Tuesday 18 December 2012

Career Sustainability - careers advice, inspiration and mental stimulation for job hunters: What's the difference between success, happiness a...

Career Sustainability - careers advice, inspiration and mental stimulation for job hunters: What's the difference between success, happiness a...:   ... and falling short of your dreams? Before reading this item, please take a moment to visualise those people you have seen who are fu...

What's the difference between success, happiness and achievement....

 ... and falling short of your dreams?
Before reading this item, please take a moment to visualise those people you have seen who are fulfilling their dreams, and those who aren't there yet.

What is the difference between them?
I’d hazard an educated guess that a lot of what you’re seeing in the successful person is in their physical posture.

What do I mean when I say ‘physical posture’?
Let’s face it successful people tend to give-off an aura. It is deeper than just looking confident; they carry themselves differently, they act differently, they think differently and this positive energy is often regarded as ‘attractive’ in much the same way as magnetic energy attracts.

You can always recognise the people who have ‘it’ because they tend to look above the horizon. They aren't looking curled-up in a ball or looking at their feet as if they worry that they’re going to fall down a crack in the pavement. They've no use of superstition because their 'glass is half full' and they’re consistently optimistic. They have faith in what the future holds and stride out towards it proactive, confident and eager.

The Hedgehog Effect: Just like the hedgehog’s instinct to roll-up into a ball, there are times when I have met clients for the first time when they are physiologically and psychologically rolled-up tightly in a ball of self-preservation; as if rolling with punches. Somehow they have lost their faith in the benevolence of the universe and seek to protect themselves from being harmed. I often see clients in this state following long periods of unemployment or experiencing the grief of redundancy. 

There are osteopaths, Bowen therapists, Hellerworkers, and body alignment experts that help release this pent-up anxiety from our bodies. I regularly encounter this physical manifestation of anxiety and stress as it prevails in people who have not experienced fulfilment and meaning in their work because they have yet to piece-together their career attributes to form a sustainable career plan; the people who are still wrestling with themselves to discover their own identities and define their mission in life.

Determination – probability, nature or nurture:
Looking back now, with the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, I survived that difficult transition between childhood, adolescence and adulthood because the activities I was good at fed me an inner strength. In the main, if it wasn't for sport and my love for The Arts, I would have struggled much more.

Deep down inside I knew I possessed positive potential and that it was surely a case of just keeping going and one day I would end-up discovering success, achievement and happiness. It was just a matter of time.

I have no clue where this deep instinct stems from, nurture or nature, but I suppose I am lucky that I sensed it was innate within. A long time ago I came to realise that everyone has an innate talent within; it is just a case of circumstance, perseverance and positivity whether they ever experience the warmth of its glow.

I made a breakthrough in my life when I realised how other people had struggled with the same hurdles I had experienced and when a very kind tutor explained to me how insanely unkind the perfectionist character trait can be because we constantly use it to ensure happiness is always just that inch or two out of reach. He helped me understand that my “good enough, might be equivalent to somebody else’s best”. It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I never looked back.

It wasn't the past that was going to determine my future…
...it was my decisions in the ‘here and now’
Even though our future course is borne-out of extrapolating the trajectory and themes of our past accomplishments (and failures), potential will always outweigh previous experience; this is how we fuel forward momentum.

How we act upon this potential right now, today governs our future course, our potential for success, happiness and achievement. No great oak ever grew from an acorn that was not 'anchored’. It is a challenging life-lesson to absorb, but our environment is a mirror to our actions. We can influence ‘Darwinian probability’ in the way we represent ourselves to our surroundings as image determines our horizons in life. ‘The expressions we meet on other people’s faces tend to reflect the look we transmit to them’. Hence a sincere smile - reinforced by a self-assured character - is such a disarming weapon in life.

Positivity building-blocks:
As we know from The Secret’, ‘What the Bleep’, and the infinite pool of knowledge on ‘self-help’ and ‘positive thinking’ espoused by visionary thinkers like Dr Norman Vincent Peale, William Clement Stone, and founder of sports psychology Coleman Griffith, there are some essential ingredients to performing well:
  • Do what it takes to germinate the magic in desire – get hungry, want to be successful, fill the void with it and use it to launch yourself.
  • Strive for Inspiration – find a field you are passionate about otherwise you will never find the motivation necessary to persevere over the long haul.
  • Identify where your skills lie. Develop your technique – practice, practice, practice. Hone the attributes you have been ‘given’ until your mastery infects you with conviction and purpose.
  •  Disarm your past mistakes out of the same kindness you would bestow on any other young person who was beating themselves up with negativity born from past errors. Move forward and grow from experience. Look forward and outwards not inwards.
  • Nurture calm and rejuvenation in your bedroom and turn it in an oasis of calm as it is proven that disrupted sleep exacerbates troubled spirits. Master your thoughts through calmed breathing with inspiring books and tranquil meditation in order to cleanse your mind of the days’ strains.
  • Above all enter each day pointing all your faculties at your ‘beacon of purpose’. What is it that you wish to marshal your career attributes towards? Progress is continuous personal development, self-encouragement and confidence-growing; whereas, the stuck, entrenched and stagnant en route to inevitable decline.
Sometimes by providing for others what we actually seek ourselves we are recognising human need. Heartfelt encouragement given to others is an empowering lever in building cohesion, connectedness and cultivating the essential benefits of team-spiritedness and community; especially when we share our successes and goals.

This helpful realisation often comes as a great surprise to my clients, who may have experienced long periods of feeling lonely, isolated and withdrawn, that through their altruism they inject within themselves far more optimism at a time when the natural instinct is to be alone and withdraw. Remember: Respect is very much a 2-way street.

Connecting-with and communing-with others:
The reality is that few champions taste success from the confines of solitude. Achievement, in the main, is built upon united effort, linked with unconditional equality, connected via our ability to depend on others, as it bonds communities invested toward a common good. This is why ‘employee-owned’ organisations like The John Lewis Partnership in the UK do so well – because they share the incentive and the trust.

Very few inward-looking, isolated egocentrics sustain success over the long haul without cultivating more open partnerships with others buying into similar value systems and shared motivations for succeeding. Hence good communications, clear boundaries and respect form the glue that binds every worthwhile success.

Forgiving Mavericks: It’s worth remembering that it can be difficult to find one’s way back into the team dynamic if time has been spent on the periphery. At the same time we should be mindful that the most innovative of minds belong to the most unconventional characters and for them to conform risks amputating their innate brilliance.

Remember real value is borne from invention and invention is disruptive by definition. Sharing achievement is likely to involve adaptability, lateral-thinking, and the occasional ability to forgive a once-adversary who may well be more like you than you’d care to admit! Any such magnanimity requires great maturity. 

Learn to recognise the tiny margins between success and failure:
As is so often the case in this life love/hate, friends/enemies, success/failure are the same coin seen from differing perspectives with the tiniest of fractions differentiating the various viewpoints. Similarly, beware of perfectionism; as it can be a very unrealistic, self-defeating and an overly-rigid trait. [Beware ultimatums as they execute When is our striving for the highest of standards good for us and when is it eroding us away? When is a task finished and when is a task being unnecessarily finessed?

The keystone to happiness is knowing when to stop digging and start constructing; alongside the acceptance that building a life's mission starts with recognising, liking and understanding what talents you possess and appreciating what you’re going to do with them - everyday. Acceptance of what can and can't be changed is elemental.

It might take decades to put the roof on the house of your dreams, but you’re better-off knowing that it is built on firm foundations and that every day you step back to see that the incremental steps, not matter how small, see the walls growing upwards and taking you nearer to your ultimate goal.

A ‘patient summary’:
Perhaps this is why many of our most famous celebrities point-out that it took them a lifetime of error-laden perseverance to become an overnight success! I believe we can only truly measure our success when we can clearly state our values. Only then can we credibly interpret whether our achievements equate to actual success because it is only then that our work is meaningful. 
Concentrated endurance seeds worthy achievement; passion-led talent fuels it.
Duncan Bolam © 2012

The Career Dovetail Formula & Talent Triangles: 
Strengthening wellbeing by dovetailing more people into sustainable careers.

Friday 14 December 2012

Standing the Conventions of Traditional Job-hunting Techniques Upside-down:

Richard Nelson Bolles is unquestionably the grandfather and guru-on-high of modern job-hunting techniques. I consider myself very lucky to have Dick as a longstanding friend and to have understudied him during his world-famous 2-week workshop in Bend, Oregon. Dick’s famous book, ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’, has been THE Number 1 best-selling book for career-changers and job-hunters for many generations; with a refreshed version coming out every year since 1967.

For me there is one particularly outstanding quote in the book:

“Many If Not Most Employers Hunt for Job-Hunters…
…in the Exact Opposite Way from How Most Job-Hunters Hunt for Them”

In spite of the proven wisdom contained in Dick’s inspirational book, nearly everyone I meet wrestles with the sagely advice within. They continue to expend their energies on applying to newspaper ads, sending-off unsolicited CVs and wasting hours applying to faceless companies online. I even find it hard to translate this wisdom to close family members who quite literally look at me as if I have two heads when I suggest they dump the CV/resumé, take the focus off recruitment agencies and get out there talking to people who share their passions with some well-prepared-for and energising informational meetings.

Since entering the careers development profession back in 1997, following a 2 year training programme, I have built a straightforward body of evidence which supports the generally accepted Rule of Thumb that roughly 60 to 85% of jobs are found through networking and ‘Word-of-Mouth’ recommendations (depending upon industrial sector and professional discipline).
Hirers much prefer to hire someone who they know a little about. If they come recommended then that can save a mountain of potentially costly misunderstanding and pain for both parties. Consider the consequences of getting that fleeting decision wrong if you’re The Hirer; after all, how many job interviews last more than 1 or 2 hours and how accurate can they be in forming such an important decision?

Nepotism is a fact of life… and who can blame them:
As much of an example of favouritism as it is, and as ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’ so accurately states, the ideal scenario for the employer is to hire from within, to promote a proven member of staff whose quality of work you know; second to which would be to hire a contractor or temporary worker who is already known to the organisation, and so on. So if you’re the Job Hunter starting from a cold start, how do you compete, how do you amplify your chances?
As much as it remains an inspiration, a famous J.K. Rowling quote also sums-up how painful unemployment can be:

“Rock-bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Back in 1994 I was in the midst of a desperate and protracted term of unemployment after I lost a job that I loved, when, refusing to lose faith, my quest for inspiration led me to my first ever, full-blown, career guidance interview. As tough as it can be to accept, especially if you have been unemployed for long period, you have no money, and you might even be at your lowest ever emotional ebb, we have to maintain faith in good things happening. My career guidance interview signified a transformation in my fortunes and a whole new direction for my life. All these years on and I still recognise it as the turning-point of my life.

It is a fact of life that there are times in our lives where we make our own luck. Navigating low-points are good examples. It would be grossly naïve to think we could walk through life unhindered. So what is it that we’re left with when we really, really have reached rock-bottom? I found that I achieved greater clarity about what was and what wasn’t important to me. For me it boiled down to people, community and loved-ones. Above all I learnt that I wanted to help others; especially to help young people avoid the pitfalls that inevitably befall us. And I wanted to leave the planet a better place than where I found it, to leave a legacy.

Solace in Solitude & Scarcity:
The sheer intensity of reflection provided by poverty meant I could draw contrast with incredible clarity at the great times and was better able to recognise what it was that I was good at or what it was about a certain set of circumstances that enabled me to perform to my maximum potential. I knew much more about what I wanted and what I missed. Reviewing the great moments granted me from my love of sport worked as great indicators and excellent ‘practice’ at recognising when my actions were working well.
As a county golfer, basketball player and rugby player, if ever I pictured myself doing well it was always with a smile on my face and great focus on a particular objective to which all my physical and mental attributes were pointed. Admittedly, not everyone is a lover of sport, but all of us possess a passion or an interest in a particular field (or as Dick Bolles calls them ‘Fields of Fascination’), be it fashion, animals, mathematics, stamp-collecting, movies, glass-blowing, history, spirituality, music, carpentry, fast cars… and so on. The list is endless. Identifying our interests is key to sparking our enthusiasm as it will fuel our progress throughout the whole of our career. It also instils an incredibly powerful advantage over our competitors.
The Art of Positive Thinking’ possesses incredible power. Our innate ability to visualise ourselves doing well can almost guarantee success. When we learn to back our own ideas we reap far greater dividends and tap into hidden strengths. Furthermore, we can never expect others to believe in us if we don’t believe in ourselves. But when we’re feeling down-and-out and despondent the reality is that thinking positively can seem very a far-fetched luxury. Rest-assured, somewhere deep within, lays incredible strength and resolve.
How do we build enthusiasm, passion and interest if we haven’t got it?
Informational meetings with ‘like-minded’ people form the mainstay of Dick Bolles’s (and my own) approach to successful job-hunting. Let’s not diminish how much bravery it takes to get yourself out there and start asking people questions about their work. Life can deal us some mean cards. One of the most ironic of all is how life asks us to feel upbeat and confident about ourselves, just at the time when we’re feeling rock-bottom and bereft of our working identity.
There are many ways of building the preamble to get you in position for an informational meeting. I’d suggest buying ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’ or getting yourself down to your nearest library and doing the necessary background reading. Here is the gist of the questions I get my clients to ask:
(In line with best practice, apply the questionnaire in person because actually witnessing how your respondents answer questions is a key part of the process; which may lead to adaptations and additions being made as appropriate. Plus it helps build ‘chemistry’ and that all-important rapport we’re looking for.)
1.      How did you get your job and/or get promoted to your present position?
a.      Was there any particular person who helped you with this?
b.      What hiring channel proved most successful?
                                                    i.     responding to newspaper articles
                                                   ii.     internet research
                                                  iii.     speculative approaches - writing directly to the employer
                                                  iv.     recruitment agencies
                                                   v.     Word-of-mouth recommendation
                                                  vi.     Informational meetings
2.      What does your job actually involve on a daily basis?  What are your main activities? 
3.      What do you feel is your No.1 competency or skill that you enjoy using most in this job?
a.      Was this skill innate
b.      Or is it something you have developed whilst working?
c.      Does this competency correlate or link to your interests?
4.      Could you name your Top 3 Values? (e.g. recognition, sense of team, legacy, financial gain, power, creativity, helping others, there are many more…)
5.      In terms of education and training, what qualification has been most useful in your job?
6.      What is it about your personality which suits you to your work? (e.g. are you outgoing, do you concentrate well, are you happy working alone, etc?)
7.      What do you like least about your job?
8.      Do you have any additional advice for somebody attempting to break into this field?
9.      I wonder if you can put me in touch with 3 people from your network who share your working passions/interests, who you think would be willing to answer these questions. Contact name & details:

NB: Trust me on this; never fail to send your respondents and hand-written 'Thank You' for their time.

Informational Meetings truly bear fruit when you and your interviewee share such common interest that you both get very enthusiastic about the subject matter! Sometimes I have even known the rapport to be so good that the interviewer – You – is offered a job right there and then. When you’ve really done your homework on the organisation, and you’re really well-prepared, well-versed in your field of expertise and fuelled by your professional passions, the ‘fit’ between you and the company you are interviewing is all too obvious and they know you will very quickly add value, contribute great ideas and generally inject much-needed enthusiasm into their firm. So they just have to hire you to stop the competition from getting you!

This is all well and good, I hear you say, if you’re a young person starting-out on your career. But what of the workers whose industries have died, or the company owners have moved the operations nearer to cheaper labour sources. That work is not coming back anytime soon. This is where we have to ask ourselves what our transferrable skills are. What fields are connected to the work I once did and how to get into them.
Job Hunting Strategies:
Apart from trying to stay away from your pc during the daytime when you can meet people instead, I’d strongly suggest getting strategic about your job hunt. You will need a well-organised base, or desk, and you’ll need to do a lot of information gathering and planning. Dumping your thoughts down on paper either into a journal or diagrammatically, can be very helpful. I love mindmaps as they connect-up what might appear to be random thoughts and help us see patterns where they might otherwise remain invisible.
Extrapolating patterns from past performance can be incredibly empowering when it comes to building a plan for the future. Patterns point to proficiency, passion and potential, but recognising them is not always easy! Even if we are building from our past mistakes, an historic perspective can be very enlightening; as it provides lots of clues. For example, this is why we ask the question: What do you like least about your job? Because at least from understanding what we don’t like we are stepping towards what we do!
[I believe that there could be a sinister backdrop to employment trends and I have written about this extensively elsewhere. My fear is that growing numbers of corporations see the only way of increasing their profit margins being to ‘offshore’ and ‘outsource’ their labour costs by moving to increasingly cheaper sources of workers. The simple point I make here is how they risk shooting themselves in the foot if they take wages away from their local consumers by doing so. There can be little doubt that quality suffers as The West is many decades ahead in the adeptness of skill required to manufacture well-made products. Due to these short-sighted and economically naïve policies many once great companies have alienated their regular customers and robbed themselves of financial stability in the long term. Cheap goods are not always good goods. Unlike Detroit-based car-makers who stood still, the antidote is generating innovations and producing leading-edge thinkers fuelled by passion and the striving to make the World a better place.]
In parallel much of The West’s accrued vocational capital has stagnated from lack of investment in apprenticeships and training. In his compellingly beautiful book, written with his mastery of words, ‘The Case for Working with Your Hands or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good’ Matthew Crawford encourages us to consider enriching our lives with more fulfilling and meaningful work.
The All-Important Skill of Rapport-Building:
Stop for one moment to consider the all-important skill of ‘rapport-building’. If you enter into a job interview not prepared to build rapport with your interviewer, then don’t waste your time or theirs. How do we build rapport? It stems from common ground. This can be physical, in that we mirror their body language and look and feel good in ourselves and we are seen to be attractive. And/or we strike up rapport by discovering that we share common values, interests, character traits, qualifications, language, hometowns, football teams… the list goes on, but you get my gist - we build rapport on shared passions.
Audits & Forecasts:
Now that we have spoken to other people about what fuels their successful careers, and we have absorbed their insight into their business, we are in a much better position to formulate our own career strategy. One of the most powerful techniques that I learnt during my career development training was the ‘Career Narrative’. Here we develop career-related stories about our work-based achievements and are helped to  interrogate our database of experience for the kinds of skills that we good at an enjoy using.
As with our ‘Patterns of Potential’ we will start to see recurring themes. This will also by now be building our confidence. We will start to see our vocational identity more clearly and understand the kind of people and firms we need to being talking to to build our careers by making ourselves more relevant.
We have really cracked our career strategy when we have extrapolated our research so accurately that we can list the companies that we want to go and work for and the individuals in those organisations that we should be writing to or calling up to request informational meetings with.
Purpose & Conviction:
Here again, I have written about this subject extensively elsewhere, but the message I wish to convey here concerns the difference between someone possessing a sense of purpose and conviction and those who don’t. As stated earlier, it is easy for someone to say these things when they’re not feeling down-and-out and devoid of confidence. And this is the key to success - don’t ‘go-to-market’ until you have it. Your marketplace is finite, there are only so many companies who will employ someone with your skill-set and career attributes in your area. Don’t squander valuable opportunities – and energy -  by being ill-prepared.
Going back to the use of positive visualisation, imagine for a moment a gymnast running at a vaulting horse. Imagine then sprinting down the runway about to throw themselves over the horse if they don’t believe in their ability to succeed. It’s simply going to end in tears isn’t it? They aren’t going to run fast enough, they’ll be thinking about how much they’re going to hurt themselves and just not concentrating on the important action of taking-off the springboard, placing their hands in the right place, and landing safely on both feet.
Whereas, in contrast, the gymnast who has prepared, honed their strength and technique through repeated practice, knows exactly what actions they need to carry–out, in what sequence, to perform well and can sprint, take-off and land like a well-oiled machine. They possess the qualities of self-belief, mental-surety, physical prowess and an attractiveness associated with their knowing they’re good at what they do.
In summary:
Job-hunting can be a lonely activity. It is also part of the Human Condition that we are not very good at looking inwardly and being objective about where our strengths and weaknesses lie when working alone. The best sportsmen and women in the world hire coaches to hold a mirror up and show them where they are going wrong and celebrate what they’re doing right. The lesson here is to try not to job-hunt alone. If you can’t hire a Career Coach to help you, club-together and share one, or gather together with others in the same position as a form of peer support or ask your friends and family for help.
The point remains the same, “Many If Not Most Employers Hunt for Job-Hunter in the Exact Opposite Way from How Most Job-Hunters Hunt for Them.” If you are not savvy to this and react accordingly, the risk is you will remain stuck. ‘The Path of Least Resistance’ as I call it, involves strengthening your job hunting armoury by never shooting at a job you don’t love with a sawn-off shotgun and no conviction. In stark contrast you are doing whatever it takes to aim at jobs you sincerely love, firing your heartfelt enthusiasm down the barrel of a high velocity rifle and taking aim with the precision of telescopic sights.

From my perspective, built on many years of experience, as hunter and coach, the labour market falls into two camps: 90% of the people I meet are in the wrong job, not engaged by their work at all, or paralysed by long term unemployment – they are the ‘Reactive Majority’. Then there are the 10% ‘Proactive Minority’ who know what they want and exactly where they’re going to get it. Remember, if your job isn’t out there, build it yourself! Harness your creativity, create your own recipe, build your own business and fly free!
Which camp do you want to be in – reactive, or proactive and free to call the shots yourself?
Duncan Bolam © 2012
The Career Dovetail Formula: Strengthening wellbeing by dovetailing more people into sustainable careers.

Friday 30 November 2012

When to career and when not to 'career'

Career is designing your work beacon, 'seeing' how it is meant to be, and aiming for it daily. The gains of your 'return on investment' of time, effort and application come in many forms, some perceptible, some not so. For example, a positive outlook, progress, strength of character, fortitude, recognition, love, continued growth and independence.
To career along, out-of-control, does not come into it. In fact, careening would be very unhelpful!
Understanding the reasons why form distinctive parts of the journey.
Assimilate and grow.

Thursday 29 November 2012

the POWER of words in the discovery of MEANING

'Life' Navigation Using Words - an extrapolation:

Humans are often to be found deliberating and cogitating over the meaning of life. It's a query as old as our species. ~Discovery of the answer will propel a life through time with purpose. A million million thinkers have pondered this. Here are some of my thoughts out loud.

Life is a quest. Even 'the right' find answers every day. Yet there are many more people in search of answers than there are those who know. I see success coming to the purposeful, positive and persevering. 

What it is to know why you are here? The reality is, it probably means you have asked and answered far more questions than the people who don't know. The really successful people, if truth were known, have  braved many mistakes and enriched their navigation technique accordingly. Error forges, steels and galvanises character by ultimately providing answers. Achievement is awarded to the persistently brave. Mistakes are just answers with more growing to do. 

What is the meaning of life? I believe it is to have meaning IN your life. We extract meaning from making sense of the many ingredients that comprise an individual. Once we understand ourselves, perhaps not totally, but better, we then have foundations to build upon. Re-interpreting 'feedback' gives rise to understanding - another word for 'understanding' is 'harmony'. A self-image that we are happier believing in. A personality that we are happy with that we can project to the world, confidentlyWisdom is an understanding of this. 

In the Lexicon of Life there are words that exist that can guide us when we interpret their true meaning: 

'Living' - living is not just about breathing our way through life's journey. It is about how we will live. What will we do to live? How will we feed ourselves and our families? How we get paid for what we do. Payment is not always about money. Our contribution can be recognised in many ways.

'Contribution' - As a citizen how will we contribute? What  will we contribute to better society. It is the opposite of selfishness and involves our whole being.

'To Be' - I am therefore I am. Well it's not necessarily that simple is it. What is it that you are going to do To Be? It forms a big chunk of the answer to 'Why am I here?'.

'Meaning' - It is a tough life lesson to learn, but the practical reality is that most lives require meaning in order that they thrive. It is about listening for and being open to the feedback that living gives back; akin to a bow on a violin generating sound. 

'Purpose'  - along with 'meaning' 'purpose' is a key ingredient in the mix that fuels a life and drives it forward. Purpose instils forward momentum. It provides a reason for being like your internal propulsion system.

'Attitude' - In much the same way that an aircraft's wing must be at just the right attitude to lift a plane in the air, travelling at just the right velocity, so must a life. Attitude is the angle at which we approach life, both physical and mental. The ground, in the case of this metaphor, is the rest of society. 

'Identity' - Who is it looking back at you in the mirror? How will you like that individual? How will you project that image to the rest of society? Everyone I have ever met has a truly great person inside. The problems only arise when we don't give flight to the potential within. When we haven't taken the time necessary to uncover and truly understand the person within. This is where faith in the good comes in. Are you looking at your feet or in the person's eye?

'Love' - It can be an agonizing life lesson to learn, but self-acceptance and learning to love one's self is prerequisite in discovering the part of you that someone else will love. Love is the weave in tapestry of life because it interconnects and perpetuates the whole fabric of society. Love comes in many forms and degrees, success is built on believing in yourself. Only then will others buy into you.

'Conviction' - a word possessing many sides, curiously. The one we're after here is to do with acting with conviction; carrying oneself with certainty. Actions carried-out with conviction tend to be attractive because they are positive and pure. Actions that resonate.

'Attractiveness' - Believe it or not, attractiveness has less to do with physical looks than you might think. It is a powerful word. In certain respects it combines each and everyone of the words above. It is about 'believe-ability'. Attractive people possess the truth of meaning and reason. They have done the workings-out. This is recognised in the way events, actions and materials are attracted to them.

'Vocation' - "A strong feeling of fitness for a particular career" is the definition that my dictionary gives me. A person's working identity. The exercising and bringing-together of all the career attributes bestowed upon the individual by nature. It is my heartfelt belief that everyone I have ever met possesses a vocation. My fear is, so few tap into the life-blood contained within. It's about 'fit'.

'Work' - "the application of human effort to a mental or physical purpose". Perhaps this is why, as a result of increasing automation, so many Humans feel purposeless. The truth is that with an ever-growing population and the rapid, vapid mechanisation of the 'workplace', it is no wonder that more people feel redundant and are redundant. Purposelessness is a dangerously unsustainable 'state' to create in the world; a population without meaning will boil. What will all those workless people do? There will always be work needing to be done. It is simply a case of asking yourself is it work that you want to do and for what purpose and how will your effort be recognised? Effort / Reward, you reap what you sow. Life is brutally Darwinian like it or not.

'Capability' - Is a complex balance between actual ability and potential power. Capability is about the potential prowess a person has to combine their skills and their experience of having practised them. Measuring capability implies an ability to forecast 'ability', coupled with effort invested in improving performance that is applied in the present. Get an objective view. Ask an impartial expert.

'Vitality' - is the quickening of the experience of life relative to the amount of energy invested. A vital person is full of energy resulting from their expending energy enthusiastically aimed at a specific cause. Vitality only arises from the imperative of living life positively. 

'Confidence' - is the net result of liking what you be. It results from positive energy reflected back from your environment for good done.

This short article is aimed at prodding your use of language in the context of working and being. The idea is that we extrapolate our own meaning from considering the meaning of the words we might use to describe our own actions. 

Unless we can recognise, evaluate, describe and visualise our output it will continue to be difficult to extract meaning from what we do. If we cannot see value, how will we feel valued. And there is no greater conundrum in life than being able understand that lives do better when contributing to the greater good. Selfish lives, self-contained, inward-looking rarely produce for the greater good.

Happiness is balance. Success is sustainability. 

Monday 18 June 2012

Self-Preservation - A Sense of Wonder at Work:

Okay, everything is certainly not okay. You just lost your job…

I’ve been an outplacement consultant and career coach since 1998. During this time I have worked with hundreds of grieving people bereft of their livelihood. Many people say that what I do must be awful; with a look a bit like they’re talking to the taxman. The truth is that I love what I do because I care about people and want to minimise the blow.

Up to the age of 32 my career caused me a lot of pain. I had no clue about how much pain I used to be in until I discovered my calling. And looked-back. I’ve written mountains of stuff on my own transformation and how my life turned around. The point is, I empathise. I know how it feels to lose your job and fear for how the bills are going to be paid come Friday.

I’m working with a guy at the moment who has had the sword of redundancy over his head for months and months. It's painful to watch. The firm thought it might be kinder to give him a lot of advance warning because of the many decades of loyalty he has invested in them. In reply he has mirrored their ‘kindness’ and works tirelessly to make sure the department he runs doesn’t miss a beat in order that he can walk away in a few months’ time with his head held high, conscience clear, dignity and integrity intact.

During the many decades since he joined The World of Work has changed beyond recognition. A big part of the relationship between employee and employer used to be loyalty; sometimes referred to as the ‘psychological contract’. It basically states that a paternalistic and caring employer will provide pay, job stability and nurturing environment in return for conscientiousness, reliability and commitment.

About 10 years ago, possibly longer, younger workers entering employment could see the instability of employment and recognise a power-shift arising from the huge skills shortages at play in the labour market. This meant the market changed and younger workers would take whatever training and development they could from one employer and leverage it with the next. I found their skills of assertiveness compelling. Whereas in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s a good CV/resume might have one or two employers listed, a good CV in the 2000s will show many along the making of an enviable career trajectory.

Traditional sense of loyalties can therefore be misplaced:

If you are being made redundant take stock – this is happening. And it is not your fault. But your company don’t think they need you anymore. Perhaps they’re on hard times too. But they cannot afford you. Or your role has become obsolete. Similar to the anguish of losing a loved-one, there comes a time to move-on.

The focus of your concern is now upon you. Who else is going to help you? Metaphorically-speaking, the plane is depressurizing, the oxygen mask has dropped in front of your face and it is time to act calmly and put it over your mouth to ensure your survival.

Fear is a natural instinct:

Recognising your fear when losing your job is an integral factor in your ability to survive the trauma. You can only manage what you recognise. Fear of the unknown is a natural phenomenon. And this is the nub of the point of this blog: Fear is a symptom / Convention is the cause.

Convention is a particular belief among people as to how things should be done; or how we ought to behave. Conventions are helpful when teaching a child to stay out of the road – because collisions with cars are extremely dangerous. Conventions are unhelpful however when they perpetuate an unhelpful myth or obsolete attitude.

The Number 1 job-search convention is that we must get straight back to permanent work as quickly as possible. Part of this convention is that we’ll be happy to do anything even if it means doing a menial job many rungs in the ladder below where we stepped off. Another part of this convention is that we just fire at whatever jobs are available in the labour market and something will land.

Because fear can act like a set of blinkers on our strategy, it can massively limit our potential for success. Because of our misplaced loyalty, when we’re investing time helping our employers when we should be investing in ourselves, fear is, again, distinctly limiting. We must exercise our decision-making muscles, accurately identify our career attributes and the corresponding job target. 

As I’ve written before and I’ll no doubt write again, The Path of Least Resistance is about tuning into to ‘wonder’. Don’t wander, wonder. Getting future hirers inspired about us involves triggering rapport. There is no better mechanism for sparking rapport than passion, enthusiasm and wonder. And this must be evident in all of our self-marketing materials: CV, covering letters and interview scripts. 

Could it be that you’ve gone stale and have forgotten what it was the filled you with excitement in the workplace? Did you ever enjoy a sense of wonder in your work? Now is the time to get in touch with your working passions and infect others with your enthusiasm. If you don't do it somebody else will. There aren't limitless number of jobs available; the labour market is set to become increasingly Darwinian. 

Craftsmen and craftswomen never consider the long hours they invest in their work because they don’t consider applying themselves to what they love to do to be work. As our economy melts-down and the dole queue lengthens the Number 1 antidote is to tune-in to what it is that you love to do. Learn to be selfish for a time and invest in your own wellbeing. Should the time come, and you have to help others, they will only thank you for ensuring you are fit and well.

Connecting with Hirers is key:

However, every now and again stop to consider whether it is realistic for you to connect with the 'Wonder of your Work' and work for someone else at the same time. Often, discovering wonder in our work, involves working for ourselves. Although this is indeed a challenging path to tread; sometimes it offers a ‘Path of Least Resistance’. The rewards for courage, independence of thinking and the ability to take charge of our destiny can often justify the risk.

Here again, we will need to understand the presence of 'Wonder in our Work' if we are to succeed. Rest assured, if you can do the painstaking detective work to identify your authentic vocational identity and take it forward to a place where it will harbour and grow, you will have given society a sense of wonder that will likely remain your legacy long after you are gone.

Look around you, what is it you wonder at? What caused wonder before, will again. 

Tuesday 27 March 2012

The Art of Outstanding Job Search

Or, alternatively:

Why job seekers welded to conventional job search strategies are doomed to failure:

Why is it that the most common approach to solving a problem is so rarely the most effective one? I have worked with thousands of clients over the years who believe that their next job is going to come from sitting applying to jobs using traditional methods such as responding to: newspaper ads, internet job sites and recruitment agencies. Then they wonder why, along with about another 1,000 applicants, they end up filed under ‘B’ (for bin).

I regret to inform you that traditional job search methods are for clueless people with no idea who they are, what they want to do or where they’re going to find it - Painful to watch and absolute agony to experience. After 15 years in the field of career development, a frequent metaphor I use is to liken great potential to fire hoses; they need firm direction to do their job or they risk damaging the bearer (or the person who let go of their responsibility). Have you ever seen how much damage a ‘wild’ fire hose can do?!

It’s extreme. The same damage can be done by anyone holding great potential and not knowing what to do with it. In fact, possessing great potential and misdirecting it can be the root-cause of substance abuse, self-harm and delinquency. Can you remember those kids at school with heaps of personality, brimming-over with cleverness and seemingly always in possession of the right answer? Yet we bump into them 20 years later to find them a shuffling wreck of uncertainty and broken. The bearer of the most potential may also experience the most risk of failure because the potential for disappointment is greater.

As I have written many times before in various guises, people lacking a sense of purpose are palpably going nowhere (because possessing potential can make knowing where to take it all the more challenging). Therefore they lack the positive energy required to get hired. Hirers - either overtly or on a subliminal level - are looking to be engaged with. They’re looking to be seduced by the candidate’s passion for the subject and forced to visualise that person doing the job so convincingly that they would be a fool not to hire them. It would be foolhardy for any company to let a talent escape them as they risk joining the competition and helping them do well.

The majority of people I work with take as long as 1 to 2 months to have this very important penny drop. Successful job search strategy is all about research and getting to grips with the specialist knowledge you require to land a job that you love. It’s the enthusiasm that proves so attractive in the interview. Self-belief is a form of charisma and very hard to resist. It is also the keystone in rapport-building and I defy anyone to get hired at interview without the magic ingredient of rapport.

Strange, for many people, is the fact that quite a few of my clients don’t even use a CV to get hired. CVs, or resumés as they call them in North America, are a deeply subjective veneer of who a person might be. CVs are rarely what clinches the job. At best they might open the door to the interview. But why would an experienced hiring manger place too much faith on the legitimacy of an un-vetted – and generic - employment history?

In his world’s bestselling job hunter’s bible ‘What color is your parachute?’, Dick Bolles uses an up-turned triangle diagram called: ‘Many if not Most Employers Hunt for Job-Hunters in the Exact Opposite Way from How Most Job-Hunters Hunt for Them’ in Chapter 5‘The Best and Worst Ways to Look for Those Job Vacancies That Are Out There’.  Savvy hirers are looking to promote people whose work they have already seen. Or whose reputation is already evident from recommendations they have received from their network. Hiring blind is a flawed approach and increasingly unsustainable strategy.

So what are you going to do about modifying your job search from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’?

Start with seeking to understand yourself, your skill-set and your experience. Extrapolate this information into the future and work hard to visualise what kind of organisation needs this profile. Don’t forget that your value system and your interests are key ingredients in deciphering ‘best fit’ and helping you whittle-down the list of potential employers. If you don’t understand yourself, or you are blind to your various career attributes, seek-out informational meetings with people whose jobs you are interested in knowing more about. Ask them what they like about their jobs? Ask what skills they make the most use of? What subjects they enjoyed (and didn’t enjoy) in school or university? Ask them if they could introduce you to someone else they know who might be able to help you you’re your quest for information?

As you gradually build information and distil it, your career passions with rise to the fore and your career strategy will become increasingly obvious. Your weather vane on knowing when you are onto something positive is your energy and interest levels go up. Constantly remind yourself that a rewarding and sustainable job is the kind of work where you draw upon as many of your career attributes as possible.

[Dead-end jobs are the kind of jobs where your skills are redundant and you have no interest in the subject matter. Remember one man’s poison could be another’s cure. No two people are the same and we should never judge where other people derive their sense of self-worth and livelihood. When faced with ‘job judgemental-ism’ I always hark back to the London Road Sweeper given the Freedom of The City of London because he did not miss a single day off work in over 40 years, you could eat your lunch off his pavements and singleton shopkeepers could set their watches by the punctuality of his dustcart as he called in to check on their safety. He was so evidently proud of a career some people might look down at.]

Next we picture the people and contacts we know in the kinds of companies that we can picture ourselves working in. I call this a ‘network audit’. Our contacts may stem from who we went to school with, their parents; who we play sport with, and their friends and families; who we went to college with and their contacts, our previous work colleagues and so-on.

This is why knowing what work we want to do and where we want to do it is crucial. A job search strategy without knowing this vital detail is lacking in the fuel required to last over a potentially long haul. There are those people who would fire-off many tens, maybe even hundreds, of CVs and résumés a month and wonder why they don’t get anywhere. A well-planned job search is all about firing at the labour market with a high velocity rifle and high-powered telescopic sight, taking time to be vigilant and well-prepared, to stalk our prey with patience and intelligence. It is not about point-blank rapid fire strategy with a sawn-off shotgun or, even worse, a machine gun!

Sadly, I pick the pieces up from this short-sighted approach all the time, when a great deal of damage has already been done, rendering the job search campaign untold harm. Over the years I have found that thought-less, fast pace and ill-prepared job search ends up with nowhere to go. Job searchers using this approach burn-up their potential pool of prospects at such a rate that they lose credibility with the hirers they do meet and never really possess the specificity of purpose to get hired in a job that really suits them.

As with most conventional wisdom and traditional ways of going about things, it is very difficult to challenge the status quo and successfully alter attitudes. Inadvertently, it is often the spouses who pressurise the job searcher into an ill-fitting and ill-considered machinegun approach. Perhaps it is because people tend to be fearful of trying something new and having their conformist ideas rattled; which is why the majority of people struggle to cope with change throughout.

This is why we need to work hard to manage our own expectations and those around us. Are we better taking a longer run at landing a job that we love, care for and can commit to; a job that will sustain us over a longer period? Or are we better off just landing any job in the shortest period of time possible; a job that risks the imprisonment of our most saleable career attributes? Those attributes which fuel a power-packed symbiosis between employee and employer over the long haul of a mutually energised relationship.

Experience has taught me that ill-considered and rash job search strategies aimed at landing any job quickly may solve a short-lived crisis today, but they’re unsustainable in the medium to long term because we start by making a big mistake – by not landing a job that we’re actually equipped to do well in. All this short-termist approach achieves is to increase the likelihood of us not performing to our maximum potential by trying to deliver on a role we’re not well-equipped for; increasing the risk of us getting fired and right back to square one on the virtual ‘Snakes & Ladders’ board of employment and unemployment – a soul-destroying experience for all involved. Ultimately, this is a very fraught and stressful recipe. 

I’ve seen too many people roll with these punches at a time when what they really deserve is a break and somebody who can empathise and help them build onwards and upwards. Job-loss is hard enough. The excruciating irony is that when we’ve just lost one job, the world’s expectation is that we market ourselves positively as if nothing happened. When people are recovering from the bereavement of job-loss, they need help not hindrance. This is one time in our careers when quality definitely outweighs quantity. Perhaps this is why it takes my clients an average of 3 to 4 months to land a job that they love; a one that 'fits' them well. 

What does job search success look like? 

Commit to getting hired at a job that you have the potential to do well. Commit to being bold. Get smart. Get prepared. Get connected. Get informed. Distil. Know what you are aiming at. And above all build your confidence by knowing what you’re interested in, what you are good at doing and doing what it takes to make it work. Above all, harness the power of positive thinking and visualise your goals. Make them real and turn them into reality.  

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Answers to Unemployment 2: Tuning into your 'straight-line'

I am what some people refer to as a ‘helping professional’. For whatever reason - intrinsically - I care about how others do. So what does this mean to you? Helping professions form an umbrella of terminologies most often involved in making people feel better, be that physiologically – e.g. osteopaths, physiotherapists and massage therapists, or psychologically – e.g. performance coaches, NLP practitioners, psychotherapists and hypnotherapists. As a Career Development Coach, I dare say I fall into a slightly separate camp: sociological wellbeing. A field where I help people fit into society more comfortably; to instil clarity in how a person might make their contribution to their community whilst drawing upon all of their career attributes. It is almost certainly impossible to exist without a sense of livelihood and meaning in one’s life and it is because of this that ‘career sustainability’ and a true sense of conviction of purpose sustains us over the long haul of a modern-day career.

Every person I have ever worked with has their own demeanour. They emit a very individual signal to the outside world. They transmit all of their innate faculties on a particular wavelength that is utterly unique. Every person we ever meet receives this hidden signal. They then make a judgement on the basis of the signal they receive. This happens whether we like it or not. It is part of human nature that we assess people and situations as we arrive at them. This instinctual reaction is an important component in our self preservation reflex. We are all hard-wired to ‘fight or flight’. It is just the way things are. Selling ourselves effectively relies heavily upon our accepting this fact.

It is for this reason that I wanted to share this blog; in order to not only help people understand their own transmissions, but to help them tune in to the fact that we are all transmitters – we smile, they smile/ we frown, they frown. Alongside this self-preserving life skill I also wanted to transmit another, equally important, signal: when landing a job, what is the path of least resistance? In the context of career planning ‘the path of least resistance’, a subject I have written about previously, means:

How do we land our next job in the most timely, painless and efficient approach available?

You may have seen the excellent animated movie ‘Happy Feet’; a film about a baby penguin who cannot find his voice in a society where singing is accepted as the only way to make a contribution. As it turns out, the central character, ‘Mumble’, is a dancer. As Percussionist, Evelyn Glenny, hears through her bottom, Mumble 'talks' through his feet. No penguin has ever danced and not sung. Without spoiling the plot for you, he endures a painful journey as an outcast before making a dynamic impact and making his mark in his penguin community as his inner rhythm comes to the surface.

He has tuned-in to his own, deeply personal and utterly unique identity. In so doing he has learned how to resonate in society and be accepted by others. Ultimately, he constructs his self-esteem from within to integrate himself into society. The trial is that first he had to discover himself; to uncover where his true skills lie and the put them out to the rest of the world in order to be accepted. A similar question befalls each of us. Tuning in to the answer is nothing short of your personal meaning of life! At least, why each of us, as individuals, are here. ~ Don’t kid yourself this is a question you don’t have to answer.

In terms of the basic building blocks of society we have all got to identify where our skills lie before we are capable of selling ourselves to the rest of society and making our own contribution. To do this effectively, we have got to audit ourselves:
·         What are we capable of?
·         What are our ‘career attributes’?
·         What kinds of knowledge do we have a preference for?
·         What are our work-related values?
·         How does our personality impact upon our career choice?
·         What fields am I passionate about?

Once we’ve completed this foreboding personal evaluation – bear in mind this will be a lifelong task - we’ve got to learn to package our personal attributes in such a way that other people will buy-into them quickly, with crystal-clear clarity – just like tuning-into a music station on the radio. When job-seeking, this can mean the difference between success and failure and therefore forms the basis of the most efficient route to market; or, in other words, ‘The Path of Least Resistance’.

Let’s take a look at the radio metaphor again. Radio signals move in squiggly lines called waves (they’re one form of electromagnetic radiation on a broad spectrum). The better our radio is tuned into these varying wavelengths, the better our reception; the more crisp the sound will be. When we’re on the labour market we are giving-off our own signals in the form of transmissions, exactly like a radio mast does. We’re radiating our inner energy outwardly and a tough fact of life is that we ought to feel good about the signal we transmit!

In the complex landscape of the employment market the more crisp the signal we transmit, the easier hirers will find it to recognise our suitability for a particular job. Put simply, if you are failing to get hired you are either: failing to transmit a clear signal. Not putting enough positive energy into transmitting your signal. Or your transmission is going in the wrong direction. Workers in so-called “dead-end” jobs seem to be the people who haven’t got to grips with their ‘Straight Line’. They given-up on self-determination. They don’t see the point. It’s in their body language. They’re not prepared to meet life head-on. They don’t see the greatness that lies within all of us once we’re tuned-into our innate career attributes. At least, yet!

Let me recap: The straightest line between where you are as an unemployed person, and your getting hired, is all about connecting your clear signal with the hirer’s ‘receiving dish’ via the shortest possible route.

In the stampede for jobs you are competing in a vicious marketplace, of that there can be no doubt. I have been there. Job seekers need to be seen to be conventional, well-balanced and capable workers… at the same time as being seen as outstanding in a pile of CVs amongst a shortlist of candidates. This can be a deeply frustrating balance to find for any applicant.

What wins results in my 15 year experience is your passion, enthusiasm and charisma. Like it or not these are all essential signals to give-off if we’re going to stand-out in a shortlist. They are all forms of energy. Visualise yourself transmitting passion, commitment, conviction of purpose and a real intention to win and you will prevail in the battle to land yourself your next job. I’m afraid we all need to accept that this process is all very Darwinian. It is down to “the survival of the fittest”. This is not intended to be an elitist point, merely a fact of life that is worth pointing-out.

Beware of going to market prematurely. The job market is obviously not a bottomless pit of opportunity. We cannot afford to squander job openings by being ill-prepared. Therefore, don’t go to market until you have a convincing signal to transmit. Don’t go to market until you understand it yourself. If you haven’t bought-into it, who will? Self-belief is both your keystone and your watchword; without it your apparent fear will be a contagion shadowing your every move.  

Carry out ‘due diligence’ on your market sector and seek to obtain as much information as you possibly can by talking to people in your chosen field about the work they do.
·         What kind of skills do they possess? What do they particularly love about their job? What do they hate about it?
·         Which companies operate in the industry that you want to work in?
·         What kinds of job titles do people working in your chosen field use to describe themselves?
·         Do these words appear on your CV or covering letters? Are they obvious?
·         Have you made it easy for The Hirer to visualise you in post?
·         Have you connected-up all of the dots before you go to market?
·         What are your ‘unique selling points’?
·         What is your proudest achievement to date?
·         Which are the Top 3 companies you would most like to work for?
·         How will you answer the Number 1 interview question: “Tell Me About Yourself?”
·         What is your personal portfolio of success stories?
·         How will you answer the question: “What is your greatest strength and your worst weakness?”
·         How will you ensure you build positive rapport with your Interviewer?
·         How could you shortcut the whole hiring process and land a job that you love?
·         How do you write a speculative letter to your dream company which makes sure you get to meet them?
·         What are the ‘insider tracks’ to the hidden job market?

So, tuning in to your Straight Line is about looking at yourself and making sure you are damn good at selling yourself before you go to market and damage your chances of landing your dream job. Your ‘Straight Line’ is about transmitting important signals confidently. It is about side-stepping and short-cutting the agonies of orthodox job search techniques. Preparing your self-marketing material before you go to market takes a huge amount of the pain out of job search. Rejections are hard to take for anyone. By tuning into your ‘Self’ and understanding what it is that you do best and packaging those qualities in a way which makes people want to buy those career attributes can draw the straightest, shortest line between where you are now as an unemployed person and landing your perfect job.

My final piece of advice would be a warning: none of the above are easy. Introspection and self-understanding is an excruciatingly challenging life task. But every one of us has to do it. Every one of us can help other people with their toughest life decisions and help others piece together there self awareness. But as soon we turn the cameras around on ourselves, it can be like watching a blank screen. The excruciating irony is that this forms part of the Human Condition. Self-understanding and personal audit is possibly the most challenging life task we will ever carry out. This is why using a Career Development Coach can be incredibly helpful in short-circuiting this very arduous task and easing our way forward.

I go and see Osteopaths, Sports Massage Therapists, Swimming Coaches, Golf Coaches and Structural Integration Therapists to get my body performing efficiently. I go to NLP coaches, hypnotherapists and, on occasion, Psychotherapists to get my mind working at peak performance. I know that aligning myself is a difficult challenge to do alone. In the same way, integrating oneself into a vastly complex and ever-changing labour market can often benefit from specialist information, advice and guidance.

Whatever you do, tune-in-to who you are before you expect anyone else to.