Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The importance of learning to say ‘no’

Learning to say no is about making a choice to focus on what is important to you, enabling you to reduce feelings of stress and freeing up time to focus on your personal goals and values.

How often do you check your emails each day?  They are really distracting, aren’t they? I find that I must physically close my inbox to stop me looking at my emails, otherwise I am too easily distracted by those unread new arrivals in bold that are shouting at me to respond ‘NOW’.

Responding to emails is a great example of a daily task that prevents you from being effective and is often the cause of time management issues.  Let me explain its true impact by relating it to Stephen Covey’s 3rd habit, ‘Put First Things First’. 

In his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Covey describes a time management matrix dividing how we spend time in to one of four ways, defined by the importance of the task (does it provide results?) and the urgency (visible tasks):

1.     Urgent and Important tasks – immediate and important deadlines (often a crisis or problem) Focusing on this area can cause a lot of stress.

2.     Not urgent and important – to develop effective personal management – activities that will move you forward in your career.

3.     Urgent and not important – Time pressured distractions such as email.  These are not really important but someone wants it now. 

4.     Not urgent and not important – Activities that have little value but can be relief from other work.

Checking emails most frequently falls within category 3.  However, we often mistakenly think they are category 1 tasks which explains the distractive nature of emails.  This misunderstanding usually arises from the expectations of others rather than the email itself being THAT important.

The problem of being consumed by category 3 means that little time is left for the not urgent and important jobs in category 2.  Category 2 tasks help personal development, the discovery of new opportunities and provide solutions to resolving problems in category 1.  Failing to spend time on this category can lead to neglecting important areas of your life and career.

One way to resolve the heavy focus on category 3, is to learn to say no. Identify your priorities and manage the expectations of others by identifying those emails that can wait.  This can relate to any category 3 task.   Even if you are asked to do something good, if it keeps you from what you really want to be doing then learn to say no in a respectful and pleasant manner.  Keeping a focus on category 2 can make a huge positive difference to the effectiveness of your working and non-working life.

Remember: Every time you say yes to someone else’s priorities, you are saying no to your own priorities.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Three steps to overcome your fear of being judged

Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
(Robert Allen, author/speaker)
I have recently been busy updating my social media accounts, an activity many would find easy as it simply involves updating profiles and sharing useful messages and articles.  However, for me, it is not so easy.  It takes me right out of my comfort zone and, when I wonder why, I think this is because part of me fears being judged through social media’s power to amplify public opinion.

What will other people think of me?  What happens if a negative comment is posted on my LinkedIn or Facebook page for all to see?  What happens if someone disagrees with me?
In the end I sometimes find myself procrastinating over the perfect wording to avoid judgments being made.  Perhaps that is the lawyer in me requiring 100% accuracy and perfection!  However, is perfection possible?  Can I really control other people’s reactions in this way?  No, of course I can’t, and the immediate and public nature of social media does not allow for this. To be noticed you need to step out of the norm (despite the risk of attracting diverse attention).  There is also no time for procrastination when you have a business to run!
As well as procrastination being a risk factor, the fear of being judged can be really debilitating for some people.  It can quickly lead to a loss of self-esteem as it causes individuals to become anxious or easily embarrassed.  Not many people want to look silly and this can lead to individuals keeping quiet rather than doing what they want to do.
Does this fear sound like something that is affecting you from confidently moving forward with your ideas?  If so, use these three steps to help you to challenge your fear.

1.     Be decisive – do you want your fear of being judged to hold you back? 

Your fear affects your feelings and these feelings affect your behaviour, preventing you from achieving what you want to achieve.  Don’t let the opinions of others become more valuable than your own individuality, allowing others to hold you back. You may miss the career opportunity you have always hoped for.

2.     Be curious - think of something more useful to believe

It is your thought patterns around fear which need to change first to enable you to change your behaviour.  Instead of holding a fear of judgement, replace your thoughts with curiosity.  You may learn new things that help you move forward with your plans and strive towards your goals.

3.     Take action….

…..I am now going to be bold and take action by inviting you to follow me on LinkedIn or to Like my Facebook page. Please also share anything that you believe would be useful to others.  I share lots of information to help those wishing to change career, develop their career or improve performance.
I am also thinking about making and sharing short video clips with helpful career tips…watch this space! 
Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
(Robert Allen, author/speaker)


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Who is the best person to tell you what job you should do (and it’s not me!)?


We all want someone to tell us what job we should do, to make the decision on our behalf so we can simply focus on enjoying our career.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  I know that’s what I wanted when I was pursuing a career change. The decision-making process was hard work and I just wanted someone to tell me what to do.  When I was advised that the best decision would be the one I made for myself, I realised I needed to take responsibility and do some serious thinking!

What did I discover?  I found that I was frequently being given advice on what I should or should not do and I didn’t know which advice to follow.  I soon realised I would be far more committed to a decision I had made personally, rather than a decision someone had made for me or advised me to make, and what I really needed to do was develop a thorough understanding of my skills, passions and aspirations to enable me to make that decision.

Still not convinced?  Let me give you another example….

Do you remember the career advice you received at school?

I have a very distinct memory sitting in the school careers room completing a personality questionnaire and subsequently being advised, amongst other things, that I should be a probation officer.  It was as simple as that…the answer to my future career was found by completing a 10-minute test.  Was this the right answer?  Well, I did not become a probation officer!

There can be limitations in being pigeon holed into a specific career before you are ready to make that decision.  It can lead to career paths being pursed but not enjoyed and an individual’s confidence being knocked. Many people need time to build their self- awareness and once they really understand what they want from their career, they will then be in the best place to move forward.  Many of my clients say they regret following early career advice for this reason.  They wish they had spent more time thinking about and discussing their personality and aspirations before taking the next step. 

Have I just talked myself out of a job?!  

No, because the best thing about all of this is that, although it may be up to you to make the decision, you do not have to go through the process alone. I become part of the process when individuals become stuck and need some help and guidance in moving forward.  I help individuals build self-awareness to enable them to discover and explore different career possibilities and find the best career choice for them.  I also help individuals to eliminate issues of procrastination, fear and anxiety to enable them to believe that they can achieve a fulfilling career. Career advisers can also help with the decision-making process.

It is all about you and how your career is going to fit in with your life.  You may need a bit of guidance and assistance in getting there but….

…the best career decisions are those that you make and discover yourself.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Four focus points to help you make a good impression when starting a new job

I was recently asked if I had written a blog on starting a new job and making a good impression and was surprised to discover that, over seven years of writing about careers, I had not yet covered this topic.  This month I am therefore going to write about four focus points to help you make a good impression when starting a new job.

Making a good impression

When starting a new job, you want to make a good impression.  You want to be liked and do your job well.  The question is, how do you do this when there are so many different aspects to starting a new job that you have yet to discover. What will the office culture be like?  What will my boss/colleagues be like?  How will I fit in?  What will my daily routine be like?

Starting a new job is an exciting time but can also feel daunting as there is so much to think about and take in.  Planning for every eventuality is an impossible task.  However, what you can do to help you prepare is to think about your approach to the job and I have identified four focus points to help you:

1.     Preparation: Ensure you are prepared for your first day.  What do you need to bring?  What are you going to wear?  Have you researched the company/organisation?

2.     You: Be open to new ways of doing things and be careful to avoid comparing your new job to your last one.  It is important to be confident but not arrogant!

3.     People: Introduce yourself and spend time listening and getting to know people so you can understand more about the office culture and the way people work.  Work out who you can go to for help (the things you don’t want to bother your boss with).  Ask questions, but not too many!

4.     Work Routine: Throughout your first week, spend time working out the most productive way to structure your day.  Be organised and write notes to help you organise the range of information you are given and remember the names of people you have met.

Managing your new job and making a good impression will be a lot easier by being prepared, organised and open to new opportunities!   Most importantly, it will help you to enjoy the new experience!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

How to stop stress preventing you from pursuing changes in your career (in two easy steps!)

‘The best way to make decisions is to go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.’  

I recently listened to the Ted talk, How to make stress your friend by Kelly McGonigal, and it reminded me of the decision-making process I went through to make a career change.  After a lot of research, I had reached a point when I had an idea of what I wanted to do but my fear that a career change would be too stressful initially prevented me from pursing my idea.

Like many of us, I was viewing stress as a negative thing.  The thing that causes us to lose sleep, eat too much or eat too little.  It can make us feel anxious and it can make us grumpy.  We all respond to stress in different ways and, when our response is negative, we develop fears and avoid making decisions.

In her TED talk, McGonigal talks about how we should change our thinking and view our response to stress in a positive way to enable us to move forward with decisions.  In particular, she explains how we can become resilient to stress through human connection and reaching out to others.  In building this resilience, we can then trust ourselves to handle life’s challenges and we won’t be alone whilst doing it.     

If you are at a crossroad in your career and finding it hard to decide which direction to go in, my suggestion to you is do a reality check through a very simple two-step process:

1.     Become aware of what is concerning you and making you feel stressed. I remember when I was thinking about a career change, I was concerned about telling people – what would their reaction be?  I was also concerned about venturing into the unknown.

2.     Acknowledge and accept your concerns and create a simple statement such as ‘I acknowledge that the change will be stressful to me but I know my need is greater and it is worth going through the stress.  The benefit is that I will have a job I want’.

When you believe you can deal with stress and view it in a positive way, making decisions in your career will become so much easier.


Monday, 15 May 2017

How to make the first step towards finding the job that suits you

Surround yourself with passionate people who inspire possibility.
(How to find work you love, Scott Dunsmore (TED talk))

Sometimes we can become surrounded by negative people who, unknown to them, prevent us from exploring possibilities, reaching our potential and finding the job that suits us. 
When I started telling people I wanted to move from being employed to self-employed, I was met with a mixture of advice, a lot of which focused on the potential negative side of self-employment.  Have I thought about the risk?  How will I get business? Won’t I be lonely? It would have been very easy for me to give in and continue with my current employment.  However, I quickly learnt that if I wanted to try new things and push myself to the limit, I had to surround myself with people who filled me with inspiration, encouragement and support, rather than those who filled me with fear.

If you want to find the job that suits you, be cautious of those who try to put you off making a big decision due to their own fears. Choose to spend time with passionate people who will encourage and support you.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

3 steps to turn your fear of rejection into career success

I recently watched a very amusing and informative TED talk by Jia Jiang titled ‘What I learned form 100 days of rejection’.  As we all know, fear of rejection is extremely common and can surface anytime, anywhere and to anyone.  It prevents us from trying new things, stops us from achieving our goals and pushes us away from what we really want in our life and career.

In his talk, Jia Jiang talks about how a fear of rejection can arise from misunderstandings. When being rejected, we often run away wrongly assuming we are the reason for the rejection.  We don’t ask questions, we don’t engage in conversation and we don’t find out the true reason.  We close the door to discovering other possibilities and we achieve nothing.

I can remember applying for a training contract as a trainee solicitor and being faced with a pile of rejection letters.  Each letter took away a small chunk of my confidence and it felt like a personal attack on my personality and ability.  I could have given up but I now know that these jobs were simply not right for me.  There was in fact one firm I really wanted to work for and so I persevered with the application process and was successful.  The rejections had taught me that the competition was tough and so I needed to work extra hard to achieve.

How can we all turn rejection into opportunities and success?

Jiang’s solution to overcoming our fear of rejection is simple and can be summarised in three steps:

1.     Embrace your fear (Don’t run)

2.     Ask the right questions (Don’t assume)

3.     Turn your findings into opportunities (Don’t stop)

It involves a desensitisation from the pain that rejection brings (step 1) and asking for what you want (step 2).   It is through asking the right questions that we can discover the true reason behind the rejection and uncover further opportunities (step 3).

‘When you get rejected in life, when you are facing the next obstacle or next failure, consider the possibilities.  Don’t run.  If you just embrace them they might become your gifts as well.’ (Jia Jiang)
To find out more, watch his talk and listen to how Jiang proved the success of embracing rejection by setting himself a challenge to seek out rejection for 100 days.  It is only 15 minutes long and will certainly engage you in how to overcome the fear of rejection in an encouraging and inspiring way.