Career Case Study: Fashion

Susan Leaver careers case study fashion

Today we have a case study from Susan Leaver, Commercial Director at Turtle Mat

Susan Leaver is the Commercial Director at Turtle Mat with a focus on sales, marketing and product development. Initially training in fashion design, Susan spent her formative years in a commercial design environment supplying lingerie and nightwear products to M&S. In 1999 she formed part of the New Product Development team at Sara Lee Courtaulds where she worked on future technologies such as fragranced and therapeutic fabrics, and investigated ultra-sonic technology for seam replacement.

In 2000, Susan left Sara Lee and spent a year designing and developing products for Cerie International (Hong Kong) and for Heathcoat Fabrics in the UK. In addition to her freelance work, Susan enrolled on a Master’s Degree course at Central St Martins where she gained an MA in Design Studies.

In 2002 she joined Turtle Mat where she developed their mail-order and e-commerce business alongside expanding their collection to include design. Susan was appointed Commercial Director in July 2009 and is responsible for all sales, marketing and NPD across both the Direct and Retail channels of the business.


Which subject did you study at university (and where did you study)?

I studied Fashion Design at Epsom School of Art & Design in the 1980’s (Now merged into UCA University for the Creative Arts). I also did a Post-Graduate (MA) degree in Design Studies at Central St Martins (now UAL- University of the Arts London).


What was the most important thing you learned in education/university?

Good design isn’t just about creativity or being able to put pen to paper and make something look good.  As with other industries, there is still a ‘commercial’ process sitting behind the design activity. This is often neglected and people aren’t always aware that being able to dissect (and question) a brief requires a level of understanding of the end use or end user that cannot simply be imagined. Research is key to this understanding as well as being creatively inspired.


Why did you decide to work in this industry?

Having worked in the fashion industry for some years, I was keen to explore other design fields, particularly those with a textile connection, Home interiors was a natural choice and closely linked to fashion. I really enjoyed the combination of design and business in my previous role and the position at Turtle Mat gave further opportunity to expand on this experience.  In addition, Turtle Mat were at an exciting point in their growth with new (design) technologies opening up to them, I felt I had the skillset to turn what was quite a mundane product into something more beautiful.


What was the turning point in your career?

Having developed product collections for some years for a major high-street retailer, I moved internally to work on research-led projects within a NPD team. This really opened my mind to all manner of possibilities within the current field I was working in, plus those beyond it.  It was from here that I went back to college part-time and did an MA.


What does a typical day at Turtle Mat look like for you?

Working in a small business doesn’t bring many typical days! Supplying both to trade and direct to consumers means that we have to often be responsive to their needs. We are a small niche team and my day can be anything from coming up with new mat designs to planning product launches and liaising with both clients and suppliers.


Do you have any motivational words for students aspiring to make it in this very competitive industry?

As with anything, it’s about hard work and determination.  By all means have some fun but make sure you have a clear goal and get as much as you can from every one and every available source- in a nutshell, make every day count. A firm grounding sets you up for the future, fashion courses are renowned for pushing you to the limit in terms of creativity and stamina, this training has served me well throughout my career. Also, don’t underestimate your transferable skills; I went from designing underwear to designing mats- think outside the box. And lastly, write every idea down, physically or digitally, keep a note of it you never know when it might be relevant.


Guest blogger – Daniel Yeo – Search Laboratory

Top 5 CV resources


All this extra time you’ll have over the summer break, why not update your CV? Here are the Careers Team’s favourite online resources to help you make the most of your experience.


The Prospects website has a wealth of information aimed at University students and they have a fantastic section on writing CVs (and cover letters) as well as a selection of sample CVs.


Target Jobs is similar to Prospects in that it is aimed at University students. They have several articles relating to CV writing, including “The worried student’s guide to creating a great graduate CV” and “Dealing with gaps in graduate CVs and applications”.

3. University of Kent’s Careers service

I personally love this resource for writing personal profiles as it has loads of advice about what to include (and what not to include!) and has lots of examples of excellent, good, and really bad profiles, as well as how they could be improved.

4. BBC News – Botox your CV article

This article from the BBC includes lots of top tips from industry experts to not only help improve your CV, but your social media presence as well – so important these days!

5. University of the Creative Arts – Personal Promotion

I’ve included this document from the University of the Creative Arts as it is specifically aimed at graduates from art and design and other creative courses. It can be hard to find good examples of creative CVs and this publication has fantastic, detailed advice on cover letters, CVs, online portfoilios and more.

What’s your favourite resource for CV advice?

P.S. You can download a FREE CV Guidelines resource from the Careers Team HERE!

Friday Featured Opportunity – Apply Now for Summer Work Experience at the BBC – #UoCMedia

Applications for two-week summer work experience placements now open at the BBC – Deadline 30 May 2016.

bbc logo

I recently wrote a post on ‘Why Work Experience is Important and How to Get It’. Read the post here.

You now have the opportunity to apply for a two-week work experience placement at the BBC. This could give you the opportunity to find out more about working in the media industry, add to your CV and make contacts that could benefit your career. Placements available at BBC Radio Cumbria and other local offices around the UK, Salford, London, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.


What can I expect?

Every work experience placement is different, but they’re all designed to give you the opportunity to make the most of your time. When you arrive, your Placement Manager will want to find out more about you and what you want to get out of your time. They’ll try to get you involved in the things that interest you most.

Remember that work experience is unpaid but it’s a learning experience and not a job.


How to apply

Go to the BBC website to choose your location and category. You can only apply to one category in one location, so make sure you’ve read everything carefully before you apply.

You can also follow @BBCTrainees on Twitter for events and tips about getting started at the BBC and in the media industry.


Can I get help with my application?

If you would like some help with improving your application, you can get some great tips from the BBC Academy.

You can also send your application to for feedback. Please let us know which placement you are applying for so we can give you targeted feedback. Please note we offer a 5 working day reply policy, however, we do often get back to students well before this. If your e-mail is urgent please let us know and we will try to prioritise it. We can also advise you on how to make the most of your work experience placement.


Keep In Touch!

If you are successful we would be interested to hear about your experience. Please let us know how you get on –


Good luck with your application!

Kathryn Jones

Careers and Employability Coordinator

University of Cumbria

Careers and Employability Service

My Dream Job – Winning Blog Post: Create. Write. Work.


John Sharp won the blogging competition which was part of our recent Create. Write. Work. employability event for English and Creative Writing students back in April. Here is his winning entry:

I followed a Facebook advert a while back, which led me to an “author’s” Amazon page.  He had released about 40 books on kindle.  They were £3.99.  I read a few of his many reviews.  They said the same.  Good quality, but £3.99 was too much for 80 pages of story.  And that was when I realised there was a market for novellas in Genre Based fiction, advertised using social media.

The idea.  I write a novella, every month, sell it on Amazon for £1 (first one is free, of course) and pay for a Facebook advert.  Could that work?  What difficulties might I face?  Content – can I write enough, to a high standard?  Yes.  I write well, and am disciplined.  The Fickle nature of Facebook – and the inconsistent advertising capability – a real problem, but one that can be mitigated through networking with reviewers and other self-publishing kindle writers.  Snobbery – its kindle, advertised on Facebook – Definite problem, but one that is mitigated by the fact that I only need a small fraction of people seeing the advert to click.

Self-employed life as a writer beckons, so long as I remain committed.  So I shall.

To teach or not to teach…


I’ve been advising quite a few Primary Education students recently who are coming to the end of their initial teacher training and are now uncertain about whether to continue on a teaching career path.  Teaching is a hugely rewarding profession, but it can be tough and is not for everyone.  It’s also perfectly normal to have a change of heart and want to change direction.

The good news is that there are lots of alternatives career paths to consider and some very useful information online.  If you are reading this, and have doubts too about whether teaching is right for you, the following articles and guides may well give you some inspiration. Don’t forget too that you can come and talk to us in UoC Careers.  Email us on to make an appointment.

In the meantime, here are some useful resources that we refer students to and which may give you some inspiration!

Education Alternatives. This AGCAS publication (the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) is probably the most comprehensive resource for students who are still interested in education generally, but don’t want to work in a school as a classroom teacher.  The guide has been written by a team of experienced university careers advisers and covers two main pathways:  roles which involve teaching, but not in mainstream education; and roles within the broader education sector.

For a lighter read, Target Jobs has a useful article called ‘Alternative careers in education’. Their options include training and development, careers and education guidance, family support and advocacy, and adult and community education.

You may of course need to boost your career chances with a further qualification at diploma or post graduate level. Some options for further training or postgraduate qualifications which you can add to your initial teacher training are covered on Target Jobs.

For general research, Prospects has a list of Job profiles which you can browse by sector or job title. Each job role is profiled and gives some useful factual information about the qualifications, skills and experience needed. The National Careers Service’s Job Profiles is a good resource too, and has interesting job market information.

Finally, remember you will have developed a whole range of useful transferable skills all of which will be relevant to other careers. If you need some help identifying these, don’t forget you can contact Careers at



#UoCMedia – Top Tips from Industry Professionals

The Careers and Employability Service recently hosted a Media Industry Day at the Brampton Road Campus. Today we thought we’d share some top tips from the industry professionals that spoke at the event.


Jacqui Hodgson – Editor, Factual Programmes: North East and Cumbria, BBCbbc logo

“How to get noticed by big companies: your skills give you an advantage and set you apart. Luck and timing does have something to do with it, and if you are tenacious, start at the bottom and work hard, you’ll get there”



Finn H Drude, Freelance Filmmaker

“Always be on the ball!”pic1

“Keep in touch with contacts: find a system to keep in touch with your contacts, for example, every Monday night send emails. Check the content of what you’re sending out – is it relevant, is it valuable/useful to them? What do you want from them? Research your contact and keep focused on your goal. Mention something that you like about them – make it relevant and be specific – what skills do you want to build?”


Sebastian Morgan, Blue Butterfly Media

pic3“Make it original and make it your own. Make things happens for yourself – don’t wait for someone else to set something up – do it yourself!”

“It doesn’t happen overnight, there is not always as easy or obvious route. But there will be a way of getting where you want to be”


Richard Berry – Freelance Creative and Co-Founder of No Routes Found

“It’s not all filming on snowy mountains!”


“There are people at UoC who can help you! For example: Mock interviews! Email:


Anna Bridges, Carlisle Photo Festival

Cf7K1wNWIAA_R-q“Crowdfunding: Make sure you put the work in before you start asking for money – show them what they’ll get. Keep going with continued activity, even small updates to keep interest up and to keep your funders engaged”

“Promotion: Get the right people to look at your blog/website/whatever and ask them to share it. Use your networks. Find places to be relevant. INTERACT! Ask questions and engage with your followers. Trends and timing are important”


Our favourite tip of the day was repeated by many of the event speakers:

“There’s not always an easy or obvious route, but there will always be a route for you to make films”


Careers and Employability Service


Friday Featured Vacancy – On Campus M&M Productions Auditions 2016

Are you interested in a performance contract in touring community theatre after University?







This opportunity is for graduating and former University of Cumbria students only.


We have hosted auditions for the last two years for performance roles with M&M Productions. This started because of how impressed the company was with the quality of our graduates: they asked if they could come! Contracts are usually between September and March, although there are other opportunities at different times of the year.


A number of our former students have worked several contracts for M&M. You can read about the company here.


The Cumbria audition is on Tuesday 31st May 2016 in the late afternoon starting between 4 and 5pm and is at the Brampton Road, Carlisle campus. Exact times will be confirmed to those expressing an interest.

If you would like to attend the auditions please register your interest by completing the survey here.

Please note that the auditions will ONLY take place if there is enough interest registered through the survey. If you cannot make 31st May, then there is an open audition on 16th May at the company’s headquarters in Ayr – details are on their website. The company have informed us that they are looking for a further 12 company members and that the Cumbria audition is the last one that they will hold in the current recruitment round.