Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Happy Holidays!

For many in the UK, the Christmas and New Year holiday is one of the biggest and best of the year. It comes at a time when we feel exhausted, daylight is at its shortest and the weather is at its grimiest.

Christmas and New Year celebrations cheers us up and the holidays themselves give us a much needed break. Even the most diligent and passionate career managers can take a break during this time. The parties and the respites in between playing a role in our re-focused thinking when the new year begins.

To anyone reading and to everyone who has supported me and this blog over the last year, I say a genuine Thank You. I will be back in the New Year after a short break from blogging.

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a healthy, happy and personally successful 2009!


Friday, 19 December 2008

Career decision-making and unfamiliarity

As with the example On networking, one individual can be at ease but the person next to them uncomfortable in exactly the same setting. Feeling at ease or uncomfortable can depend on individual factors like preparedness, experience and familiarity. Using the example of familiarity, facing the same situation a number of times can help us improve our response to it.

My earliest response to career decision-making was to get it out of the way as soon as possible. Thankfully, my perspective changed because I discovered that one of the hallmarks of good career management is the ability to identify and react to opportunities, even in unfamiliar situations or during difficult times.

A recent example here in the UK can be found in the responses to Woolworth's collapse. Most reactions to Woolworth’s plight have been negative but a handful of people have responded more positively with rescue bids and recovery plans. The suggestion here isn’t that we all need to be entrepreneurs to manage our careers successfully but the attitude embodied by the positive responses to the Woolworth’s situation provides useful insight. Some people see bad news, others see career opportunities.

It’s not only by chance that career opportunities fall to the individuals who realise they are in the right place at the right time. Oliver's story is a good example of attitude creating opportunity because Oliver saw the career potential in a situation that he could have easily viewed less positively.

If you have any comments, or have had a similar experience to Oliver, it would be great to hear it!

Enjoy your weekend!

Best Regards


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Analysing and predicting career success

My apologies for not posting sooner but the pre-Christmas rush has really kicked in for me over the last few weeks. I did find the time to read a great article today on the subject of selection, recruitment and training for success: Most Likely to Succeed.

The article looks at best-practices in the selection and development of financial advisors, comparing them with lessons being learned about talent and success in the disciplines of teaching and pro-American football. Education and professional sports might seem careers so far apart that comparisons between them are abstract at best but, as the author's analysis fluently points out, common to both professions is the fact that past experience is no reliable predictor of future success.

This article also suggests that teacher quality has the heaviest influence on pupil performance - greater even than class-size or overall school reputation. If you are like me, you might also be left thinking about the level of discipline - and somewhat Darwinian nature - behind success as a financial advisor in the best-in-class environment in the example. The 'new-to-me' fact that impressed me most however is that all quarterbacks drafted into the NFL have to sit a mandatory IQ test (the Wonderlic Personnel Test) and that a high score in this test does not directly relate to a successful career as an NFL quarterback. This relationship is definitely something that the industries of education and sports could learn from as they both strive to improve levels of professional success.

Finishing this post as it was started, I send my apologies to Malcolm Gladwell for borrowing so much from his work lately but his recent comparisons and insights on the subject of success fit so well with the central themes of this blog. Until this changes or MG personally tells me to stop, my aim is to continue :)

As always, thank you for reading and commenting!

Best Regards


Friday, 12 December 2008

On networking

I am thankful that my work enables me to meet new and interesting people all of the time but I am still a little uncomfortable networking in a room full of people. I was invited to an event yesterday which began with the familiar sight of a large crowd, all happily chatting together like old friends. Yesterday I was rescued by a couple of gents who made it all look easy. They introduced themselves to me in turn and the conversation flowed from there.

Because they were so at ease, I asked for their thoughts about what makes a good networker. One answer focused on the attitude you have towards the room. “It’s like giving a speech at a wedding. You feel a little nervous at first but then you realise you have world’s most willing audience. They want you to succeed.” So, networking in a room full of people is made easier because no-one you approach will ever ignore you. Everyone is there to meet new people like you (or in this case me).

The second answer was a little more introspective. “Belong in the room. If you are nervous or uncomfortable it shows. I first came to events like this over forty years ago. One thing I wish I knew from the start was that I deserved to be there as much as anyone else!”

In career management and job search, networking and relationship building takes many forms. To be successful you have to communicate effectively via email, over the phone, through your CV/resume, at interview and - occasionally - in a room full of people.

The most successful people I have worked with (from a career management perspective) are those individuals who communicate well across all available media. They are never experts at everything when they begin but they work on their weaknesses, improving their performance in the numerous disciplines.

Successful career managers also communicate consistently and with meaning, especially on the subject of their values, talents and goals. They ensure that after any encounter, the other party knows what is important to them, where their strengths lie and what their aims are for the future.

If they happen to read this post, I send my sincere thanks to the experts who shared their knowledge and experience with me yesterday and, in doing so, made me feel welcome in their company. When the next event comes around, their words will be among the first things I have with me when I walk into the room.

Enjoy your weekend!

Best Regards


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

In praise of: Twitter

If you haven't come across it already, Twitter is a website that enables you to tell your friends, family and anyone else online, what you are doing in 140 characters or less. It's like sending a post card except you can post as often as you like and you don’t have to be on holiday.

Innovative communication and networking sites like Twitter are changing job search and career management beyond recognition. For example, employers and recruiters post jobs on Twitter. Some ask directly for the skills they need in real-time, broadcasting their requirements to a live network for immediate answer. At the same time, individual people talk about career and work issues. Engaging their live network of friends, colleagues and fellow twitterers around the world to gain new perspectives, poll opinions and get help.

Of course, Twitter is not just for work and career chat but its growing use in this way, and the way its users and developers continue to find exciting ways to harness the technology, creates new opportunities and advantages with the potential to benefit us all.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Career Management and Communication

Some careers are rich with achievement. Some successes appear so complex they can take a while to appreciate. Some individuals revel in their success being beyond the understanding of all but their most senior colleagues in business.

Other individuals are completely at ease when talking about their work to a wide range of people. The most complicated and intricate tasks are made easy to understand. Delicate issues that took weeks or even years to resolve are explained in calm, even tones and nothing is beyond anyone’s comprehension.

Communication that serves great leadership might feel effortless but it is also accurate, concise and assured. Our communication can learn and borrow from those who employ it with such skill and aim for simplicity, accuracy and assurance itself. This is especially true in our personal career management activity.

No-one is better placed than ourselves to communicate clearly on the subject of our careers and our individual relationship with work. Improving our definition of personal success can give us some of the assurance that the most successful leaders employ in their mastery of communication. The opportunity exists to add - one-by-one - to the number of people who can talk at ease and with authority about their personal success.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Career choice is critical

"I didn't suddenly think I could master whatever I put my mind to but I did start to question what I believed I was capable of. Little by little, I realised that more was possible. That I could ask more questions to discover what I was really interested in."
"Instead of just accepting what was offered, I started to focus on the choices available to me. It sounds like a simplification but I just made choices based on their potential to move me in the career direction that interested me the most."
"In my opinion, the most valuable asset we have in our careers is choice. Choice was also the thing I was most wasteful with, but not any more."

I apologise that this story is told anonymously but it is the only way some insights can be shared. I would normally add a footnote too but in this case it feels a bit like eating a sandwich after a gourmet meal.

Have a great weekend!

Best Regards


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Ash's story - Career Decision Success!

It seems like ages ago but Ash's story was one of the first case studies on this blog. This story was one of deliberate career change because it was driven by the choice Ash made to continue his entrepreneurial career even though a big corporate role was offered to him.

Career change can be forced upon us (redundancies are a good example of this) but there are also times when we have a clear choice to make. For much of his career Ash had worked towards the big corporate leadership role he was offered last year. Despite this and despite the more uncertain future he chose to continue, Ash knew that his small, start-up venture presented him with challenges, excitement and opportunity that couldn't be matched anywhere else. Not even in a job that a few years ago he even dreamt about having!

So what of the update? Well, Ash's business has made great headway since we last saw him on this blog and his future is looking brighter than ever. My explanation for this is Ash's career choices have aligned with his values, talents and goals, allowing an improved definition of personal success. Ash puts it down to his industry expertise, creativity, hard work and a lot of luck.

At a push the two of us are happy to agree that in this case we are both right!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Judging career success

When you talk to people about their careers, they may speak in general terms at first but conversations can quickly become deeper and replies get more personal and more meaningful as a result. The next time you are talking about your career or making career decisions, it might help to think about some of the following sentiments.

“My career is ideal for anyone who values their time.”
“I want to end my career with a bang!”
“Freelance work pays the bills but it’s not what I want for the rest of my career.”
“Companies are interested in my experience but I’m no longer enthusiastic about work and it shows.”
“I need a job right now but I don’t want to take anything that will damage my career prospects in the future.”
“It won’t make me rich but I have never been happier at work.”

Looking back on our careers to see how satisfied we are with our achievements, I would argue that the judgement that carries the most meaning is the one we make privately. Traditionally, this was a judgement most people made later in life or on retirement. Today, changes in employer/employee relationships have encouraged a greater number of individuals to take responsibility for their choices at an earlier stage in their careers.

As in the past, we can wait to judge the relative success of our careers when we look back on our achievements later in life. Alternatively, we can look to ourselves earlier in our careers to establish and confirm a personal definition of success and its greater potential for satisfaction and fulfilment over time.

It takes genuine bravery to admit that you don’t know what you want to happen next in your career. The reward for doing so - the only sure-thing if you prefer - is that from the moment you place yourself in this position, you begin to learn invaluable lessons about your career and your individual definition personal success.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Career advantages you already possess

Among other things career related, this blog attempts to support careers and job searches with planning that is mindful of short and long-term objectives. When I am asked why this is a preferable approach I like to use examples of how and why this has worked for people in the past.

It can also be useful to compare job search and career management activity to something an individual knows well. For example, if you are a project manager you should be used to resolving varied and complex missions into their component tasks and objectives. Similarly, professional researchers often have an advantage because changes in direction and discoveries made ‘along the way’ are familiar to research and job search.

No two careers are identical so finding a universal comparison for managing careers is no easy task. What is true for all of us however, is that we can influence the direction of our career and that our influence is boosted when it calls upon the personal and professional assets we already possess.

We aren’t all hot-shot project managers or go-getting researchers but we can use the skills and experiences we have earned so far, apply them to the benefit of our careers and build our own definition of personal success.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

In praise of: Malcolm Gladwell

Last night I saw Malcolm Gladwell in London, talking about his new book, Outliers: The Story of Success. With the added bonus of sitting next to one of his Mum's friends, the talk was an interesting and enjoyable one.

The central story last night wasn't so much about success but its focus on an aeroplane crash did serve as an example of what can be learned from failure. I'm no reviewer but I felt that this event was relevant to the subject matter on this blog because, whether you agree with his conclusions or not, Gladwell's at times forensic attention to case study and detail is a superior one to emulate. Even when it doesn't shed light in the area we expect it to, analysis and questioning rarely fails to offer up useful insight.

I am looking forward to reading Outliers as it contains food for thought for anyone attempting to define success or learn from failure and in the context of career management, both are central to the pursuit of satisfaction and fulfilment from work.

Friday, 21 November 2008

In career choice, less always means more

Kicking off a job search can be a daunting task because it is often the time when the greatest variety of career choice seems open to us.

The mission for those of us who have been in this position - and for those of us who are facing it now - is not only to narrow our range of career choices but to complete this narrowing process without damaging our longer-term career prospects. In other words, the aim is to define career choices with the greatest potential for satisfaction and fulfilment over time.

Traditional job search advice supports us with tried and tested tactical wisdom. We receive advice on answering interview questions, preparing our CV/resume, using the Internet in our search as well as the wide variety of recruitment services available to us on and off-line. This advice is all very helpful and many of us can point to past successes thanks to support, hints, and tips of this nature.

But, tactical job search advice finds it harder to answer questions like, What should I do with my career from here? What work does my experience qualify me for? What career or job will I find most rewarding? Where can my career go after redundancy? as well as old interview favourites such as, What will I be doing in 5 years time?

Until recently, questions like these were up to the individual to answer as best as they can.

The good news is, career management that looks to provide individuals with the ability to answer these questions is now much more accessible. As an example, the decision support and case studies on this blog talk regularly about defining personal success through understanding an individual’s values, talents and goals.

As this definition of personal success emerges, career choices begin to define themselves more clearly at the same time. The overwhelming variety of career-choice at the start of your job search can be narrowed and all without the harmful, narrowing effect on opportunity. Perhaps more importantly though, the potential for your career and your relationship with work to deliver satisfaction and fulfilment over time is directly increased as a result because the choices you make today are made in context with the preferred direction you are defining for your future.

As always, you comments and questions are welcomed on this subject or anything else career related. Enjoy your weekend wherever you are!

Best Regards


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

You’re way ahead, you just don’t know it yet...

What would you say to someone managing their job search right now but feeling like the odds are against them? First you might say that a job search is one of the most complex, tiring and all-encompassing projects that anyone can manage.

The most complex project is arguably the overall management of your career. Even the most dedicated and skilful project managers will have few tasks of an equivalent magnitude. What else calls on them - or us for that matter - to span 30+ years and deal with such a huge range of inputs and variables: human, analytical, technical and emotional for instance. So, to recap on the first point, managing your job search is no easy task.

The second point is even more easy to overlook because it is the notion that wherever you are in your career and your search, if you are attempting to manage this process, you are already way ahead of where you think you are. But, most of us don’t feel this when we are searching, so how can it be true?

It is true because career change is not something most individuals make a conscious effort to manage. When managing a job search, many of us convince ourselves that each additional day we are searching loses us more ground. That inside or outside of work, we are falling back farther and farther. That the longer our search takes us, the harder we will have to work to catch up or get back to where we were.

The reality of our situation is often the opposite because - to effectively manage our job search - we as individuals are already sitting on information that can assist us with our career decision-making. This essential career-management information can be identified and interpreted via our individual values, talents and goals and their ability to define the version of work/life success that is personal to us and to us alone.

If you are managing your job search right now, you can be sure that you are not the only one finding it difficult. You can also be sure that you are way ahead of where you thought you were. Not only in terms of managing your career opportunities and decision-making [in support of your immediate ‘back-to-work’ priorities] but also in support of an effort that defines your individual version of personal success and the greater potential for satisfaction and fulfilment that this holds.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Self-leadership and belief

Belief can be created in other people but only after you have belief in yourself. Belief in oneself can be misplaced but it can also be identified, qualified and rightfully earned. In the context of career management, self-belief [properly identified, qualified and earned] can help with progress towards personal success and the greater potential for fulfilment and satisfaction this holds.

Belief that contributes to self-leadership can be created when our values (what is important to us), talents (what we are good at) and goals (what keeps us going) are supported both internally and externally. When this is the case, belief can function as a tangible asset to an individual’s confidence in career decision-making situations, enabling career opportunities to be managed more effectively.

Belief that supports decision-making is an essential component of successful career management. It can help individuals to overcome obstacles, deal with rejection, learn from their mistakes and defend their choices, among other things. With beliefs linked to our values, talents and goals, self-leadership and the ultimate career aim of personal success can be present alongside our immediate priorities in the career choices and opportunity situations we encounter every day.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

When failure defines success

Events are sometimes labelled successes long before their wider implications are known. Business leaders have pointed to growth, profitability and healthy balance sheets as live indicators of success, only for the next set of the same indicators to show their gains as short-lived. The boom and bust of the early dot-com companies are examples of successes labelled too soon.

Failure can also be applied as a label too soon but can it really help to define success? Career decision-making is an example where both can be true. Career decision-making is something most of us face in imperfect situations, often without all of the facts to hand. As a result, our decisions can lead to situations we later find out are not right for us - or more positively - situations we feel compelled to improve.

Failure can be too harsh and too early a judgement but - perhaps more importantly - understanding failure can be a positive process for its ability to help us define success. Past career decisions that have led to situations we would like to change are actually an asset. Knowing you are in the wrong job increases the likelihood of successful decision making in the future. Particularly when this knowledge is explored within the context of the values, talents and goals that define our individual relationship with work.

The ultimate aim of career decision-making and career management is to deliver a healthy relationship with work, as well as work that an individual is satisfied with. When this is the case a more meaningful version of personal success can be defined with the help of the decisions and events that we and others previously labelled as failures.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Norris's story: Redundancy/Layoff in a Team

"I was part of a small, close-knit team who faced redundancy together. In my case this didn't mean all of us were made redundant, it meant that the four of us who worked alongside each other every day were put in a room, told that two were being cut and that we should decide between us who stays and who goes. It's hard to describe how that felt at the time. We knew that two of us would be going but worse in a way was knowing that the two who stayed would do so at the expense of their buddies."

Survivor guilt is usually associated with events more traumatic than redundancy but survivor guilt in some form is at work in the above example. Redundancies affect people directly and indirectly and it is not always so easy to decide who comes off worse. Those who remain as employees don't automatically avoid the negative affects of redundancy or layoff.

In Norris's example this redundancy process didn't offer satisfactory support to those on either side. Much worse though was the way those managing the process tried to absolve themselves from the critical decision of who stays and who goes. That decision was left for the subjects to decide between themselves. Norris's story will be continued on this blog because it is an interesting case study of a poorly managed redundancy process and the improvements that interventions offer today can be highlighted as a result.

In the meantime - without giving away the ending - it is enough to say that all four individuals involved in this story can look back on the experience from an improved position today. Underlining the fact that even poorly managed redundancy processes can have little in the way of long-term, negative effects.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

100th post: Thanks and a rewind

This is the 100th post on the work/life fusion blog. No big deal when you consider how long others have been out there but I never thought I’d post 10 times let alone 100. To celebrate this unexpected, mini-milestone, I wanted to do two things. First and foremost, to say thank you to everyone who has been a supporter over the last 6 months or so. My genuine thanks go to friends, family, colleagues, fellow bloggers, commenters and of course you who have taken the time to visit and read a post or two.

Secondly, I wanted to rewind and post on one of the subjects that prompted this blog in the first place. The belief that compartmentalising work and life - as in the example of work/life balance - creates conflict and so is obstructive to career development, satisfaction and fulfilment. Before you say it, I know that my work needs snappier and more interesting titles, so I apologise in advance if you feel your interest waning. If you can't bring yourself to go any further, I’ll say thanks once again for your support. Hope to see you again soon!

Work/life balance creates unnecessary obstacles in the way it separates work and life. Even in an ideal, hypothetical situation, the model professional that you are at work is impossible to meaningfully separate from the stand-up person you are at home. We are all one and the same and no effort to divide us along the lines of work and ‘life outside of work’ will achieve any different.

What work/life separation does achieve is conflict. Even for those who become highly adept at balancing work and life, the struggle to find and keep this equilibrium becomes an exhausting overhead in the end. Dr Steven Poelmans of the IESE Business School in Spain has studied work/family conflict in a range of organisational and individual situations and agrees with something more akin to work/life harmony as a solution.

Harmonising work and life does require attention but the rewards benefit our work/life experience as a whole. As individuals, our lives are governed by fundamental values, talents and goals common to work and life. It can feel like an alien concept at first but - using values as an example - the way you treat people in your career and in your 'life outside of work' shares something at its core. That may be something as simple as the respect you show to every individual you meet.

Whatever they are in each individual case, our fundamental work/life values, talents and goals can be understood. Creating the potential for personal, work/life success that separation and balance could not even dream of.


Please feel free to email or comment if you would like to join in and move the discussion forward. Here’s to the next few posts and to still being around when the total reaches 200!

Best Regards for now,


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Change we can believe in

This isn't a current affairs/political blog but I'm breaking that rule because last night's US election result is historic for too many reasons to list.

Breaking more conventions of this blog, I'm not going to rattle on about the seismic career change that Mr Obama will experience or his successes in the areas of self-leadership, opportunity management and personal success.

For many people inside the US and around the world, this election result will be warmly welcomed. The depth of this feeling was brought home when I received a text message at 4am [UK time] from a friend in New York. All it said was "OBAMA!!!!!". As a summary of the moment, I think that says it all.

Monday, 3 November 2008

More about redundancy and layoff

Redundancies - or layoffs as they are called in the US - are becoming a more popular topic. In the US and the UK, Google searches for "Redundancies" and "Layoffs" have tripled in the last 12 months alone. This recent post on the BBC News website - Employers predict redundancy rise - is another example of what the UK employment market expects.

Redundancies/Layoffs have been the subject of a number of posts on this blog since it began. These posts have focused on individual experiences [Alex's story], personal opinion [Redundancy - A personal view] and traditional versus innovative business responses [Challenging the outplacement response to redundancy].

Posts on this blog have highlighted the positive outcomes of redundancy/layoff and the opportunities individuals have created in such situations. They have also tried to highlight the potential that is still resident for employers when redundancy/layoff situations are managed well and approached from a broader perspective. The aim here was not to ignore the hardship that can surround redundancy/layoff when it happens. Recovering from layoff or redundancy can be difficult and support in one form or another is often required. But, despite the difficulties redundancy has traditionally created, there are still opportunities and the individual stories of career development and job satisfaction that began with a layoff are testimony to that.

In the coming months the aim is to add more redundancy success stories - both individual and organisational - for you to read here. Where possible these stories will be told by people in their own words and there will be the opportunity for Q&A via comment too.

If you have a comment, a story or a question on the subject of redundancies/layoffs, please email it to worklifefusion[at]googlemail[dot]com. No story will be used without prior consent and any published posts guarantee the anonymity of all involved.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Career management, Self-leadership & Personal success

Google any of the above terms and you will find lively opinion from a variety of sources in your results. Some are in-depth, multi-faceted academic studies. Others showcase business services aimed at support and development. Some are the experiences or opinions of one individual but are no less interesting or informative for that reason. For the sake of an argument, what if you arrived at this blog after searching Career Management, Self-leadership or Personal Success. What would the message be here?

The underlying message would be that the three are connected. Career Management forms the context for this connection. Career Management combined with self-leadership enables the individual to set the agenda and the direction for their career. Self-leadership alone does not guarantee career satisfaction but when it is combined with Personal Success - that is success defined by an individual's values, talents and goals - self-leadership takes on the potential to deliver meaningful work and fulfilment.

Many people lead and manage their careers successfully: gaining promotions, pay increases, growing responsibility and status: but for success to have personal meaning - for it to leave us satisfied with our efforts, happy with our impact on others, proud of our achievements - the management of our careers needs something more. That something can be better understood by defining our own, unique version of personal success. Allowing us to apply self-leadership in the direction of purpose and fulfilment.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Opportunity management V - Mutual benefit

The last post on opportunity management - Opportunity management IV - talked about recognising the situations that present us with choice but what really enables the recognition part of this equation? Recently I have been working with an individual whose ability to recognise situations for their opportunity potential is exemplary. So how does she do it?

As well as a positive, engaging outlook, an absence of fear is definitely at work. This does not imply recklessness but it does mean that she asks questions freely and her intentions are out in the open. 

This means that the active conversation not only being the subject at hand but the chief motivation for the conversation as well. In other words, the subject contains the opportunity and its potential is already being explored (as opposed to the conversation being a subtext for a hidden agenda).

Recognising opportunities relies on an interest in the subjects you discuss and a two-way dialogue that illuminates on both sides. In situations like this - thanks to the example of outstanding professionals - relevant, mutual opportunities are much less likely to be missed.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Prem's story: Short & Long-term career planning

Here is a quick story from Prem about a career planning strategy that needed to answer immediate priorities but at the same time ensure that progress was being made towards a longer term objective.

Prem wanted to break into a new career but found it difficult and kept being rejected. Looking back at his initial job search activity with hindsight, it was clear that Prem was putting his new career objective ahead of what the job market saw him as qualified to do. There was a whole section of the market that was being ignored by this 'destination first' career advice he had been following.

Prem realised that a better plan of attack was to work with the market and target the jobs and companies that were interested in him but make it clear to them he had plans to develop in a certain direction. Finding a new employer who would support him in this aim was no simple task but - with his existing market qualifications and personal commitment to a career development plan that could benefit his new employer as well - it became a challenge that he was qualified and equipped to meet immediately.

The good news is that Prem is out there in the job market at the moment and the tide is already turning in his favour. Prem's story - even though it is told anonymously here - should be an inspiration to anyone looking to manage and develop their career in the short and long-term future. Good luck as your search continues Prem!


work/life fusion now shares reciprocal links with JibberJobber.com. Not only is JibberJobber a great blog about managing your career and job search activity, it is also a tool that actively helps you to do the same. This recent blog post - DO NOT Lose Faith In Yourself - talks about managing your job search through challenging times and shares interesting direct experiences too!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Boulos's story: Job satisfaction

Job satisfaction is tricky to understand. The earlier Job satisfaction post on this blog looks at the difficulty analysing it, how it can be disguised and - for those lucky enough to find it - how uplifting it can be.

Here is another brief, first-person account, this time on the subject of seeking and finding job satisfaction.

Boulos says, "I did find some job satisfaction in my previous career. I won promotions, got increases in pay and went on interesting assignments but there were also negative aspects that weren't being addressed. The work that interested me most kept pulling me away from what my employer wanted for me. In the end, this wasn't something that titles, money and travel could distract me from. I ended up taking a big risk to further my studies and turn the direction of my career towards the work I wanted the most."

Boulos goes on to say, "I wouldn't advise anyone to do what I did. I was lucky to have a boss who supported me and I now know the same can be achieved without putting so much at risk. Start with the work that interests you most and talk to as many people as you can about it, friends, family, colleagues, anyone. In the end you'll find partners who will help you along the way and make sure the steps you take are supported."

Boulos's story could be described as an attempt to define personal success. Boulos hung in for the work he wanted because the alternative was one that ultimately didn't satisfy. His progress could have been made easier with an earlier focus on his values, talents and goals - which could have helped him define his route and partnerships more clearly. But - and it is a worthy but - his conclusions on finding the right partners and his success in achieving the job satisfaction he sought will find no challenge here.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Managing career change

Career change comes with unique challenges but a great deal of lasting importance can be learned about our individual relationship with work when change is chosen or forced upon us. Moments of career change can also be the best time to apply career learning based on our hard-won, personal experiences.

Individuals who deal with career change well are able to do so because they understand their current situation as well as their preferred direction for the future. These best-in-class 'Opportunity Managers' understand the pros and cons of their current job, how it might be improved and where they would like it to take them.

When new opportunities come along, their relative merits can be assessed in the same context, allowing critical questions to be answered faster and with greater relevance. Questions like, How is this new job an improvement? How does it affect my current commitments? What additional experiences will I gain? How will it help my long-term objectives move forward?

With a clearer understanding of what is important to you, what you are good at and what you want more of in the future, career change can be managed within the context of personal success. For anyone new to this blog, personal success is the version of success that you define through your values, talents and goals.

Acquiring this knowledge, applying it to your current situation and referring to it in your ongoing career decision making, enables career change to be managed - along best-in-class lines - with your preferences in mind.


Email or comment with your career change scenarios, questions or success stories to help the debate move forward. My thanks to everyone for reading, Paul.

Friday, 17 October 2008

work/life balance wobbles some more...

This post on The Times AlphaMummy blog - Work-life balance - Everybody wants it, nobody has a clue how to get it [specifically point 1 about work/life balance] - reminded me of the first set of posts that got this blog started. Back then this blog was about the career planning and decision making questions work/life balance was failing to answer.

The intention wasn't to start with a negative story. Work/life balance has been enormously useful to organisations and individuals since it was first coined as a term in the 1970s. Among other things it forced employers to think about the intrusion of work into the personal lives of their employees. It also gave individuals the chance to recognise the importance of their commitments and interests outside of work and how they might be protected.

What was always beyond work/life balance however, was the ability to understand and rationalise the relationship between work and 'non-work' in individual cases. This blog set out to explore the subject further, test new solutions and support career planning and decision making for positive outcomes.

In thinking about what comes after work/life balance, employers and employees are authoring a new chapter in the story of work/life relationships and the most exciting progress is being made right now.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Oliver's story: Internal promotion

This is Oliver's description of managing a recent career development opportunity, told briefly in his own words: "I worked in the operations team but always wanted to work on the investment side. With help I was able to leverage my experience and gain the relevant experience without the title, to the point that I have now secured a role on the investment team."

So, what did Oliver do from a career management perspective? First, he objectified his intention to move from a support role to his employer's core business function. Once this goal was established, Oliver could interpret and manage situations for their ability to help him achieve this aim. This meant that when he was asked to take on additional workload and responsibility in a crisis, it was easier for him to see it as a proving ground for his talents. If he performed well it would be another qualifying step towards his goal of internal promotion.

Looking back on these events, on the subject of careers advice Oliver said: "I have used career services before and have generally been disappointed. I found that traditionally, such advice is focused purely on how to progress externally so it offered little help in my situation."

Oliver's experiences also prove how close opportunities for internal development can be. He was already in a position of trust within his employer's business. Demonstrating that he could be relied upon when the company needed him most confirmed his greater potential within the business and gave his managers the opportunity they needed to realise this too.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Career perspectives

Dictionary.com defines perspective as, 'the faculty of seeing all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship'. Perspective can also mean, 'the choice of a single point of view from which to sense, categorize, measure or codify experience' (Wiktionary.com). The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary simply calls perspective, 'a particular way of considering something'.

Perspective in the context of career planning is essential to success and all of these definitions play a part. The ability to see all relevant data is important but almost impossible to achieve without outside help. For example, you may be convinced that you are the best candidate for a job but that conviction needs to be shared externally in order for you to be successful.

Perspective as a single point of view is vital to a healthy relationship with work. If you are not happy in your career it doesn't matter how many other people envy your position, your sense of fulfilment or ability to achieve personal success is greatly reduced.

Personal success is a particular way of considering success. Not better or worse in comparison to anyone else, just appropriate to your unique perspective.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Knowledge, choice and understanding

No one is born with knowledge of work. Knowledge of work is something we have all acquired. In acquiring our knowledge of work we all make choices. For example, some choose to be doctors or teachers and acquire knowledge appropriate to these professions.

Admittedly, the choices for some are more limited than others but even limited choice does not change the fact that our knowledge of work is largely dictated by what we have chosen. Choice has played a large part in your understanding regardless of whether you have chosen to understand corporate finance, global investment markets, JIT manufacturing processes or people and business leadership.

So if knowledge is the result of a choice to understand, choosing to understand is a critical, early step in knowledge accumulation. To steal from an old maxim, if power lies in knowledge maybe understanding lies in choice?

Don't worry, all of this unsophisticated wordplay does have a point. The reason behind the above is to test the following statement: When choice - even limited choice - is available, knowledge and understanding are available too. The choice to understand your relationship with work - and the knowledge that this choice can create - is therefore within reach of us all.

So says the theory at least...!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Career Decision Making: The longer term view

In any decision making there are always essential, short-term priorities to be considered. For long-term plans to be successful, they must be able to interpret and adjust to everyday events. If they fail to do this, decision making begins to lose its relevance or, worse still, the long term plan becomes obsolete. Career decision making is a good example of planning that needs to be alive to the moment but also mindful of longer term aims.

For instance, you might be offered a promotion but you had planned on retiring in a few years time. Flexing your retirement plan to accept the promotion might be the decision that serves you best before and after you retire. Without the ability for your long-term plan to change, taking the promotion is out of the question and all of its positive effects are placed out of reach.

Good career planning should move us closer to what we want in the future by enabling better decision making in the present. A clearer understanding of our values, talents and goals can move us closer to personal success, one decision at a time.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

work/life: A long term relationship

One advantage in working with the same people over time is that you get to know them very well. You learn to appreciate what people/colleagues/friends are good at, where they need help, what situations or tasks they would rather avoid. All the while they are learning the same about you. In the long run, good relationships are lasting while those that challenge without reward tend to fall away.

Relationships that last don't always do so through everyday contact. Sometimes there are prolonged gaps between encounters but you always recognise a good relationship because that call out of the blue or chance meeting can be uplifting for some time afterward. It can lead to more regular contact in the future as well.

There are similarities in the way we as individuals relate to work. Sometimes our relationship with work isn't easy and we don't feel rewarded. Occasionally there can be a separation we would like to avoid -- redundancy is a good example of this.

Through the good times and bad, our relationship with work is one we are tied to for the length of our career. For this reason alone, it helps us to work through the difficulties and learn what we can to make the relationship work.

Just like good relationships created with colleagues and friends over time, a successful relationship with work can be achieved through an appreciation of what is important to you, where your strengths lie and what keeps you going. Values, talents and goals defining personal success.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Redundancy: Is there a positive future?

Some employers are quick to turn to redundancies when times get tough. The business case often used is: 1. We need to cut costs. 2. People are a big cost. 3. Let's get rid of some people.

Making people redundant is viewed as a risk but that risk is believed to be overshadowed by the need for business survival. In other words, without the cost saving of redundancies the business will fail.

There are undoubtedly circumstances where this is true but also true is the underestimation of the risk that redundancies pose to the business. Alongside this underestimation of risk on the part of the employer is an over-experiencing of difficulty by the individuals being made redundant.

Today's Times Online article - The day I was made redundant - is a good example. It describes the difficulties of the redundancy experience from an individual's point of view as well as the hit-and-miss nature of the organisational support on offer. So how could the experience be different on both sides?

Employers can identify the faults in their traditional responses and act with targeted solutions in mind. Employees can be offered support that helps them embrace and manage the opportunities that changing circumstances create for them. Risk and opportunity on both sides can be managed more effectively. Agreements can be made that address priorities within the context of success as seen from all sides.

For sure, redundancy will never be a perfect experience but it could be given a future more positive than its negative history might suggest.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Laura's story: Career Inspiration

Every now and then - almost without fail - a personal story about work comes along that is just plain inspiring. Such stories are hard to do justice when they are re-told because the person telling their own story brings it to life best. I hope the following story doesn't lose too much in translation. 

Laura's family had a successful restaurant business. She worked in the restaurants from an early age and loved the interaction with the customers and being part of the team. She was talented, hard-working and the natural choice to lead the business in the future. After leaving school everyone expected Laura to continue in the family business but to their surprise, she turned this down to pursue a career elsewhere.

After carving out a successful entrepreneurial career in property development, having a family, buying several houses at home and abroad - all without family assistance - Laura had reached a key moment in her career. After a lot of thought, she surprised everyone again, this time by choosing to join the family business.

This story has been simplified a great deal but although it misses the vibrancy of its original telling it can still inspire. This is because it demonstrates a number of attributes essential to a successful relationship with work: determination, commitment, self-sacrifice, humility, self-direction, clarity of thought, the list could go on. But, more than any of these, Laura's story demonstrates the value of exploring your relationship with work at a fundamental level.

Laura could have easily taken the job in her family's business and been very successful but she realised - at an earlier age than most - that success without personal meaning isn't enough. Laura wanted to prove to herself that she was the best candidate to lead the family business and that this career choice was relevant to her values, talents and goals once she understood them better. Laura's reward is the knowledge that a genuine connection did exist and that with it comes a greater chance of success with personal meaning and a far more rewarding relationship with work.