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INTERVIEW | Lo Constantinou: Founder of Good Copy UK
on surviving being pushed out of the workplace, turning your skills into a business, and why she won’t give up on her mission to help mothers back into the workforce.
Back in 2015, with a five-month-old daughter in tow, Lo Constantinou was on maternity leave. She’d filed a flexible working request for her return to work so that she could support her daughter. At the end of the 11 weeks it took for her male employers to process her request, she was told there was no place left for her in her workplace. Those male employers told her, ‘this is why we hire men’.
Now, she helps other mothers return to the workforce with her own company, Good Copy UK, where she writes brilliant tailored CVs and cover letters that help to increase your employability and land you your dream job. And to top it all off, she specialises in finding you flexible working and remote jobs too. Oh, and she’s been features in Forbes, too. How’s that for coming full circle?
Lo is northern, 4’11 and reckons her husband and daughter are the coolest people in the world (and judging by the person she is, she’s probably right).
I first ‘met’ Lo on Instagram when I launched this newsletter. She came across the account, followed me and then initiated a long campaign of consistent cheerleader. Through DMs, we bonded over Wendy Cope poems, the concept of Jeremy Strong, and procrastination memes. I asked her if I could interview her on here and she immediately said yes, the champion that she is.
Here, Lo tells me about surviving being forced out of the workplace, the importance of flexible working, how to turn a specific skillset of yours into an essential business, and why she won’t give up on her mission to help mothers back into the workforce.
Q: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?
I was absolutely desperate to be a musician! I play guitar, sing and write music, and have performed at local and commercial gigs and open mic nights since I was around 15. It was only when I turned 25 and realised I would now be in the ‘Overs’ category on The X Factor that I realised it might not actually happen now!
Q: Tell us about your first ever job.
My first job was in 2006, and it was on the Service Squad at B&Q. I walked around all day in my orange apron with my own radio and Stanley Knife. I was 16 and I loved it. I made connections with people of all ages, literally from 16-60, and it was the first time I felt mature and responsible outside of my home. Working within that huge age bracket of staff really taught me how to adapt conversationally and connect with others who came from different generations and had different life experiences – something that is hugely helpful in my work today!
I got that job by canvassing a ton of places with my CV. They were the only people to get back to me!
Q: Tell us about your worst ever job.
My worst job was in a call centre back in 2009 when I was 19 (sob!). I was there for six weeks, and with every day I stayed there, I felt a little more of my soul leave my body. I sat on a grey chair in a grey cubicle, talking into a grey headset. I was very young and felt like I was around people who I’d usually seen in satire TV shows. Thick silky ties, shiny pointy shoes and lots and lots of buzzwords. The only good part was the subsidised cafe and free coffee.
Q: You were once told, ‘this is why we hire men’ in a response to a flexible work request. What the hell happened there?
Five months into my maternity leave, I put in a flexible working request to help me manage both my work and childcare for my daughter – we just couldn’t afford full-time childcare. I was on a salary of £22,000 a year (around £1,500 a month) and we’d figured out that childcare would’ve cost us around £800 a month (it would be even higher today). I’ve never been great at maths but even I could tell that this wasn’t adding up to anything good!
The whole process of requesting flexible hours took 11 weeks (the first of many things I know know was not correct procedure) and at the end of it, I was told that there was no place left for me in my current work place.
They said they couldn’t ‘make it work’ for me to work flexibly and that they would not consider any hybrid or part-time options. They told me that the job role HAD to be Monday-Friday, it HAD to be 8-4 and it HAD to be in the office.
At the end of the whole thing, I was left with the parting line, ‘This is why we hire men’. I was 25, a new mum, a new homeowner. And now newly unemployed with no financial safety net. Without realising it, I’d suddenly become one of the 54,000 mothers a year that this happens to in the UK.
Q: I can barely contain my rage. What did you do next?
I had to start completely from scratch. My husband worked (and still does work) six days a week most weeks, and at the time was working away as much as he was at home. He’s on site early, which means he’s out the door before 6:30am most days. I had to find a job that was completely opposite to his hours, to make sure one of us would always around for our daughter.
The only solution I could come up with was to take a part time job at our local Spar shop. I worked 6-10pm every weeknight and 5am-2pm every Sunday. Some Saturday nights, I’d be up all night with my daughter (she has a chronic chest condition) and watch my 5am alarm go off, then head down to Spar on an hour’s sleep – ready to pull in the newspaper delivery in the cold. I did this for nearly three years.
As soon as my daughter qualified for funded childcare hours at the age of three, I was able to transition back into daytime work. I started working in retail, worked hard, fought for my right to work flexibly, and moved into a management position again. It was the proudest I’d felt outside life as a mum for a long, long time.
Q: You’re actually a wonder. How did Good Copy then come to be?
During the first wave of Covid, I was furloughed during lockdown. I kept reading about the mass redundancies that were hitting the high street, and I wondered if the skills I’d always kept on the backburner from my days in recruitment could be used to help others on a wider scale – not just the friends and family I’d written CVs for before.
I set up an Instagram page @goodcopyuk and the rest is history! All together, it took 2,223 days between losing my job on maternity leave with no financial safety net and being in a position to take Good Copy full time. It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t as easy as it might have looked, but I turned my lemons into the sweetest lemonade, and now I want to help others to do the same!
What happened to me is unfortunately the same thing that happens to thousands of women in the UK every year. I (naively) didn’t think for a second that my employers wouldn’t accommodate flexible working – I’d always assumed this was simply ‘how mothers do it’, but boy was I wrong.
I had a new baby, a mortgage, and no financial safety net, and I just kept saying to my husband ‘but how do people DO this if they can’t work?!’. I’m not from money and there is no generational fall-back for me, so I had to figure things out and start completely from scratch. It was difficult, sad, scary. It wasn’t even half as easy as I made it look.
In the space of just a few months, I went from a job I enjoyed in a corporate head office, complete with my own laptop and the highest salary I’d ever earned to a significantly lower hourly wage at the Spar. I felt for a long time like I was drowning in my own unfulfilled potential, but now that feeling drives me to keep going and building my business as much as possible. I can’t change the way that women in this country are treated in the workplace, whether they are parents or not, (though I wish I could). But I can change what happens afterward, by using my skills to support them with the tools they need to make a change. That to this day remains my mission.
Q: How did you get to the point where you were able to take Good Copy full time?
Self-employment was never in my plan. I am naturally a very Type A person, who thrives on structure and routine! I have to have A PLAN (yes, big capitals!) and when I do, I rarely deviate from it.
Taking the plunge was very scary, but my business had reached a point where it was consistently making a certain figure each month, and I felt secure enough with the workload and traction to think about making the jump. I had spoken about it before with my husband a couple of times, but I’d never actually committed to quitting the retail day job.
Then one day, I was walking home from the train station after a frankly horrible day at work (where I’d been away from my daughter for 10 hours) and my favourite song came on shuffle. ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ by Tears for Fears. I didn’t realise till I got to the end of the song that I’d been crying walking home.
I quit the next day and took Good Copy full time. Anytime I need to remember why I started, I put that song on.
Q: You’re a total expert in writing CVs. How did you become such a pro?
Before ‘all that’, I worked for a recruitment business in my early twenties. I learned so much about the world of writing and communicating – from writing CVs to brand comms, PR and press releases through to social media management. Everything I’ve done since has been a constant self-build upon these skills.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made at work?
The biggest mistake I ever made was believing the hype. No job is more important than the life outside it, and I have definitely been guilty of forgetting that from time to time. I remember years ago logging on at an internet cafe while on holiday in Kefalonia because I ‘absolutely HAD TO’ and thinking to myself afterward, ‘we’re not saving lives here, this can wait – but life can’t!’.
Q: What’s your favourite success story from someone you helped through Good Copy?
Oh god there have been SO many! You can read them all on my reviews page, but one that sticks out in particular is a client who wrote to me to tell me that after years of financially struggling, hardly seeing her kids and feeling like passing ships with her husband – she had FINALLY nailed her dream job, was able to work flexibly and for more money, and finally feel valued in her work again.
She signed off with a note along the lines of ‘You’ve changed the quality of my life and my family’s life. We can enjoy our time together again. It’s not about money, it’s about TIME together, something we’ve not had in such a long time.’ (Note, this is paraphrased!)
It resonated with me because I remember feeling that way too. Too many early starts, weekends, Christmases in retail. It takes a toll. All we want is the one thing we can’t buy: time.
Q: On flexible working, why do you think flexibility (or at the very least, the option of flexibility) so important in a job?
There are two ways to look at this for me, from a personal and business perspective.
From a personal perspective, flexibility at work can take on many faces. It doesn’t have to mean one day less per week. It could mean a shift in start and finish times in order to make the school run without paying for link club, Thursday afternoons working from home to also care for a family member, or simply the option for hybrid working for an employee with a chronic illness. Flexibility looks different for everyone, and is critical to people finding balance in a life already marred by such uneven scales.
From a business outlook, supporting your employees by offering flexible options like hybrid working, agile working, WFH, flexi-time etc is absolutely the key to retaining engaged and loyal staff during a period of time literally known as ‘The Great Resignation’. It promotes morale and employee wellbeing and encourages your team to step up and help during periods of sickness / change / absence as they feel valued within your organisation.
Flexible working, in whatever shape it takes, is the primary way we can close the gender pay gap in the UK, and is the key to millions of pounds worth of additional productivity to the economy. To me, it is simply a no-brainer.
Q: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently over your career? If so, what?
Nothing. All roads led me here. Happier than I’ve ever been and starting my dream job in my thirties.
Q: Anything to get off your chest?
I’d like to write a note for my mum, Julie Constantinou. She was vivacious, warm and loving. All she wanted to do in her life was raise a family. She had zero big career aspirations and was very happy saying that out loud. She loved her husband and her two daughters. Her life was dedicated to her family. She passed away in April 2006 from stage 4 breast cancer. She was 42. She fought hard to stay for as long as she could. She left a 4 year old and a 16 year old.
Her 16 year old somehow managed to start a business that was featured in Forbes, and helps mothers every day with huge career aspirations, but had a common dream of spending more time with their families at home. She would have been SO EXCITED to see Good Copy.
Remember it’s just a job. It’s just an email. It’s just a shop. It’s NOT. THAT. IMPORTANT.
Happiness starts at home.
Q: One work-related object you can’t live without?
Oh god I feel sick saying it but my phone haha! Also my brain, coffee, a framed speech on my desk that my daughter wrote and delivered at our wedding. But mostly my phone.
Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
‘It’s just soap.’ This advice came from a close friend who worked in a very senior role within a renowned bath and beauty brand. She would often tell her team to relax because ‘it’s just soap’. Even now when we voicenote each other about work we repeat it to each other. It really is just soap.
Q: Worst advice you’ve ever been given?
‘Play the game’. This was said to me often during my time within quite a toxic office environment. Examples of ‘playing the game’ included lying, sneaking around to cut a deal and changing your opinions to suit the room. I’m simply not interested in playing the game and never have been.
Q: Your dream person to write a CV for?
LESLIE KNOPE. And of course, our boy Kendall Roy.
Q: The person you admire the most?
My husband. He’s the hardest working person on this earth.
Q: Ever faked being sick to get off work?
I nearly did on every Sunday between 2006-2007!
Q: Any last words?
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Need a helping hand to find your next role? Head to Good Copy to get Lo’s expert help.