Sunday, December 13, 2009

the five laws of the labour market

1. Nobody owes you a job

2. You have to compete to get a job.

3. You have to fight to keep a job.

4. You can be laid off at any time, through no fault of your own.

5. You can leave anytime you want to.

It's fairly obvious to many that this is the way the job market operates and still it amazes me how many people believe that it's the government's fault why they dont have a job or how they blame the state of the economy for why nothing has turned up for them.
It's so sad yet true that most people spend far more time researching holidays than researching job options.
It's a shame that people refuse to network when they know that that is how work is found. The internet has made it easier to hide behind a system which bears little fruit.
By clinging to the belief that somebody owes you a job and that loyalty is rewarded with continuous employment is the most important stumbling belief that people have to get over to move on.
The great advantage to all of this is that we live in an age of great personal choice, where it's ok to say' hey, i dont like this work, i don't like my boss's attitude and i'm going to walk out this door tonight or i will take the pay cheque and hang on until something better comes a perfectly reasonable and healthy belief.
I've met more people in their late forties and early fifties who are leaving jobs they've been in since they were in their late teens or early twenties and their lack of knowledge of what options they have is saddening. In fact they resist the idea that there is other work they could do, such is their institutional mindset. Yet they have been laid off or face early retirement, knowing that they have to work for another fifteen years or more to pay the bills. And they really need career advice and yet they wilfully ignore it!
So what do you do?
Well I do my best to de-personalise from the situation and encourage people to think differently about themselves. Using practical career tools, like skillscards to enable them to see their strongest skills easily followed by a method to help them explain how these skills are transferable and get them to practice saying this aloud results in one in five seeing the light.
Which is good enough for me...because I can't force this career analysis stuff on people who don't want it and most of my work comes from organisations paying for people to attend my workshops and so what's the point in forcing the issue?
They may wake up in four months time and wish they had career support then but when it comes to paying for career advice, i can tell you now that less than 5% of people are willing to do so!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

how begrudgery helps you identify your best career options

When helping clients to identify what it is they most want from their working lives, most people bring up the subject of what they would like to earn or what they perceive they should be earning. It's a fact of life that most of us feel under rewarded financially at work. As a career coach, I find you can waste a lot of time and do a dis-service to clients by focusing on this aspect.
This is because research consistently shows that in hindsight the majority of people, reflecting on their careers wish they had chosen more rewarding work over careers which they thought paid well.

Similary, people are overly concerned with status or position. Many career counselling sessions start with a client's frustration at not being promoted. What is usually behind this annoyance is a desire to move up the hierarchy in the belief that this will bring increased power and happiness.
Sometimes this is truly what a client wants and they want to focus on strategies that will convince their managers to promote them and after completing several coaching exercises to establish that this is what they want, then fair enough, we focus on this delivery.
But more often than not, what emerges from the career coaching questions is a desire to be more in tune with what they think they should be doing, if only they knew what that was.

One the easiest most direct ways of finding this out is surprising.
I have found that asking people who they begrudge or are envious of can be very illuminating.

Begrudgery is, as we all know, a form of envy. Envy is a powerful emotion that I don't think we should be ashamed of, as it hints at what we wish we had or wish we were doing.
Envy can act as a postive catalyst to spur us onto achieving things that our peers or neighbours have. House envy is one thing, lifestyle envy or career envy is quite another.

Often we confuse desire for more money and the finer things in life with the innate desire we all have to improve ourselves. It's important to recognise that we need to analyse the feelings behind our begrudgery because it helps us discover our inner motives to aid us in becoming who we want to be.

Understanding the roots of our feelings of envy directs us towards qualities that someone has that we wish to emulate, but this was hidden to us because of our shame or anger at being envious. Our guilt of feeling bad thoughts towards friends or 'frenemies' stops us from realising that it is specific traits that enabled them to achieve things we want rather than the rewards of what they have achieved, that is upsetting us.

For example, currently I envy friends who have public sector 'cushy' permanent jobs and whilst I know that what I really envy is the security that these roles bring guarantees that the mortgage and bills will be paid in turbulent times, freeing you from financial anxiety and debt.
Alternative scrutinising may reveal that actually I envy my friends stable, more plodding ways over my own mercurial ways and quickfire decision making style!
This has helped me to alert me to the fact that I need to be more careful with my money becuse I don't have a regular income. I earn good money but I blow it and need to learn not to do that. I have to have a regular savings plan and pension. This is what I need to do to create my own sense of security, not a job in the public sector because I value my freedom to act on my own impulses and direct my own diary too much to really want that cushy job.

With correct interpretation, (in the safe hands of a qualified career professional) your green monstered thoughts can serve you well!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

what you shouldn't put in your CV

I blame Microsoft Wizard and the nuns for bad CV advice.
Microsoft; they have templates which people think are modern and hey its MS so it must be cool?
But then millions of people out there have copied their fairly ordinary templates and so now half the world has the same looking CV; you know the one, with the huge margin to the left?

And the nuns...don't get me started on what people have told me about what the nuns recommended.

The good news is there's lots of stuff you don't need to put on your CV. Let's start with the don'ts.
Stuff like your date of birth, marital status, health status, number of kids, your primary or secondary schools and if you're over 25 you don't need to list your leaving cert results, let alone your junior or inter results. Most people wrongly believe that your CV should be a detailed history of your life and if you don't account for every job, they might think you were in jail for that period.
Yes you have to cover your tracks...but you can do that quickly, without the detail. Similarly you shouldn't bore them with narrative; i.e. paragraphs that start with: During my time at xyz company I was involved in a variety of roles.

That is just so dull, uninteresting and tells you nothing. Avoid that awful word 'various' and 'etc' which looks like you can't be bothered finishing a sentance.

There's no valid exscuse for having a CV that exceeds 2 pages. Not ever.
You're only meant to give a brief outline of achievements, without giving the game away. The lack of detail is what stirs interest in you and entices an interviewer to want to meet you to find out how you did what you claim.

Most interviews nowadays focus on specific incidents where you solved a problem by an action you took which resulted in a positive result for you, your team and if you can demonstate an organisational benefit, that is best of all.

So your CV needs to focus on examples which showcase your top skills and resulting accomplishments. This is the meat of your CV and should account for 80% of its content. The other 20% is your education, training, memeberships and awards (10%) and 7% a quick profile outlining your background in three lines as the first heading after your contact details (3%) There's no need to write curriculum vitae at the top anymore, that's really old hat.

Most interviewers find CV screening to be the most boring part of their jobs, so why not be ahead of the posse and have an interesting, snappy CV. They'll be so relieved...they'll like you before they meet you and that paves the way for an easier ride in the interview.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

how to keep your salary in a recession

The risk of unemployment looms over many people right now. Few feel that their jobs are secure. Though most companies have already cut back on staff numbers they may impose further rounds of redundancies. Although many lose their jobs through no fault of their own, there are methods too avoid being selected in future.Here's some steps to staying a survivor.

1. Become an expert. Be known in your organisation as the go-to-guy or gal for a specific function. If you have specialist skills that others don't this makes you indespensable.

2. Bring your ideas to the next level. Think about how an idea may be practical and implementable instead of rejecting it due to cautiousness. If you can make your managers idea work through your efforts to get it off the ground; even better.

3. Be optimistic. By staying cheerful in the face of adversity you'll be seen as more resilient and a positive asset for team morale. It's natural to become gloomy and view events as all doom and gloom, but this has a very powerful negative effect on your colleagues. Don't hang out with the whingers.

4. Keep informed of events in your department and company. Stay up to date with what's going on in your industry and take more of an interest in your competitors. Share this information with your managers. This shows a genuine interest in your company.

5. Offer to take on extra work. But only if it is a project that interests you. Volunteer to stay late every now and then, before being asked.

6. Dress up. It's amazing how people let their standards slip when they fear impending job loss. By looking your best and wearing smart clothes, you appear smarter.

7.Stay put. By moving to a new employer you risk being the last in, first out with no rights. If your employer does make your position redundant, there is no shame in that anymore. You may also miss out on a redundancy payment or other entitlements which your current employer would provide. This could be the opportunity to change career or invest in your education whilst you job search.
But hopefully it won't come to that and you can keep your job that bit longer if you take these tips onboard.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

why appraisals don't work

The evidence on the worth of appraisals is damning.
Performance management meetings regularly fail because few managers can provide constructive feedback on employee performance in a valuable manner so that it is clear, helpful and tactful.

Usually what happens is the employee leaves the session frustrated, angered that only mistakes are pointed out and accomplishments go unappreciated.
None of us like being criticised. To cope with it we either deny the feedback or request evidence.
This usually leads to an unresolvable disagreement followed by increased disrespect for management and their performance management systems. Reduced morale means lower productivity, less commitment and more mistakes. So the vicious cycle begins.

There is an easier way.
People psychologically need positive regard, even secure people need regular compliments.
If a manager shows appreciation weekly by providing positive feedback without any buts, without adding on what should have been done and can leave it at that, an employee feels better about themselves and their value to an organisation. Their desire for continued positive feedback means they will try harder to get more praise. It's addictive.
But the tendency to tell someone what they should have done is so strong that it's a lot harder to do this than it seems.
You don't have to wait for your manager to do this, you can start consciously commenting to colleagues when you notice the good stuff they do. If sounds cheesy but is in fact a feature of superior organisations that regular positive regard for each other results in a better atmosphere with better teamworking and higher motivation. If everyone got a weekly 'stroke', it would be the cheapest most effective measure that an organsiation can take to keep people motivated and dare I say it, happy to be at work.
Will someone tell management?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

why having goals is so important

In 1953 in Yale University only 3% of the final year business studies class had written a career plan. Twenty years later in 1973 a researcher checked with the class of '53 and found that the 3% with the written goals had achieved what they had set out to, and had accumulated more wealth than all of the other 97% together. The result was so startling that the researchers then looked at relationships, family and work and they discivered that the 3% reported higher levels of happiness than the rest, and were generally doing better in all other aspects of their lives.

Food for thought. But to what extent should you write down your goals. Most of us do a ToDo list everyday, so we are always trying to commit to a sequence of activities and details that help guide us towards our bigger goals. But to what extent we spell out what our goals are and write them down? Pyschologists believe that we usually without conscious intention. We behave in ways that we believe will benefit us, making decisions as we go along, in the unconscious hope that we will get there eventually. We fool ourselves with trite pearls of wisdom like, 'the right thing will come along', 'things happen for a reason', ' god has a plan for us all' and so on.
Many of us were not told that awareness of our own motivations would enable us to map out the lives we would like.

I don't think most of us can clarify our goals without the input of a neutral advisor. That's why career coaching should be at the very least, an annual check-up, as necessary as a dental checkup or car service. Career coaching encourages you to see your blindspots and clarifies your true desires so that you can be less hassled by everyday life and turn your attention to a few meaningful goals instead.

We all know talented people who drift. I'm not saying that they don't have plans, but I'm willing to put a bet on it.

One thing I do know is that all successful people I know and have asked 'how did you get so t lucky' have answered that they knew what they wanted and they went for it.
That's evidence enough for me to believe that their success is due to having clear goals.
There is a thin line between sucocess and failure. Having goals is the key differentator.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Five steps to overcome procrastination

Why do people procrastinate?
Ahmmm, can i get back to you about that?

We all know how knowing and focusing on what you want, having goals and sticking to them is the obvious route to accomplishment. But in reality about 40% of us struggle with completion and have issues with implementation, preferring to keep our options open in case new information becomes available which we believe will help us to make better decisions.

But, come on! Deep down we also know that procrastination has let us down as a method of operating and that postponing is an addictive strategy, because we dither and dither in the hope that an unpleasant task will go away, or that someone else will do it for us.

There is no greater barrier to success than the will to procrastinate, because it robs us of our energy and commitment, making our talents obscure as people around us view our shirking and dithering as time wasting and see us an unreliable.
Procrastination is a huge challenge to overcome, even the mega organised suffer from bouts it.

So how do you overcome your natural resistance to completing boring or unpleasant tasks?
Give this five step approach a go:
1. Forget that you don't have the resources or energy, instead ask yourself what would I do if money/childcare/time weren't a barrier?
2. Commit to an idea and write that goal down. (loads of studies back this up as a motivator)
3. Do it now, why not?
4. What will happen if I don't do it? Write down the consequences.
5. Tell somebody else what you intend to do, by when and what reward/penalty you are going to give yourself if it's done/not done. Agree a time that they can come back and ask you if you've done it or not.

Well it's worth a try....and think of something NOW and follow these steps immediately for best results.

Monday, November 2, 2009

why recruitment will never be a science

Hiring the right people is often hailed as an art form. Most employers know that recruiting the best talent is often down to chance, as most people tend to hire based on their gut feel. Trendy interviewing styles come and go, each claiming to give greater accuracy and insight into the interviewee's mindset, so that you can predict exceptional performance. But if this were true, hiring would be a measurable act, one where you would have a good idea of what you were getting.
At best an organisation which hires five people can expect only one of them to be a top performer, one will be an awful mistake, with the rest somewhere in between.

Many organisations have a battery of psychometric tests, which become more widely used in recessions, when they can take longer choosing and deliberating over candidates, without the fear that they will lose the good ones. It is a process that takes many weeks, exasperating all involved and the results which select the best candidate may be no more reliable than plucking a name from a hat.

This is because psychometric tools are observational and situational. They place candidates in false situations and ask them how they would react. It is rare that people react the same way in a 'false' situation as they do in a genuinely challenging one.

People are a lot more savvy nowadays. By repeatedly taking online quizzes, you can improve your 'IQ' score and if you do enough personality tests, it is easy to see what they are looking for and you can provide answers which you think they want and thus skew the result.

Interview questions are mostly predictable and this means that candidates who are attending more interviews now than at any other time, are able to come up with answers that sound plausible and genuine to the common behavioural questions, the ones like: The tell me about a time when you had to cope with a difficult colleague/client ughtor Tell me about a situation when you reached a tough deadline.

So with a candidate pool of more sophisticated interviewees, how do you manage the recruitment process so that the best talent with the best fit to your culture? Or, as a candidate how do you know that the employer is right for you?

Probably best to rely on gut feel afterall...

Friday, October 30, 2009

A useful model-Mc Gregor's theory x and theory y

Mc Gregor is well known to HR types but not so much so to general managers and this is a shame cos it offers a simple and clever insight into two broad managerial styles.
Mc Gregor showed the effects of reactionary and controlling management practices in his two models: theory x and theory y.
Theory x assumes that as an employee you are resentful of having to be at work and will try to get away with as much as you can without getting caught. Therefore you need to be watched and monitored in order to get you to do what you're supposed to do and need to be reminded of the right way to do stuff.
This belief becomes self- fulfilling, because workers treated with such disdain will of course respond by becoming demovitated, show ittle interest in the organisation and will be unhappy at work.
Theory y assumes the opposite, that work is intriniscally satisfying and important to you and that if you are doing well at work it becomes a source of fulfilment and spurs you on to commit further to the organisational goals, with minimal supervision.
Of course you are going to do better and be more productive if you can manage your own day, control your own timetable and so on, because you become more responsible and better able than any one else to do your job. Management become your consultants, where you are comfortable asking for advice and help when you need it.

How do these two models impact on your own work situation?
Your boss is probably a mix of x and y. Like any work scenario, the onus is on you to get more out of your work by taking responsibility to explain to your boss how to best manage you.
This kind of action will probably seem audacious to some of you, but it's the only way I have observed how people can improve working relationships with their bosses. It's not going to happen in one conversation. taking the time to update your boss without being asked and seeking help before you mess up will demonstrate you are serious about taking on more responsibility. Mangers are people who tend to treat you the way you expect to be treated. Achieving results and greater communication with management isn't just about pleasing your boss to save your job, it's about improving your confidence and contributing to your greater well being.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

survivor sydnrome

If you lose your job, you live in a state of fear. If you remain in your job during a recession, you live in fear. Survivors of restructuring often report the same fear, anxiety and upset as those who had to go.
Imagine a family of two parens and four children. The kids have been raised in a loving home. The parents care for the children very well. But one morning at breakfast, the father announces that the family budget has been cut to the point that they don't have enough to make ends meet. As much as we want to keep you all, we have been forced to make the decision to let two of you go.
It's nothing personal, interjects the mother, just an economic decision. We've always been a caring family and hope you realise what a difficult time we've had to arrive at this decision.
At breakfast the next morning, the two remaining kids are greeted by a table with two chairs missing. All physical evidence of their siblings has been removed, no references are made about them by the parents. Mum and Dad make it clear that the two kids should be grateful for being allowed to stay, and must accept that they will have to help out more, whilst being 'reassured' that their efforts will be appreciated and will bring them closer as a family in these turbulent times..
This scenario obviously illustrates the folly of expecting commitment from survivors.
It also shows that management have a tough time having to choose who to let go.
But if management ignore the emotional impact of downsizing on survivors and acknowledge the distastefulness of the situation, by facilitating survivors to confront their anger, guilt and fear for their future in the organisation, there is a chance of regaining their commitment.
But how many companies think that 'survivor syndrome' is a malaise with the potential to turn into a pandemic? Too few, unfortunately.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

doubt and dread

Everyone suffers from powerful negative emotions that can bring you down for days at a time. There are ways to circumvent their clutches, if you take action to understand and explore what makes you doubt and dread certain events.
Self-doubt is one of the most debilitating forces that can impact on your esteem. Many people are unsure about their appearance, considering themselves unattractive, or not as attractive as others. They unfortunately associate this with not being of worth, not worth being loved.
They avoid interpersonal relationships because they believe they are not worth loving. This tragic scenario arises over any issue relating to self doubt, be that intelligence, creativity, talent, cooking skills and increasingly, job skills.
Dread is akin to anxiety in that it is a non specific emotion that arises in people, disenabling them to be all that they can be, instead becoming nervous, agitated and panicy.
Persistant feelings of dread are signs to change the messages that you send yourself, reduce the pressures and resolve the conflicts before darker symptoms take hold that could lead to depression.
Conflicts and pressures can be eased by talking them through with a trusted person. Others opinions and feedback can be encouraging and motivating. Just sharing a concern is as they say, a problem halved. Making a conscious decision not to dwell on your private feelings and assume that they are valid is half the battle to overcoming doubt and dread.
But it is through positive action that we banish dread and depression. Getting involved in others lives, listening more to their views and concerns helps us normalise our worries. It has been widely proven that by taking an interest in others lives we become better able to take an interest in our own, giving us some kind of yardstick or measure to motivate us to improve our situations. By minimising negative feelings, we open ourselves to psychological growth and in so doing, become better at taking charge of our life. Understanding, knowing, exploring. Make these three words part of your emotional vocabulary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10 tips: what NOT to do when you've been laid off

Please, please DON't do any of the following. It's career suicide.
1. Call all your friends and contacts upon hearing of your redundancy. You will be more emotional than you think. You are likely to bitch and whinge about your ex employer. You know that's never cool and you will regret it later. By all means tell your closest mates and go down the boozer and let off steam there. But don't...
2. Go drinking every night. You can fool yourself that you're networking and some hot job lead will pop up but I've yet to meet someone who actually got an interview and job offer through a recommendation from a kindly drunk.
3. Switch on your pc first thing and surf your mind away. It's so easy to spend hours on facebook/bebo/twitter. I should know. Social networking has its place but it eats into the most productive parts of the day 9-11 and 3-5.
4. Purchase track suit bottoms because they're so comfy. Slippery path....enough said.
5. Blame everyone else for your misfortune and take it out on your family. How you react to your redundancy will impact your nearest and dearest most who care for you and worry about you. I know it's cheesy and hard to do but remaining positive is the most powerful thing you can do. That's not to say that you shouldn't lose the rag occassionally...if you want to rant whilst swinging a hurley on O'Connell street, just make sure your disguise is pretty good.
6. Expect the offers to roll in. Nor expect friends to ring you with contacts and job opportunities. It's all legwork I hate to tell you.
7. Turn up for the interview on the basis that they should take you as they see you or if it's meant to be, it will happen....The amount of practice and roleplay you do, following the guidelines of top selling interview books, will really help. I
8.Don't go casual. If you are better dressed than the interviewer, that's actually a good sign.
9. Have a CV that exceeds 2 pages. It doesn't matter if you have 20 years director level experience. Even CEOs know this rule. Your CV should be an appetiser, so that they want to find out more...highlighting your key achievements. It is not an autobiography.
10. Accept the first offer. Really! All employers chance their arm and offer a bit less than they are willing to pay, especially in recession. In your joy at finally getting a job offer it's easy to rush in and accept. Thank them for the offer and politely state that you were expecting more for someone with your abilities. Ask them if there is room for manoevre. I guarantee you that they will not retract the offer but will instead offer you more.
Good luck!

Monday, October 19, 2009

10 tips: what to do when you've been laid off

1. The first thing is to get yourself a routine...on your terms of course.
2.Getting up at the same time each morning wards off angst and makes you feel more in charge of your life.
3.Aim to spend at least a third of your day doing jobsearch stuff. That does'nt include surfing the web reading jobsites.
4.Get out there. Meet people, lots of your mates have probably lost their jobs too and you can vent your frustration with them but stick to coffee and avoid hitting the bottle. Easier said than done of course. But it's the road to ruin, emotional and financial.
5. Become an expert in a topic you love. Blog about it. It gives you focus and a presence.
6. Commit an act of kindness. Volunteers report being happiest than the rest of us. Contributing in some way to your community is sociable, educational and uplifting. You never know where it may lead
7. Seek advice. Ask people continously for their opinion on your job search activity. From CVs to what type of jobs might suit you, everyone loves to give their viewpoint and you will get insights that didn't occur to you.
8. Never ask directly for a job, see above. By asking for advice people will tell you when they hear of something suitable.
9. Try your hand at things you've always wanted to do but put off due to lack of time and energy
10. Join as many associations and clubs as you can, get free invites to conferences,sometimes just asking the organisers works a treat. The more events you attend, the more people at work you meet, which translates to hearing about more openings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

making room for female leaders

Despite better educated women with higher expectations hitting the workforce, it seems that there's been hardly any improvement in women getting to the boardroom. There is only one female CEO of a Top 100 companies in Ireland and the same in the UK. Whilst many women are doing it for themselves and are setting up small businesses,they just aren't getting air-time at the highest levels.
Inspirational leadership talent is in short supply as it is. CEOs speak of leadership rather than management these days and espouse values such as emotional intelligence, collaboration over compliance and respecting people's values. These 'softer' qualities are more prevalent in women, whose nurturing skills enable them to want to hear others' views before making decisions. But in downturns, decisive leadership is preferred. Its a common mistake to view 'take charge' and tough decision making leadership styles as the optimum way to get things done. The taking care versus taking charge thing is a polarised view when it comes to appraising female vs male ways of leading. And in reality, you need both. You can't earn the right to tell people what to do unless they respect you. But its bad news for women in a recession because boards rush to appoint the no-nonsense take -charge types in the mistaken notion that a soft approach doesn't get results, Sadly this isn't the case,but with fewer women at higher levels, who's going to tell the boys they got it wrong?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

accepting failure as a cure for disappointment

I have two blogs, one for each of my two obsessions. but i dont think i should have for two reasons. One: i don't have the time or tenacity required to write two blogs regularly and two: veteran bloggers believe that you should say what you want to say on one blog because it keeps you more real and honest. That rings true for me but I am embarrased by revealing my second obsession.

One of my obsessions is the people side of labour market studies, or why people do the work they do. I am curious to know why people do jobs they hate or are uninterested in and why others find work they get a lot out of. Years of interviewing and latterly,years of career counselling people to find what job they want to do is still something i find rewarding. Is that a bit sad? probably.

My other obsession is infertility. I am unable to have any more kids and this has affected me in profound ways. I have one kid already and watching him grow up reinforces how much i love being a mum. I had wanted three kids and not being unable to have any more is a daily and sometimes hourly challenge to my esteem and is a constant frustration.

The two kid families pop out of everywhere, especially in Ireland. I notice it every time i walk down a street. It's a daily stab that most people suceed in having the family size they desire. It's also piercing to tolerate the constant stream of hurtful comments from well meaning folk. Their casual attitude to their fortune and lack of understanding for what an infertile couple go through is pretty hardgoing.

Why am I talking about this? What relevance does it have to a career blog? It is humiliating to admit this and by coping as best I can with this painful challenge, I hope the upside is that it opens me up to others struggles and I think I am a more perceptive person these days.

It also makes me realise that we cannot have the lifes we wanted. That wanting something badly and focusing on being positive doesn't always work.

I'm better at understanding why people stay in jobs they hate and how fear of failure dominates our lives and relationships.

I think we all have something that handicaps us and which holds us back is the norm. But we have to learn to deal with failure or else we become the kind of person we never wanted to be. Our fear of failure is so powerful that it makes us do toxic stuff we know we shouldn't do.

Like staying in jobs we hate or mindlessly surfing the web instead of doing or job or job search stuff, or boozing into the night as a means of coping with adversity.

Some people have told me that they have come to terms with failure by accepting limitations and sought alternative outcomes and that this habit becomes easier with each disappointment. I'dm trying to become one of those people.

I wish we could be more upfront about discussing our disappointments. Because this is how you become a better person. Wouldn't it be great if you could put it in your CV? It could go under the education heading. ...

Monday, July 27, 2009

the characteristics required to be your own boss

Most people at some point dream of working for themselves. And why wouldn't they? For many who have been made redundant or lost a job through no fault of their own, resentment rides high for the way they were treated after years of hardwork and loyalty. Its only natural to want to have control over your life and having your own businesss seems like the way to finally make decisions for yourself, work the hours you want and take holidays when you choose and earn the kind of income you think you are worth.

Sadly there is no fool proof test,survey or formula that will let you know if you are cut out for self employment or not despite the sites you may find when you do online research. Many highly successful leaders fail when they try their own start up and many failed employees do exceedingly well working for themselves.

There are certain indisuputable characteristics that entrepreneurs share.

Intensity is top of my list because people I've met who have managed to stay in business for over two years all share this quality. It exceeds having passion for what they do, as they have this total conviction for what they are doing. This can come across as a bit much, but you can't help but admire their self belief. I'm not even sure if it is self confidence, as I think everyone gets fearful in business, suffering occasional night sweats or blind panic before an important pitch.

How do you acquire this 'intensity' for something. Most clients I work with who want to work for themselves dont have a great idea and think with the right idea they would have the required energy to kickstart a great new business.
I don't think this is the case.You need to believe that you can deliver better, faster, or cheaper than your competitors. And you have to be able to convince others that you do. This means having a borderline compulsion disorder. Because the only way you can prove you are the best in your field is by ruthlessly researching the competition,repeatedly targeting potential customers who eventually are beaten down by your intensity. And that's the most important quality you need,.so if you dont have it you need to rethink entrepreneurship or ensure your partner is intense.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Don't send your CV

The blitz approach to job search is unfortunately alive and kicking but it yields poor results and leaves job hunters frustrated and more demotivated. Sending your CV to 100 employers by post or email isn't a strategy I recommend. Lots of people play the numbers game, it seems logical. If I send 100 CVs at least one of them will yield a job wont it?

But it rarely does. Unsolicited mail ends up as spam or goes unread because unless an employer has a current opening, they don't waste time scanning CVs. In fact reading CVs is consistently rated as one of their least favourite things to do so they avoid it where possible.
When they do have an opening, they will give your CV about 25 seconds of their time before they decide if they will bin it or read on.

A CV needs to be personalised and tailored for each job you go for if you want it to be read. I'm not suggesting you have 25 versions of your CV. The core achievements and key qualities should always stay the same. But you will need to emphasise different activities or leave some stuff out it's not relevant, depending on what you are going for. And you won't know what an employer is looking for unless you are in receipt of a full job description and ideally have had a conversation with them.

Calling an employer prior to sending a CV gives you a chance to check what they are really looking for and get a bit of rapport going. If you are prepared to call several times to catch them and (avoid leaving voicemail messages which don't get returned) ask the right questions, you will gain information that will give you competitive advantage over other applicants.

This then helps you to craft a more personal CV and cover letter which matches what you have to offer with what the organisation requires. You can really set yourself apart from the competition if you hone your cover letter writing skills to only focus on the employer's needs (based on what you learned from talking to them) and then spell out why you can do it.

Follow up on each and every CV and cover letter you send. I think 4/5 days after you submit is a good rule of thumb and you will yield better results and find you get more interviews this way.

Monday, July 6, 2009

how social networking harms your career prospects

I've only just got into the whole facebook malarkey now that the kids have moved onto some new social networking site I have yet to hear of. It's great the way you can check out what your mates are up to without having to make a comment back. It's a clever concept, apart from keeping in touch, it's sanctioned eaves dropping. I can see how I could get obsessed with checking it every hour which is why I have to be careful when I get into something due to a mild compulsion disorder I have.

Most of my mates have funny, daft photos of themselves on their profile, like big curly pink wigs and clown glasses with cleavage hanging out (that's just the blokes) and half of them look like they're in a pub, well into a session with a glass of wine in hand with occasional fag for good measure. Which is all just innocent fun and what harm, eh?

I was talking to a friend of mine recently who recruits for a major software house and she was telling me that social networking has revolutionised the way they recruit in the past year.
So when she reads a CV the first thing she does if she's interested is to check out their online status. So onto google, facebook, linked in, bebo and so forth until they find you and form their first impressions of you. If they find you have an interesting blog or chase a trail of comments based on a subject you are knowledgable about that earns you big brownie points, before you even meet them. Chances are they won't disclose that they checked you out and have already decided what kind of character you have and whether you're coming in for interview or not.

Risque, saucy pictures of you having a pint may not be consistent with the blurb on your CV about being a conscientious worker or whatever serious image you are trying to portray. I'm not implying that a silly pic will rule you out and neither should it. A saucy pic might even help!
An example of this working is the recent local elections when a young pretty politician surprisingly got elected, after the massive media coverage she received when a facebook picture of her was unleashed on the public in all the press. It looked like her mate was having a feel of her ample cleavage and whilst this no doubt boosted her popularity with the male electorate, I'm not sure if it was the image she was trying to portray and she can never got that image out of the public's mind. Wouldn't you just cringe at the thought of your mum or employer seeing that?

How many people have phoned in sick at work and then got busy online, probably even posting that they pulled a sickie at work only to discover the next day that their boss had seen it too and had evidence to sack them.

You proabably have considered this aready and I know I sound dull but I just wanted to bring it to your attention how crafty employers are getting at sussing you out. So check out your 'digital dirt' and clean it up if you can.

And unless you are applying for a children's party entertainer probably best to leave the pink wig hen night piccies where they belong and get that lovely graduation photo out.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

where to find 65% of (unadvertised) jobs

People are waking up to the fact that advertised vacancies/jobs are few and far between. Even in the boom when the daily newspapers were twice the size because of the supplements choc a bloc with job ads it was still only a fraction of the true amount of job openings out there.

That's because in any economy, up to 65% of all jobs are found through networking or word of mouth. This always horrifies job seekers when I tell them and most people's reactions are 'well I'm stuffed because i haven't got a network of powerful people/ decision makers.'

(Actually I really don't like the term 'networking'. It sounds stuffy and implies nobby hob nobbing, when what I refer to is simply chatting to people, but in a purposeful way.)

People immediately doubt this statistic and wonder why they have never read about it. Well if you think about it the media relies heavily on advertising revenue from job posts and as advertised jobs only account for 15% of jobs out there, it's not really in the media's interest to point out what a low hit rate it has.

You can see this statistic in action for yourself. If you ask any group of 10 people how they found their current job, chances are 6 of them will tell you that somebody told them about the job or referred them.

The good news is it isn't insurmountable to create a decent network and to achieve that in a matter of weeks. The bad news is that it does entail getting yourself out there, looking up people of you may have ignored or forgot to stay in touch with and going to events, feigning an upbeat attitude when you are probably really cheesed off with the jobhunt. This is why lots of people don't bother with networking, and others get tire of the process if they don't see an immediate tangible outcome, dismissing it as a tenuous impenetrable old boys club.

Effective networking means asking people you know to put ou in touch with people they know (who you don't currently know) and having a well thought out reason to encourage them to do so. This creates a snowball effect,and if you ask those new acquaintances to put you in touch with people they know, you can clock up to 100 new contacts in as little as 6 weeks. I recommend 12 weeks to get a good ole network going.

The key to productive networking is always having something to offer and a good helping of graciousness and guts helps.

Lots more people are networking than last year. You have only to view the massive increase in usage of sites such as linked in to observe the sheer amount of connecting going on. I'm not a big fan of online social networking, and I don't think spending loads of hours online gets anyone in front of an employer but I do think it's fantastic for seeing who's connecting with who and as a platform to get your initial address book going.

The best networking activities mean face contact, not facebook contact. And there is a foolproof way to network that won't embarrass you or the other person.
Which I will disclose quite soon.....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

lies, damn lies and statistics...

Got wound up this morning when i read the front page of the Irish Times. The screaming headline said the unemployment rate will soon climb to 500,000. I thought the Irish Times should know better.

They quoted the live register as their source, which is in not a reliable source of the true amount of people unemployed. Please read my previous blog -26th June -about why unemployment statistics are artificially high if you want to know why this figure is wrong.

The media's dramatisation of the bleakness of the labour market is tormenting people who are already petrifed of losing their jobs or have recently been made redundant thanks to their inaccurate sources and misinterprtion of data.

Manipulation of statistics lends credibility to weak journalism in an attempt to sell papers. So they misquote, misinterpret and massage figures to grab headlines and build a provocative story which winds people up as they don't understand statistics.

Next time you read some crap along the lines of '78% of people think that... have a think about who this '78%' of people are. Who are the people they surveyed? How many people were surveyed and where did they find them? Was it a random sample of people who shop in Brown Thomas or a few people asked a few questions to a survey as they collected their pensions in a post office in Kenmare? You can be sure that most data is collected from tiny samples, twisted to suit whatever 'truth' the sponsor seeks.
If i use statistics in forthcoming blogs but i don't quote a source be sure to call me to task with a comment. (80% of you will forget you read this!)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

DIY guide to getting to know yourself

Self assessments are the foundation blocks which support the rest of your job search project. If the foundation ain't strong enough, your job search efforts may not get you through the current stormy climate.

The first stage of effective self assesment is understanding the critical role your personality plays in determining whether or not you will succeed in a given environment. How you perceive situations impacts on your behaviour and actions, how others will react to you and whether or not you will be productive under certain conditions. So your career success will be determined by how well you know yourself (and ultimately how hard you are willing to work on yourself) so you can make wise career decisions.

There are tons of assessments/tools you can take online for free or at a low cost. But only a few are worth bothering with. You can get away with doing 3 key assessments to give you a good start at understanding your career 'personality' but if you want to platinum clad your job search capability I'd recommend the ACTIVATE 8 step programme which you can have personally designed for you at

Here's how you can get started on the self assessment phase.

1. Take a personalilty inventory to determine what type of temperament you have. My favourite is the MBTI available from or
This will give you great insights into your personality and reveals excellent advice with loads of career options suitable for your 'type'.
It is far and away the most reliable and well researched tool available and even if you are content with the online version,it is most accurate when administered by a qualified career counsellor.

Once you know your type you can check out your career recommendations in a brilliant book called Do What You Are and it also provides excellent job search advice specific to your type.

2. The second assessment that is well worth checking out is one that evaluates your values. I like Schein's career 'anchors' test but my favourite is the Richmond Career Drivers. In under ten minutes you can compare and rate a range of statements to determine how your outlook reveals your underlying motives.
This ensures that your career choices are in harmony with your value system.

3. Next I recommend conducting an interest inventory. The Strong interest inventory is my fave but some people swear by the Birkman test. The 'What colour is your parachute' workbook (rather than the book, although do get the book too!) contains multiple lists of activities and tickbox activities with headings such as 'things i like to read about' followed by an exhaustive suggestion list for you to ponder.
Once you have amasssed about 5/6 areas of interest you're ready to brainstorm career option by seeing if you can spot any connections between the things that interest you. Enlist the help of a creative friend or lateral thinking buddy.
That should give you a push in the right direction...

*This advice comes with a huge beware sticker. These tests and inventories are best taken with a qualified psychologist or career counsellor who can interpret them correctly and give you responsible feedback.

Monday, June 29, 2009

very few people know what they want to do. How not to be one of them

'The most difficult thing in life is to know thyself' Thales of Milatus

I've only ever met a couple of people who always knew what they wanted to do. Most of us have stumbled into our jobs and have experienced a few nasty work environments that gave us a clear indicator of what not to do.
You can get lucky and fall into a career that suits you in a conducive environment and find success.

But that doesn't happen for a lot of people and so they put up with less than satisfactory work environments for many reasons. Usually the golden handcuffs wins out. People take on increasing financial responsibility, i.e. debt and stick at what they know to pay the bills. Career change seems too risky as it may mean a cut in pay. And what if my new job sucked even more? Job loss paralyses some. They try to get into a similar job again with similar pay because it's what they know.

The job-hunt is seen as a necessary evil with many accepting the first job offer for fear there may not be another and not because it's what they want to do.
It appears foolhardy to only chase after one type of job and alienate other possibilities. But people who have found long term career happiness have done just that. Narrowed down what they have wanted to do and only target companies they want to work for whether or not there are any vacancies open.

Because once you determine what your personality style or temperament is, know what interests you most and understand your motives and values,it becomes easy to define exactly what kind of work is right for you and then you're only one step away from identifying where these kinds of jobs are.

The enthusiasm that emanates from a job seeker who knows exactly what kind of job they want is contagious and impresses hiring managers or investors who want peopl like these onboard.

Job searches don't take so long for the focused.

It takes a number of assessments and a lot of guided, reflective thinking to arrive at what you want to do. But what's a few hours of productive navel gazing versus tediously long and depressing job searches and the possibility of a lifetime of jobs that never realise your potential?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

where are the jobs in a recession? how do I hear about them?

Even though we are experiencing serious difficulties in our labour economy, there's still decent jobs out there. It may surprise you but lots of my clients and friends are finding jobs right now.

When an unemployment rate reaches 10% (which we are currently experiencing) or even if it get's bad as 15%, it still means that 90 or 85% of the working population are employed.

You can see it as two buildings: a huge building where 90% of people are working and a small building where the other 10% hang out. And what is key here is that people are always leaving the big building, they retire or lose their jobs or accept voluntary redundancy, or go travelling or emigrate and so on. The job market is a fluid constant. So how do I hear about these situations, when people leave jobs and a vacancy remains open? Who gets these jobs?

The people who went to university and made high level contacts? Maybe, but not if they are waitin in the other building for someone to find them and make them an offer. That never happens.

Those who find work have 4 advantages.

1. They know what they want to do

2. They are realistic (not pessimistic) about what salary they will take and are prepared to move or commute to get this job

3. They have a job search project plan and

4. they keep at this plan. They have bad days too but they keep on going, following their job search project until they find that job.

And that's the difference between people who find work and those who remain long term unemployed. I've seen this theory in action over and over again.

People who find work in a recession are are not always the ones with the higher degrees or linguists or those who've worked for the fancy global brands. They often don't have any particular advantages over the next person. They just take the time to work through these 4 steps and they seek help to make sure the plan is a proven one.
There is a job search system that I will share with you.
I'll be breaking down that plan over the next few blogs.

Friday, June 26, 2009

why unemployment statistics are artificially high

It's pretty depressing when we hear and read about the soaring unemployment figures in Ireland.

It's prime media fodder. It's doing a lot of harm to the genuine job seeker because if you're already depressed about the thought of seeking work, it's very off-putting when you hear that there's half a million people not working in our small country.

The live register, quoted all over the media, is not designed to measure true unemployment so it's not an accurate barometer of the true climate.That's because it is not a claimant count.

The live register figures include people entitled to claim allowances, that includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers. Even in the boom the actual level of unemployment never went below 150,000!

The main condition for signing on and receiving unemployment benefit/allowance is that you are available for and are genuinely seeking work.

But a lot of people on the live register do not fall into this category.

There's the fraudulent claimants, the long term unemployed, the stay at home mums (ok and dads) who are not looking for work, students who have just finished their school or college and thousands of people who are 'taking the summer off to re-evaluate their options' chill out and forget about looking for a job.

The true level of 'those genuinely seeking work' is hard to gauge.

However, the official measure of unemployment is measured by the Quarterly Household Survey from the Central Statistics Office ( According to this survey the latest available information (1st quarter of 2009) indicates that the unemployment rate was 9.6%.

According to leading economists, the labour force figures (those in work) were 2.1 million in Feb/March 2009 and allowing for seasonally adjusted figures are probably just under 2 million right now. One economist quotes that in the first quarter for 2009 there were approximately 170,700 people unemployed. (Quarter 2 2009 stats available soon from CSO))

That's a far cry from the 500,000 unemployed that some hysterical voices in the media are quoting, isn't it?

It's true that unemployment has climbed sharply, but the live register should not be the source of the true level of unemployment. Neither should it lead you to believe that the amount of people on the live register means 'that there's no jobs out there'.

why the career guidance you got at school is rubbish

I'm constantly amazed at what school career guidance counsellors advise pupils to do with their lives. My geography teacher doubled up as a guidance counsellor and you wouldn't exactly call him a people person. He advised me that I wasn't academic and to work in the local chocolate factory because with double shifts I could coin it in. He also gave me little information cards about what it's like to work in a stables and in a hospital.

A client remembers being advised by a nun guidance counsellor to be an airhostess as she was pretty with lovely hands!

A well regarded private boys school had a career counsellor who smoked liked a chimney and allowed the pupils to have a fag with him whilst they chewed the cud over suitable jobs. He was very popular. It appears he advised most of them to get into the public sector because once you're in, they can't get rid of you.

A southside fee paying girls school recommended marrying young whilst they still had their youthful charm to avoid being left on the shelf.

I'm sure there are lots of schools who have responsible, informed guidance counsellors but I haven't heard about them yet.

Unfortunately the early bad and dispiriting experiences of trying to figure out your vocation has put many people off career guidance in later life. When the economy was in full swing, it was acceptable to job hop until you found a job you liked. It was a piece of cake to get interviews due to the lack of candidates available so you could talk your way into all sorts of jobs. You could try your hand at a number of things, until you stumbled upon work that suited you.

Now people are finding interviews hard to come by and much more challenging than before once they do get in front of the hiring manager. It's really tough to get through an interview if you don't know what you want to do and don't know what motivates you. Because a good interviewer challenges how you think about yourself and what you're like when you are at your best and where you fall down.

The only way to get good at doing interviews is to really be sure what it is you want to do with your career. I'm not talking about your absolute ideal dream job, rather a range of jobs that suit your temperament first and foremost, as there's no such thing as only one ideal job match.

It's really hard to figure that out on your own and neither should you expect to be able to do it alone. Family and friends may be useful but they don't exactly give unbiased advice and have limited knowledge of the range of job options out there. Adult career counsellors or coaches can guide you to better choices and extend your options so that you have a greater chance of finding work when times are tough, as they are now.

So try not to be put off by earlier bad career advice, as you will find it a rewarding experience if you are in the hands of a professional career coach, and if they do advise you that being an airhostess is a good match it won't be because they think you have nice hands!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

don't go back to college in a recession

It's very tempting to go back to college with all the doom and gloom around us. It may seem daunting out there with limited options on the job front and this could last a few years until the economy picks up again. So, it seems logical to upskill. To finally get that Masters or Phd or MBA. So why not study your way through the bust?

Well if you truly want a degree for the joy of learning, or if you know for a fact that you need a Phd to progress (if you are in academia) then yes, it makes sense. But if you're doing it to impress employers so that you can snag a great job when things pick up, it's probably not the wisest choice.

Consider this scenario:
Fast forward to 2011. You are the hiring manager for a juicy management role. You have your pick of great CVs. The first interviews go well, you find all the candidates have something to offer, but you choose two to come back for second interview. Both have similar experience, except one has recent experience and one has just finished a Masters.

The guy with the Masters in Business certainly knows the jargon. He has worked for some interesting companies and had been promoted to management, but like many others, he lost his job in 2009 and decided to study for two years. He has just finished college but has no recent management experience.

The other guy just has a BA degree. He lost his job in 08 but found another one, even though it took him 6 months of driving a taxi until he found a management position again. In the past two years he has gained practical skills and can cite recent problem solving skills on the job. He is obviously a resilient chap.

Who do you go for?

Most hiring managers I know would go for the one with recent experience, who rose to a challenge in adverse times, took whatever job they could whilst they focused on getting a better job, over the one who muscled it out in a safe college environment.

As many interviews are now scenario based, you are very likely to be asked questions along the lines of: Tell me about a recent experience where you had to manage a conflict in your team? or How have you recently influenced your manager?

Notice that the emphasis is on demonstrating recent practical experience. Some companies will even ask that you confine your answer to the past 18 months or 2 years. Not ideal if you've been in college all that time. It's worth knowing that some third level institutions are now receiving up to three times more applicants than this time last year,so you will probably find that it's not so easy to get in afterall.

Of course employers appreciate higher level qualification but they generally prefer that you study part time for post graduate status whilst you grow in the work-place.

So hang on in there!

Take whatever job comes along to keep the wolf from the door. Get a decent career counsellor/coach to advise you on your career options and devise a job search plan to keep you motivated whilst you seek out a more suitable job to progress your career.

Seek and ye shall find!