Karren Brady gives career advice – from starting a pension in your 20s to regaining self-confidence after redundancy

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

Today she helps a young person who is wondering if they should opt out of a pension scheme and someone who has lost their self-confidence after being made redundant.

Q) I’m in my 20s and have had many short-term, casual jobs over the last few years, but I’ve been working in an admin role at a family-owned brewery for the last four months.

I’ve just passed my probation and my employer has enrolled me in a pension scheme – but I’m not sure if I should join it, as I’d rather not lose any of my pay each month if I can help it.

I’m still really young and retirement is decades away! What do you think?

Rachel, via email

A) I completely understand that retirement feels a lifetime away, but the reality is that one day you will need it, and now is the perfect time to start planning for your future.

Think of your pension as a savings scheme to give you money later in life, on top of what the state will provide.

The difference between putting money into a pension and into a savings account is that the money you save into a pension is not taxed, plus your employer will match (up to a certain amount) what you put into it, so they are giving you extra money.

For example, if you put £100 a month into your pension it will only reduce your pay packet by £80 (or £60 if you are a higher-rate taxpayer).

Add to that your company’s contribution, and you will have £160 per month put in your pot.

Ask your company’s HR or finance person to talk you through all the options so you have an understanding of your specific pension and can choose how much you want to contribute each month.

If you decide to save the smallest percentage now, you can increase it as you get older.

Q) After being made redundant from two roles during the pandemic, my self-confidence is at an all-time low.

I’ve been applying for jobs, but I already know I’m not going to get them – there will always be tens if not hundreds of people who are better qualified.

I feel unable to move forward and it’s affecting my relationship and friendships as I neither want nor have the money to go out or do anything.

I can’t imagine ever working again. Please help!

Gillian, via email

A) It sounds like you have had a difficult time and that your self-esteem has been shattered.

When our self-esteem is low, we become overly critical of ourselves, more negative and less able to take on the challenges of day-to-day life.

Start by being kind to yourself. Talk to yourself as if you are talking to a friend – we’re often kinder to other people.

Remind yourself what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at, and start the day with something positive to kick-start those feel-good endorphins.

Chat to family and friends about your previous jobs and whether they were right for you – maybe now could be the time to change industry or career.

Structure your day (for example, start with a morning walk) and set yourself objectives (find five companies to connect with on LinkedIn and one new job to apply for) so you feel a sense of achievement.

And make sure you personalise your CV and cover letter to each role.

Always ask for support if you feel like you’re struggling – if friends and family aren’t available, you can call Samaritans 24/7 on 116123.

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