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.