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.