Monday, 20 December 2010

William's 1,000 Job Applications

William made 1,000 job applications in 13 weeks

For all his effort he only got 1 reply and that was a 'No'.

Numbers like these are more than disappointing. What makes them even worse is that William achieved them on an 'intensive job-searching course', which means he was under someone else's care. A company or a group of professional people who were supposed to be helping him and his job search.

Despite the negligence and unprofessionalism of everyone involved with William's intensive course, these numbers hide something positive and encouraging that now belongs to William - and can belong to anyone else who has experienced something similar on a job search.

By any measure, 1,000 applications in 13 weeks is an impressive workload. It shows real effort and determination on William's part. He could have given up after 500 applications. Many people on the same course did nothing like his total, let alone half of it. If there was any failure it wasn't in William's effort and persistence.

Here's another failure William can't take the blame for. He was encouraged to send out as many applications as he could. 'It's a numbers game' he was told. 'If you send enough emails and letters and make enough calls, something will come back'. Empty statements like this are hard to argue with, especially when they're coming from an 'expert' or a 'professional'.

William was encouraged to make as many applications as he could instead of trying to make every application count. At the end of his 13 weeks there was no way for William to tell how many applications even reached a real person at the other end. There was no attempt to measure anything he could follow up on. There were no connections or interactions for William to learn from. There was nothing coming back the other way at all.

A job search is much more than racking up numbers and, as William's experience shows, it is much more than effort and persistence too. A job search is built around a combination of many things but somewhere close to the heart there has to be the knowledge, the feeling even, that we are making progress. We need something to measure and therefore prove that the applications we make add up to more than just a number.

William will never repeat this experience on his job search again (maybe this was one more valuable thing he learnt on this course?). From now on he isn't measuring his effort or his job search by the numbers. William no longer thinks will have to make another 1,000 applications and I agree with him. That's because instead of vast numbers of job applications, William is now focused on the people he is able to meet and talk to one at a time. He's also much more focused on the work he is able to do. The skills, experiences and qualifications he has earned over the years, the skills and experiences that will help him get back to work.

William's job search is now focused on much smaller numbers. He talks to people about the company they work for, the job they might be offering, the qualities in the person they are looking for, the skills and experience they need. William's job search might only be moving forward in single figures but they are now based on real conversations, genuine connections and personal interactions. His job search will still take time but he now has proof of his progress. Maybe a statistic on a spreadsheet somewhere won't show a big enough number but in William's opinion that's just something else he doesn't have to take the blame for.

* * * * *
This post has also been published on

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Why we fight

Some fight work, others fight for work

I have definitely done both in my career

What about you?

Looking out to St Just
[Image courtesy of
Brron on]

Fighting work is a losing battle

Fighting for work comes from the heart.

There's no guarantee of a win on either side

But only fighting for work is worthwhile,

For the work it delivers in the end

And any work we get along the way.

* * * * *

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Proof that You're Making Progress

Everything we do on a job search counts towards the final goal

Every effort, every rejection, every unreturned email and phone call plays its own unique part in the end result.

It doesn't feel that way sometimes

But those feelings couldn't be further from the truth.

Infinity: The art of reflection [Image courtesy of Mrs Logic on Flickr]

Let me make a comparison,

In October 2008 I said the following on this blog...

When choice - even limited choice - is available,
knowledge and understanding are available too.

Reading it back today, what I really wanted to say was this...

Our choices always teach us something.

I'm still the same person but for some reason I'm now a bit clearer. A little bit sharper and more to the point.

[By the way, I could choose from a hundred other examples that show the same thing. How "No one is born with knowledge of work. Knowledge of work is something we have all acquired." now becomes "Anyone can learn anything about work." How "Personal success is a particular way of considering success. Not better or worse in comparison to anyone else, just appropriate to your unique perspective." can be simplified to "Measure success by the way it makes you feel."]

If I hadn't said or done any of the above, and then looked back to see how to improve it, I wouldn't be able to prove that you can make the same progress.

When it feels like the right time, take another look at your job search. Look at what have you said and what have you done. How could you do things differently now? In what ways are you clearer now or easier to understand?

A job search is just another way for us to learn about ourselves. To get closer to the facts, to keep the things that feel right, work hard on the things we want to change, speak as clearly as our voices will let us today and do our best to be even clearer tomorrow.

A job search can be proof that you're making progress.

All the best for now,


* * * * *

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

work/life & belief

Without belief we’re just jobseekers
Just workers, just commuters, just numbers
What we believe brings our work to life
Belief creates attraction around our careers
Belief makes us memorable to others and keeps us true to ourselves.

When we talk about belief (whatever we believe in)
We’re powerful, we get excited and we want to move forward
When we examine, understand and communicate with belief
(And we can do every one of those things)
We take real steps towards our beliefs coming true.

["I believe in the freedom of music." by Chuck Olsen on Flickr]

Some of my career beliefs...

I believe we are the experts when it comes to our careers
I believe our expertise is at its best when we talk and come together with shared aims
I believe work and life have a unique relationship within every single person
(A relationship too complex to separate but the perfect depth to explore)
I believe every moment in our working lives can be better understood
I believe every career has potential and every person has the potential to look forward
(and I am yet to meet the person who disproves that last belief)

All the best for now,


Thursday, 23 September 2010

Experienced Job-Seekers Wanted!

We all struggle with a job search at some point in our careers.

But not all of us struggle with the same thing.

Someone out there (looking for work right now) could use your experience.

Someone else has experience that can help you.

Some people call this the wisdom of crowds.

I prefer to see it as the best reason for job-seekers to start helping themselves.

Discovery begins with experimentation
[Visual experimentations shared by
Sanchtv on]

What it does for job-seekers?

If you're a job-seeker and you want to get involved (in something with the potential to help you and people just like you) to get the ball rolling just answer this short list of questions I'm calling The Job-Seeker’s Interview.

You'll get immediate pay-back if you do because this interview helps you understand your job search experiences and learn more about the support that you need.

Your pay-back for taking part will also grow as more people like you take this interview, adding to the knowledge and experience within the group.

If enough job-seekers share their stories and talk about the things they are struggling with (and I'm making it my job to see that they do) a cross-over of experiences will start to take place. Job-seekers will start helping job-seekers. People will be helping themselves as they help others.

OK, I'll take the interview. What happens next?

When you have submitted your interview, I’ll get back to you with a unique reference number for your answers. Right now the counter stands at ‘00000’, which means the first set of answers I receive will be labelled ‘00001’ and we'll go upwards from there.

When you have your number, I’ll post your interview up on the Explore Your Career blog so that you and other job-seekers can read it and the exchange of experiences can begin. Only you will know what number you are, so the whole thing can be anonymous if you want it to be.

Each numbered interview will have its own permanent page and can be commented on and even linked to other job-seeker's interviews where cross-overs happen. You and anyone else can comment on any interview and talk/network as much as you want. When you comment, you can use your own name, a nickname or your unique interview number, it's your choice how you get involved from there.

Looking Further Ahead

I see a community of job-seekers helping themselves. Sharing their 'real-world' job search experience. Encouraging and supporting one another as they go. It will take time to arrive at a place like this but I believe it can be done and that there is genuine potential to move careers and job searches forward along the way and when we get there.

In the meantime, whether your number is ‘00001’ or ‘01001’, I know there is value in this interview (even if you do it alone) because it gets to grips with life as a job-seeker and aims to do something positive with the experience. Something positive that has the power to benefit you and other people just like you. Out there right now looking for work.

* * * * *

Be one of the first to take The Job-Seeker's Interview
Do you have any questions or suggestions?
Send them in
here or add a comment below!

* * * * *

Friday, 30 July 2010

A one-time neighbour of the moon

People achieve incredible things in their careers

Yet we still know so little about them.

What made them tick, why they were successful, what they put it all down to.

Take Michael Collins for example.

Discover more about Michael Collins, a one-time neighbour of the moon
[Image courtesy of Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr]

Michael Collins' career story is an incredible one but I'm not going to tell it here. Instead I want you to think about another career story. One that's too often overlooked. Too often in the shadows of the comparisons we make around it.

The career I want you to think about is still full of opportunity. Full of waiting-to-happen twists, turns and achievements and much more besides. A career with so much in it waiting to be discovered, one we can question as respectfully and carefully as we question the stellar careers of those we look up to.

This career is made up of old and new experiences for us to value and treat with a genuine curiosity. A story we can step inside and get behind with zeal, with zest and an insatiable appetite that leaves us wanting more.

All that and more is possible in the career I want you to think about right now, and that career is your own.

From a one-time neighbour of the moon, and from me, right back down here on Earth, explore your career for everything within it still waiting to be found!

All the best for now,

* * * * *

I'm taking a break from blogging in August
but work/life fusion will be back in September.
Thank you for reading and for your continued support throughout the year. Have a great Summer where you are!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Art of Meeting the World Head-On

Why bother?
I used to make the same train journey every day. One part of the line passed behind a row of houses. Written in big letters on the back of one house were the words, "Why bother?".

After years of seeing this question, myself and the other passengers on the trains were treated to a direct response. On the back of the house next door someone painted the words, "Why not?".

From that day on "Why bother?" and "Why not?" were seen together. Existential graffiti at its best :)

Why not?
Your answer to this question might be very different to mine but they will have plenty in common too.

Planning is one thing but being bothered and making things happen is full of work-arounds, imperfect solutions, bodges, kludges, compromises and pieces that hold together for no apparent reason.

If it ain't broke... Well, you know the rest.

The graffiti and even the houses are now gone
but the art of the existential statement lives on!
[Image courtesy of icathing on Flickr]

Why bother?
Maybe you'll be spurred on by the desire to figure out what you want. Maybe the catalyst will be an event, something that happens and makes you think twice.

Maybe it will be a gentle push or a not so gentle kick-up-the-backside from some of your personal 'What ifs?' or even your very own random graffiti experience perhaps.

Whatever it is, a simple thought will find you and for whatever reason it won't go away.

Why not?
This question brings us back down to earth. Ask yourself this question and be free about it. Find your own reasons to bother and learn what you're not all that bothered about. Treat "Why bother?" and "Why not?" with the same respect and discover a closer relationship with both.

I want to get better at meeting the world head-on. The little glimpses I've had so far, especially from the people who do it so well, make me certain it's something worth bothering about.

All the best for now,


Friday, 16 July 2010

Tying-up Loose Ends

I haven't taken up sewing or knot-fancying or anything else dubious that involves rope,

But I'm slowly knitting things together all the same.

You already know what I'm talking about. It goes on all the time.

Something happened to us a while ago, we forgot about it but then weeks, months or even years later and 'Boom!', it catches right back up with us and makes sense like it never did before.

It doesn't have to be something big and it's not always a 'Boom!' of recognition either. It can be a 'Flash', a 'Ping', a 'Boing' or even a 'Boink' for that matter (although some 'A-ha' noises have other meanings so we need to be careful).

The story that goes with this image is hard but it also has hope.
[Both story & image are here courtesy of Hryck. on Flickr]

Still not sure what I'm on about?

What about the job that never came off, the call that never came back or the interview question you could never nail. How about the difference of opinion with a manager or colleague when you usually got on with that person so well. What about that chance meeting or letter or little phrase you read in an article or a book that stuck in your heard for no apparent reason.

Well I'm talking about that reason and the very moment it came to you, switching on all the lights as it burst through the door.

Some loose ends we work hard to tie up and we're successful but it takes a lot of effort to get this done. Other loose ends, no matter how hard we wrestle with them, only make sense in their own sweet time, plus we usually need help or input from someone or something outside to get us moving.

Still not sure and think all this is hokum? Take a look at this personal example from yesterday. A few other things to do if you want to be sure before making your mind up: keep an eye on the little things as they happen to you and follow your nose when you're curious.

If something is interesting see where it takes you.

You never know when a loose end is going to tie up!

Enjoy your weekend wherever you are,

All the best

* * * * *

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

England's World Cup Exit and Me

I promised not to get drawn in but this World Cup got me all the same.

It crept up on me. I could feel the excitement building as exciting new places like Jo’burg’s Soccer City came together and fans from all over started gathering in South Africa (Soccer City Stadium is the one that looks like an African calabash cup/pot in case you were wondering).

As the football started, I wrote and added World Cup pictures on this blog, also chatting with friends and on facebook about England (my team) and their chances.

Sadly :( what happened to England is no secret but I’m writing about the way I feel now and what it feels like to be involved.

My disappointment didn’t last, but my involvement does.

Don’t worry, he didn’t stay unhappy for long.
[Image courtesy of Axel B├╝hrmann on Flickr]

We feel the highs and the lows whenever we’re involved.

If something good happens, try taking the smile off your face. Find me an unhappy Dutch football fan right now! I challenge you to find someone dressed head-to-toe in orange without a smile on their face between now and Sunday. Come back and tell me how you get on! Oh, and while you’re out there looking, try to spot a happy Uruguayan. OK, there will be some but not as many as there were last week. Just like there weren’t too many happy England fans a week or so ago (Uruguay supporters, I’m with you today!).

But being a football fan isn’t everything. There’s plenty more in life to make us happy, sad and everything else in between. When you’re involved, whatever you are involved with, there’ll be highs and lows in the future that’s for sure. Giving you hope when you need it most and keeping your feet on the ground when things go your way.

As an England fan and a football fan there’s still plenty I’m looking forward to in the last few games of this World Cup but I’m also looking forward to the next England game, the next tournament and the next opportunity for my team to show what they can do.

I’m involved and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

* * * * *

See this post on
Get involved and make a comment below…
Share your own highs and lows

Monday, 28 June 2010

Snakes & Ladders

Today was definitely a snake day,

Which means I took a slide in the wrong direction.

Sliding backwards and landing with a bump always hurts,

Especially in a world where we like to move forward.

Looking up isn't always such a bad thing :)

Although I might be a few squares further back on the board,

There's no lasting damage and tomorrow is a brand new day.

I've got a new bruise to help me avoid making the same mistake,

And I also learned this for a fact:

No matter how big the snake,

It never takes you back to square one,

And it always leaves new ladders in front of you.

* * * * *

Have you ever had a snake day?
How did things start looking up for you?
Start a new conversation in a comment box below!

Monday, 21 June 2010

From the Ground Up

Birds and aeroplanes fly,

But they take off from the ground first.

Anyone who starts from 10,000ft already has a parachute,

You can bet your bottom dollar on that.

When you're going up, trust your foundations.
[Image courtesy of Eustaquio Santimano on Flickr]

Every successful career started somewhere.

True, some started a little higher up than others,

Some always had parachutes too.

But some careers also took off from the ground,

And some of these people flew as long and as high as anyone else ever did.

Thanks to these people, I know for a fact,

That not starting from 10,000ft and not having a parachute,

Doesn't have to keep anyone on the ground.

* * * * *

Monday, 14 June 2010

Blowing Your Own Trumpet

The World Cup in South Africa is getting into its stride but there's a big noise not everyone is enjoying.

There's still talk about banning the Vuvuzela

But would that really make anyone happy?

Something for the nay-sayers to think about
[Image courtesy of Coca-Cola South Africa on Flickr]

There is always a choice to be made and we are free to choose one way or the other

On this issue and many others like it.

But there might also be an acid test, to help us see both sides of a debate like this.

I challenge anyone to pick up a Vuvuzela

- even the highest ranking FIFA official -

and not be tempted to give it a blow.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Coming Around

A career makes sense,

When we can see it through the little feelings of completion,

We all experience along the way.

Carrying on the World Cup Theme but this time in a partisan way...
Come on England!

* * * * *

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Warm, Soft Facts about Your Career

Why do we talk about the cold, hard facts?

Because they hurt when we get hit by them?
Because we need to feel pain in order to learn something?

I disagree, and if that separates me from the masochists then so be it, they will enjoy being rejected anyway.

Facts are facts. The only coldness or hardness is in the way we give or receive them and we can all do something about that.

Continuing the theme...This place is like a box of chocolates
[Image courtesy of Pablodda on Flickr]

Here are a few facts about work that lose nothing and gain everything when you take them warm and soft instead of cold and hard.

It's an inevitability that one day we will all retire from work. It's also an inevitability that at some point in our retirement we will look back and reflect on the work we have done, the people we did it with and so on. No matter how we divide it up or how many smaller parts we cut it into, we will ultimately package our working life as a whole. We'll do this because of our need to find something simple to define and make sense of our experiences, all the jobs we had, the different things we achieved and the struggles we went through.

If you haven't retired yet, here's a warm, soft fact for you. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing right now, you can remind yourself ahead of time that it's part of a much bigger story. Now that might not sound warm and soft if you're not working, or you're finding it hard to get a job or figure out what you want to do but, right now, whatever you are doing, it's still your career and one day you will know that to be true.

Warm, soft facts like this say to us, Why wait?

When you look back on your career from your future retirement, you'll remember all the moments that were tough to live through. Some of your memories may even give you a chill when you think about them but it's also possible for these moments to be a great source of personal satisfaction. Not just because you picked yourself up and found the energy to move beyond them and turn things around but also because they were the moments and the times that led to new things, that connected your experiences and your life in ways that were unique and special to you.

These times will have played their role in the much bigger story of your work and your life as a whole and they can give you a warm, soft feeling that beats its cold, hard cousin any day.

All the best for now (from a warm, soft place),