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The Truth about Career Change

A Decision to Make

A Decision to Make

It’s unfortunate, but true, that many recruitment managers shy away from career-changers. Maybe it’s because recruiters like to see a uniform group of candidates because it makes the task of interviewing them neater – for instance, they can ask the same battery of questions of all applicants and fit the answers tidily onto their making sheets

Whatever the reason, this negative attitude does make life difficult for the career-changer so here are some tips on how to cope with at least some of the challenges of career change

  • Skill Up: When considering career change, there is always a need to be aware of the gap that exists between your current skills and experience and those required for your new job. It’s all too easy to rely on your current indirect experience to carry you through to a new career. And it’s true, for instance, that a waiter will know a lot about customer service but will she know enough to become a convincing restaurant manager? Employers like to know for certain that you have gained the specific and proven skills that they need before offering you a job
  • So, be sure to “skill up” and gain the necessary experience that will be required in your new career. Sometimes development opportunities will arise in your current job that will carry you forward into your next one. Don’t ignore them.
  • The Interview: Avoid long explanations as to why you are changing career tack. Focus instead on showing how your new skills and experience match the job description as outlined. Be honest about any skills gaps that exist. For one thing, the interviewers are unlikely to meet the perfect candidate (they never do). But, more importantly, recruiters always appreciate an honest approach above obvious pretence and obfuscation. Showing that you are aware of a specific lack of experience or skill – and that you have plans to address it – means the recruiter will feel (rightly) that they can trust you. And they may even begin to think about training or induction options for you as well as, possibly, a redesign of the job.

 


 

Career Change

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“You came out of an education and are supposed to know your vocation. Your vocation is fixed, and maybe ten years later you find you are not a teacher anymore or you’re not a painter anymore. It may happen. It has happened…. Gauguin decided at a certain point he wasn’t a banker anymore; he was a painter. And so he walked away from banking. I think we have a right to change course” (Anais Nin) 

I think most of us would agree with this sentiment but probably we would not be as impulsive as Gauguin. So here are some practical tips when considering career change.

Firstly make sure you are clear about your reasons for seeking a change. Don’t just think this through in your head. It’s important to get someone you trust to challenge your assumptions about your current career and about your decision to leave.

Sometimes this process will suggest that your current job is not “all bad” (as it probably isn’t). In such a case you will need to consider if you could make some changes – perhaps repair a damaged relationship or lead a new project – would encourage you to stay.

Secondly you will need (if you decide to leave) to make sure you have the specific skills and experience to convince employers to offer you an opportunity in your wished-for arena. Employers are often mistrustful of career changers. They can understand what you will get out of your new career, but they need to be convinced as to what they will gain from it.

Given this scenario it is probably best to avoid long explanations about your decision to embark on a new career. Focus instead on how your skills and experience will benefit them as employers. Make sure you have thought about the skills gap that will probably exist between your current skills and those required in your desired job.

You might, therefore, take the opportunity while in your current employment to work on a project related to your new career. Or gain relevant additional skills by taking a course in your spare time and/or make contact with industry movers and shakers in your desired new career area. Essentially you need to avoid giving the impression that you are simply looking for a career change. Employers, as always, are interested in you if you can bring relevant experience and skills to their operation. And that’s what you need to focus on, career change or not.

Gauguin succeeded in his new career and his paintings are now, literally, priceless. I suspect that he practiced his art while still a banker, before to the  South Seas

The Job Interview: managing your nerves

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Self-Talk 1

“This is a very important interview. The rest of my life depends, literally, on the how I perform in that room over the next 30 minutes. I think I’ve prepared well so I think I will do well. I am very nervous and I am anxious. My throat is dry. My hands are sweating. Where will I put my hands? On the table? On my lap? I think I might fail. I think I will fail”

Self-Talk 2

“This is a very important interview. But that’s all it is, an interview. There is no point in being nervous. After all, it’s just a job interview.  Lots of people do interviews every day. No one is going to die here.  I would like this job but if I don’t get it it’s no big deal.  As long as I don’t fail totally I’ll be happy getting out of there and getting on with my life

Neither of these approaches is very good. In the first scenario nerves are clearly going to get the upper hand and the inner voice will whisper:  “fail” – and will be heard. In all likelihood the inability to manage fear will damage chances of success

The second case shows a person talking down the job (which they want) and, worse perhaps, talking down his or her own ambition and abilities. This seems to be a fallback position which we all have when faced with a significant challenge. We deny to ourselves that we are nervous. We pretend that everything is fine and, for instance, instead of focusing on the challenge we look for distractions to take our mind off it.

The fact is that you have been invited to attend for interview and you have accepted.  You have a right to be there and an obligation to yourself to do your best. Nerves are a natural part of performance (an interview is a performance). So expect to be nervous, don’t let the feeling surprise you or overwhelm you and don’t pretend its not there. And, don’t be so hard on yourself.

Objectivity in Recruitment Decision-Making

There are numerous examples in research that show that many recruitment decisions are made on a hunch – despite the amount of science and technology that is used to predict good performers nowadays.Malcolm Gladwell recounts a classic example in Blink. Back in the 1970s and ’80s, most professional orchestras transitioned one by one to “blind” auditions, in which each musician seeking a job performed from behind a screen. The move was made in part to stop conductors from favoring former students, which it did. But it also produced another result: the proportion of women winning spots in the most-prestigious orchestras shot up fivefold, notably when they played instruments typically identified closely with men. Gladwell tells the memorable story of Julie Landsman, who, at the time of his book’s publication, in 2005, was playing principal French horn for the Metropolitan Opera, in New York. When she’d finished her blind audition for that role, years earlier, she knew immediately that she’d won. Her last note was so true, and she held it so long, that she heard delighted peals of laughter break out among the evaluators on the other side of the screen. But when she came out to greet them, she heard a gasp. Landsman had played with the Met before, but only as a substitute. The evaluators knew her, yet only when they weren’t aware of her gender—only, that is, when they were forced to make not a personal evaluation but an impersonal one—could they hear how brilliantly she played

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So let’s raise three cheers then for the screen, then? And praise the searing honesty of the recruitment process for musician positions?

Well yes, except that in most interview situations there is no screen between interviewer and interviewees…

 

 

The Office Party

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The Christmas office party is a great time to have some fun towards the end of the work year. But it can be a damp squib or worse, be the cause of a red-faced embarrassment the next day. So here is a simple tip on party strategy (from personal experience):

Don’t hang out with your usual crowd only. You may end up talking shop all night and boring yourselves to death or worse, spend the entire night bitching about others – and nobody wants that. Much better to mingle and meet new people from other departments. And just because someone is from Finance, for instance, does not mean your conversation must be about finance. “What are you doing for the Christmas” may not be a brilliant line but at least it gets a non-work related conversation going. Plus, you may make a new friend..

Mismatched Communication

One of my all time favourite movies is “Cool Hand Luke” and my favourite line from the move is: “what we go here is a failure to communicate”.

This line is delivered by the Boss (chain gang boss) to Luke when Luke dares to challenge his authority

The regime in this Mississippi prison allows only one of two responses to a question from a Boss:  –“yes, Boss” or “no, Boss”.  Luke does not/cannot or will not understand this and, well if you’ve seen the movie you will know the rest. If you have not seen it, you should rectify that straight away. You’ll learn a lot about communication for starters.

In the workplace failure to communicate properly is often described as a mismatched communication.  In other words, while we all have a preferred way of communicating that may not always resonate with the other person.

Think about your own communication style and consider if it helps or hinders your relationship with, for instance, your boss. If your boss is a careful and reflective communicator and you are a quick-as-lightning action man or woman, your boss may see you as impulsive and not sufficiently strategic in your thinking. You may then have a “failure to communicate”

 

What to do? Think about it. Your style may be clashing with that of your boss and that may be damaging to you.

 

If this is indeed the case, you don’t need to reinvent yourself totally but you may need to modify your communication style to create a better matched communication with your boss.

Career Stagnation in a Tight Economy

Getting stuck in a career rut can happen to anyone.  There can be a variety of reasons for getting stuck including choosing the wrong career initially, reaching a career ceiling or having advancement opportunities cut off due to recession and cutbacks. In today’s economy, it is often not possible to simply up-stakes and move from an unsatisfactory job one with much more fulfilment and better pay. So, what to do?

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One option is to stay in your current job but to change yourself – your attitude and behaviour – so that you can kickstart your career without leaving your current employer. Changing yourself does not, of course, meant that you literally become someone else and cease to be your real self. But it does mean looking at some of your behaviours in the workplace to see if they are holding you back. Remember your colleagues and bosses form their opinions of you based on the way they see you behaving. So if you can change your behaviour you can change their perception of you and open up the door to career advancement. Certainly if you do not change in some way you will continue to be stuck in a rut. As the saying goes, doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result each time, is a sure sign of madness.

Some practical examples of successful behaviour change:

  • If you have got into the habit of coming in to work late (or just in time) think about coming in a little earlier for a while. This will give you time to set goals for what you want to achieve that day and give you that “success feeling” at day’s end
  • Perhaps the usual crowd your associate with are not good for you? Maybe the group is reinforcing negative attitudes in you towards the workplace?  You don’t have to drop your friends totally but do consider if meeting some different people could give you some new thinking and impetus
  • Similarly take a look at the successful people in your company. Examine what are their behaviours (who they talk to, what their views are, and how they work) are like, and see what you can learn from them
  • Ask for feedback. Ask people you trust (not just friends) what they see as your strengths and areas that you could improve on.

Getting out of a rut is never easy. The temptation to stay put can be overwhelming. But it can be done and  it should be done

You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And you can’t get out of it – U2

 

 

Workers Drowning in Monotony

A new report gives some statistics on the issue of boredom in the workplace. It suggests that many of us are  drowning in monotony and feel we contribute little to the company. Personally I am not all that surprised by the findings – many people complain of being trapped or stuck in a job or career dead-end. The question is, as usual, what to do about it? But in the meantime the apparent waste of human potential suggested by the report is disturbing.

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According to Microsoft UK’s new report “The Daily Grind: Break the Mould

  • Most people (77%) consider a productive day in the office as just clearing their inbox of e-mail
  • Only one in seven (16%) people feel inspired by their job.
  • Less than one in ten (8%) say they’ve made any significant contribution to their employer over the last year
  •  Almost a quarter (25’%) say they have never made any major contribution to their employer.Microsoft UK’s chief envisioning officer Dave Coplin said: “Organisations that prosper have built cultures that inspire and motivate employees to deliver their best.

Who Gets Bullied?

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A recent (November 05, 2013) Bloomberg Businesssweek article reports that American football player Jonathan Martin left his team, Miami Dolphins due to alleged bullying by team mates. The reason for the bullying? Martin holds an MBA from Harvard. That seems to have displeased his colleagues who, in  the main, (I presume) are not so well educated. And so, he alleges, they bullied him.

Personally, when bullying does occur, I have almost always found it difficult to figure out why a particular person gets picked  on unfairly by colleagues.  It seems to me that neither (perceived) low status nor great talent can protect against a determined bully in the workplace.

It’s not uncommon to hear people seek a reason for the victim being bullied – rather than focusing on the bully him/herself. Sometimes there are even  attempts to explain the bullying by suggesting that somehow the victim brought the treatment on himself or herself and that if only he/she would behave differently all would  be well.

My experience, and I think that of many others, is that no amount of changed behaviour by the victim will assuage the bully from bullying

 

 

Staying Calm

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“Stay calm, just relax and be yourself” That’s the kind of advice often given to people going for a job interview.

Its good advice but easier said than done. So, here is a tip that will help.

Actors and sportspeople sometimes adopt a “power pose” prior to performance. It puts them in a high performance frame of mind and also gets rid of pre-performance (or bad) stress.

What they do is stand in front of a mirror and adopt a power pose.  A power pose can be as simple as standing strong for a few moments in front of a mirror often with feet apart, arms raised and head thrust forward.

It may feel embarrassing at first, and certainly will look somewhat look odd if done in public! (So use Ladies/Gents prior to interview?)

But with just a little practice this simple technique will ensure you enter the interview room ready to perform well – and to be yourself.