Home News Karren Brady gives job advice from getting references to managing tricky bosses

Karren Brady gives job advice from getting references to managing tricky bosses

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APPRENTICE star and vice-chairperson of West Ham FC Karren Brady answers all your careers questions.

Today she helps out a woman planning to go back to work after an eight-year break.

Fabulous’ Bossing It columnist Karren Brady answers your career questions

Q: I am planning on returning to work after an eight-year break, during which my husband and I started a family. My problem is I have no recent references. I trained as a teaching assistant, but I haven’t been able to get a reference from my employer, and before that I worked for the family business. How important are references when it comes to applying for jobs, and how should I navigate my lack of them?

Claire, via email

A: References are important and are a standard prerequisite when applying for a job, so let’s work out how you can get at least one. You can obtain a reference from anyone who has worked with you – it doesn’t have to be the boss of the company, so a co-worker from your teaching assistant days or a client of your family company would qualify. It’s also perfectly reasonable to get one from anyone who has worked with you in the past, including a family member.

They are only really confirming you worked in the organisation and your qualifications, reliability etc. You could also get a personal statement from someone who knows you, but has not worked with you – such as a friend who is a respected professional or someone in the community – as this is common for people who have been off the work scene for some time.

It will make an employer nervous if you do not have at least one, so if you still can’t obtain a reference, try doing some volunteer work and they can then provide you with one.

Be a boss

Bossing It is Fabulous’ series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses.

It aims to inspire other women and show that if these ladies can do it, so can you! Read more at Thesun.co.uk/topic/bossing-it.

Q: Just before lockdown, my team was restructured and I now have a new boss. At first, things seemed fine – she was really supportive and urged me to come to her if I had any questions about my role. But since we’ve been working from home, she’s been micromanaging me at every step, video-calling me two or three times a day and emailing me constantly. It feels like she’s checking up on me and doesn’t trust me to do my job at home, even though I’m still producing the same amount of work. How can I manage this situation?

Lisa, via email

A: If you’re being micromanaged, you often feel like your boss is either trying to control you or lacks trust in you to do your job properly. So try to work out why she needs that control over you, and then get her to trust you so she stops!


The control she wants to exert on you may be because she is under pressure from her own boss, especially if she is new to the role. So try to anticipate what she wants and give it to her.

Maybe each morning you should try sending her bullet-pointed updates on your priorities and your productivity, as once she knows you’re organised, she won’t feel the need to monitor your every move.

Trust is only built up when there is communication, so talk to her. Ask her how she is getting on and if there is anything you can do to help, then try setting a schedule together of what work is expected by what deadline. 

Compiled by: Claire Frost

Karren cannot answer emails personally. Content is intended as general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice.

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