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!)