Fancy making big changes in 2012? MAXINE GORDON meets two North Yorkshire women who radically changed their careers – and gets advice from a business coach on landing that dream job.

Angela Spencer: From journalist to sweet shop owner...

ANGELA Spencer flicks through a pile of black and white photographs, the big hair and even larger shoulder pads, dating them to the 1980s.

“That’s me with Margaret Thatcher,” says Angela in a thick, West Yorkshire accent. “Me again with Tessa Sanderson. And this one is with the actor Julian Sands. I really fancied him!”

The photographs date from Angela’s days as a reporter. She started on weekly papers, ending up on the Yorkshire Post, where she became the paper’s first female crime correspondent and won awards for covering the Donnygate corruption scandal.

She even worked on Calendar TV news before giving up reporting to work as a freelance writer and raise her two daughters, Hannah, now 21, and Mollie 18.

Today, she’s more concerned about wine gums than gun crime; artisan chocolate instead of A-list celebs. Angela runs Sugar Mouse, possibly the cutest sweet shop in the area.

Nestled on Easingwold’s Chapel Street, just a short stroll from the Market Place, Sugar Mouse opened about 18 months ago, born out of Angela’s very own “Chocolat fantasy”.

“Although I think I am more Willy Wonka than Juliette Binoche,” chuckles Angela from behind the counter of the looks-good-enough-to-eat shop.

On Saturday mornings and after school, children queue outside to spend their pocket money on an array of colourful confectionery, priced around the 5 to 10p mark.

During her writing career, Angela wrote for the Regional Food Group’s magazine, and interviewed many local manufacturers. Not only did this spur her on to go it alone, it also gave her great contacts to find unusual stock for her shop.

“I’d interview grandmas in their 70s who were making chocolates on their kitchen tables and then selling them to the farm shop at Castle Howard, which made me realise it was never too late to start something new,” says Angela, aged 49.

Although running a sweet shop seems far removed from her previous job breaking award-winning stories, Angela says one could not have happened without the other.

“I have loved every minute of my time as a journalist. You step into all walks of life; from meeting the royals to being with miners’ wives and talking to criminals. It gives you a level of experience of talking to people and being able to make links with everyone.

“From that I have the confidence to talk to all sorts of people who come into the shop.”

Angela says setting up on your own is hard work and means long days, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I feel as if everything I’ve ever done was leading up to this. The time was right to take a life leap.”

Sarah Whittaker: From archaeologist to beautician

SARAH Whittaker used to slap on factor 50 to go to work – and come home with mud in her nails and aching feet. As an archaeologist, Sarah worked on building sites, literally digging in trenches for hours a day.

“As a little girl I liked playing with dolls but I was always interested in digging holes. I once dug up the neighbour’s cat and kept the bones in my pocket until my mum complained about the smell.”

Sarah, from York, studied archaeology at Bradford University and later did an MA in forensic archaeology, during which she went to the “Body Farm” anthropological research facility in Tennessee in the USA and carried out work on dating cadavers.

Back in Britain, her career came to a halt with the recession. “There was no ground disruption because construction had slowed down, so no need for archaeology,” explains Sarah, now 37.

So two years ago she enrolled at York College on a beauty therapy course, able to secure funding to pay for her fees.

“I wanted to pick something I was interested in, could train quickly and where there was a course nearby,” said Sarah.

Although she was joining school leavers, and Sarah was often older than the tutors, she loved the course. “I was used to writing 15,000-word essays and we would be asked to find five different make-up looks to recreate for our homework.”

There was an academic side to the course too, learning about anatomy and physiology, which was interesting too, she added.

“I think because I was older, I was determined to learn,” said Sarah.

Her application meant she finished the course within two years and after a stint working from home has just opened her first salon Lilly Rouge, on 43 York Road, Acomb, above hairdressers Beau & Joli.

Designed in a vintage style, Sarah offers a range of treatments from massage and manicures to facials and waxing. She also specialises in micro-dermabrasion, which is a mechanical way to exfoliate skin. It’s a great way, explains Sarah, to improve the look and feel of your skin because it gets rid of dead-skin cells and boosts their renewal. It can also be used on stretch marks and scars.

Her friends, family, and husband Nick, have all supported her career change.

Sarah says: “My mum loves it because now I can pamper her!”

Career-change tips from York business coach Lisa Clifford


WHEN changing jobs, it is usually because we want to get out of the one we’re in. Today, employers are keener than ever to recruit attitude over skill and desire candidates who are ambitious for their company.


• Brainstorm all the things you love about your current role (people interaction, seeing results, friendly people, own space) and write these down.

• Often people have a lot of self doubt when they are just about to change roles, so in advance of this, write an exhaustive list of all of your successes, testimonials, complimentary letters and appraisals.

• At interview, speak on their agenda; what you can do for them. Always think of how the work you do can increase profitability, it’s not just sales people who can affect profit.

• Write a compelling CV: just one page and tailor it to the company you are interested in. Miss out GCSE results and schools, put hobbies which reflect your personality.


• Don’t go for the job you think will impress others.

• Don’t get hung up over job titles.

• Don’t think that companies only have jobs for the positions which are being advertised... sometimes they don’t know they need you until they recognise the value you can to their business.

• Don’t only consider the jobs you think are available – decide who you want to work for and approach them in a manner which is congruent with that market place, for example a design agency would potentially look twice at a very creative approach from a candidate.

• Don’t allow other people’s limiting beliefs or the fear of disappointment hold you back.

Remember: where there is success there sometimes comes failure, and if you’ve never failed then you’ve not tried hard enough.

Lisa Clifford works in York as a business coach and inspirational speaker. Find out more at or telephone 07795 634671 or email