Interview with Laura Harmsworth from Caversham CV Writing
Read how Laura Harmsworth helps people land their dream job with Caversham CV Writing, a business she built around her family. And how tackling issues like her pricing has transformed her profits.
What’s your career background?
After graduating with a BA in Human Geography and spending a year travelling around Australia (with my now-husband), I still didn’t know what I wanted to do – a situation so many young people find themselves in.
I worked in our local Morrisons to pay off my travelling debts (lesson learnt the hard way re budgeting and saving), then moved to London to work for the travel company I had travelled to Australia through.
After taking some psychometric tests (top role suggested: Post Office owner) and researching roles, I thought HR suited my abilities and personality.
Being young and (so I believed) invincible, I was stopped in my excited tracks as no one would hire me – no relevant experience or qualification. I took the decision to do a Masters in Human Resource Management to learn about the profession, be able to make more of an informed decision as to being the right career for me, and to help me on to the career ladder.
I loved it, and it worked, I got my first role as Personnel and Training Officer at an NHS Trust. After two years and at the age of 25 I decided living in the nurses’ home three hours away from now-husband was not making me happy.
With two years’ experience under my belt, I felt confident in leaving and moving to Reading without a new role. A temp HR role turned into a permanent one, where I stayed until going on maternity leave. I ended up taking voluntary redundancy and spending four years at home looking after our children.
Where did the idea for Caversham CV Writing come from?
When our third was six months old, a friend and former colleague asked if I would like to do some work for her as she had recently set up a graduate recruitment company. I started off doing five hours a week, when the children were at preschool or sleeping.
This increased over the years as the children were all at preschool and then school and was a fantastically flexible role. I screened CVs and conducted telephone interviews for undergraduates/graduates wanting to get into investment banking and law.
I saw so many CVs – the good, the bad and the ugly! As graduate recruitment doesn’t provide work every month of the year, a friend and I decided to set up a CV writing company in 2012 – we both had an HR background including recruitment and were also seeing hundreds of CVs a week. We knew we could help people sell themselves better.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
My business partner left in 2018 to pursue something different. This was an unsettling time for me and the idea of going it alone was scary yet exciting.
Around this time, I saw a post on Facebook from the Talented Ladies Club about a VIP coaching programme. This programme covers Mission and Goals, Branding, Website, Profitability and Marketing. It sounded perfect and five months in, it has been the best thing I could have done.
It took a leap of faith as it’s an investment in terms of finance and time, but the difference it has made to me and the business is massive. I have had the courage to do things I would never have done a couple of months ago, have met some wonderful and inspiring ladies on the programme, and am so proud of the business (and yes, me!).
How did your career change after having children?
The key thing about the business is that I have always wanted to be present for the children – physically and mentally; I didn’t want a job which meant I wasn’t there when they left and returned from school.
I wanted to be able to take them to all their after school activities, listen to their stories and worries from the day (less forthcoming now two are teenagers!) and to not be stressed about work, so only half listening to them or counting down the minutes until I could get back to my computer and to do list.
It has taken me a few years to form good habits and there are days when I get distracted by the washing machine, but for the majority of the time I am self-disciplined!
Being self-employed gives me the flexibility I seek and now, having worked on my pricing with Hannah Martin, the income I deserve (previously, I didn’t value my worth).
It’s not all plain sailing though. Working from home can be lonely – I quite enjoy my own company but even I can only take one full day of myself before I start craving company.
I meet most of my clients face to face so that breaks the week up, I take our Cavapoo for a walk every day so meet other people in the park (and the fresh air does wonders for me mentally) and I try to fit in a social coffee with friends if I can.
You have to be disciplined when working from home and it doesn’t suit everyone, but for me at the stage I am in my life right now, it is a perfect fit.
How do you help people with their CVs?
I offer four packages, depending on the stage of someone’s career. Every package includes a 121 consultation (face, phone, Skype or Zoom). This is the key element for me – I need to get to know someone, their career history and where they want to go. I would find it hard to write a great CV for someone without doing this.
My clients find it really useful and some have said it is great preparation for interviews, as it helps them get used to talking about themselves, answering questions and is a good refresher of what they have achieved. I have successfully helped people get interviews for their dream job and others to secure the role they wanted.
Who’s your target audience?
The variety of people I meet and write CVs for is something I love. I have written CVs across many industries and at all levels. I write for people in all situations e.g. seeking a new role, a career change and those returning to work after a career break.
I find it fascinating talking to people and learning about their career and the decisions they made and situations they were put in, to get to where they are today.
Why is work so important to you?
My journey to where I am now was not planned, but I took the opportunities as they arose. Working is important to me as it broadens my mind and I feel I am contributing to our family and to society, helping people secure the role they want.
I am proud of where the business is seven years on and I hope I am an inspiring example to our girls, showing them you can be whatever you want to be.
I remember our eldest a year ago, worrying that many of her friends knew what they wanted to be when they grew up so were choosing their GCSEs based on that. I chatted with her, saying she was 14 and very few people at that age know what they want to do (I am a prime example) and even if you do, things change.
She ended up choosing the subjects she enjoyed and is good at and that is my motto for life – do something you enjoy and are good at (or are enthused to work hard to be good at).
What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
- Dare to dream – you never know where it might take you and you will never regret trying things out.
- Have confidence in your ability – managing the business on my own was a big challenge, but I took the leap and now my confidence continues to grow.
- Seek help and advice through whatever works for you – that can be training courses, networking or coaching. Joining the TLC VIP club has changed the business in such a positive way and continually inspires me.
You can learn more about Caversham CV Writing on their website.