Every month Chiumento’s career experts answer topical queries from jobseekers. If you are looking for advice get in touch. We can’t guarantee to answer every question personally but it just might be that our career experts pick up your issue in a future article.

“I am hoping to start my own business but for now I need to earn money to invest in getting it started.  How can I convince an employer to take me on when I am not committed to a long-term career with them?”

It is tempting in this situation to simply practice telling lies about your career plans, but it is likely your lies will be found out if not before then certainly once you are in the job.  Try instead to think of a positive advantage for the employer in taking you on, and remember that it is quite common for employees to stay for a relatively short spell in a job and long-term commitment is something your employer earns and is not an automatic right.

It sounds like your plans for self-employment are still developing, so remember too that you may change your mind.  You need to be clear about what job you want and if it is to be a short-term role, then should you be seeking out more flexible roles for example a short-term contract, temporary or interim post rather than taking a permanent role you don’t intend to stick at?

A more flexible role may also allow you time to develop your business plans and begin to test the market with your business ideas to really establish the potential earnings from starting your own business.  You may be able to find a role that will develop your business management skills in the short term, adding value to your future business.  All this needs to be weighed up and a clear plan of action put in place before you start to send your CV out in search of a job.

Finally, if you really believe in your business idea but have identified the need for more funding to get started, consider whether taking a job is the right way to raise this money or whether there are funds available through banks, government funding or a crowd-based funding service that might get you off the ground straight away. For more information on this try googling crowd funding and take a look on the www.gov.uk website for advice on many aspects of setting up a business including government funding options.  Also have a chat to a few of your local banks who may well have specialist new business advisers on the premises.

“Whilst I always felt I did a good job, my previous employer never gave me any feedback.  Having been selected for redundancy, I am worried now that they will give me a poor reference.”

Redundancies are usually made on the basis of the job no longer being required.  If you feel you did your job well, then you probably did (we are usually our own biggest critics), but the job itself became surplus to requirements resulting in redundancy of the job you held.

Redundancy decisions must comply with certain legal tests regarding the job and not the job holder, which makes it very difficult for a previous employer making a job redundant to give the job holder a negative reference. Most organisations now have a standard format for their references that provides only facts and not opinion.  So if you were habitually late for work and it was noted and discussed, or if you had a very poor documented performance record compared to agreed targets, these facts could form part of your reference, but without that then opinion is very likely to be challenged so most employers avoid giving unsubstantiated opinion.

As you never had any feedback the chances are that your last employer did not keep documented records to evidence comments on your performance – and if they did then you would be entitled to see them.

The best thing to do, if it is practical, is to approach your last employer and ask them if they will be happy to supply a positive reference to any future employer.  This should set your mind at rest.

“I want to return to work, but with two young children I really need to work more flexible hours.  Should I only apply for jobs that offer this, or seek to get an employer to be flexible around my needs?”

Many employers now take a more flexible approach to working hours in order to make sure they don’t lose out on the talent of young parents who are keen to maintain their working lives as well as be effective parents.  Whilst jobs advertised with school hour flexibility are going to be suitable in terms of hours, you need to consider the challenge you need from work and ensure that will not be compromised.

If you work in a specialist area, you may find that roles offered as full time could be flexed to suit your preferred working hours in order to secure your talent.  This is more difficult than applying for a role which is explicit about its flexibility, but there is nothing to be lost in asking whether such flexibility might be an option and whether applications on that basis would be considered.  This is particularly true where you and the role content are a great fit.

Moreover, it is always better, if you do value that work-life balance, to work for an organisation that is enlightened enough to acknowledge the need to be flexible, and better still an organisation that needs and values flexibility.  If you Google something like ‘companies offering flexible working hours’ you will find reports on companies with a positive approach to flexibility and also links to sites like the Working Mums website which take a particular interest in this subject.