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.