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 www.springboardconsulting.ie.

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 MAPP.com or OPP.co.uk
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 (www.cso.ie). 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!