restricted as to which sectors I can work in. Are you able to advise me which to avoid?

A. Now that you have been discharged, or freed, from your bankruptcy (which is usually after 12 months), you are not formally restricted in any way as to the area in which you choose to work. As an undischarged bankrupt, you were, for that period of time, prohibited from holding certain public offices - a trustee of a charity or pension fund, for example. But now no restrictions will operate, although there is a three-month period after discharge in which your name remains on the Individual Insolvency Register. You can check when it is removed as the register is available online at, the site of the Government's Insolvency Service (part of the Department of Trade and Industry).

Guides to the whole process are available online, and you can also contact The Insolvency Service central enquiry line on 020-7291 6895 or e-mail central. It is possible that some job application forms may oblige you to disclose a previous bankruptcy.

Careers advisers: Maria Lucio, consultant psychologist, Career Psychology; Jo Bond, managing director, RightCoutts.

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